A political candidate’s positions on growth, land use and sprawl are important factors for 89 percent of Northern Virginia voters, according to a survey performed by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
And about half of those voters are unfamiliar with laws that govern growth and land use in local and state government, the study said.
That’s why a growth and sprawl round table discussion on Thursday is so important, said Stewart Schwartz, one of the scheduled speakers.
Schwartz is the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and an attorney with experience in land use, environmental and transportation law.
He joins George Mason University Economics Professor Stephen Fuller and Kim Hosen, the executive director of Prince William Conservation Alliance. Jack Kooyoomjian is scheduled to speak, but his attendance is dependent on the outcome of recent surgery. He is the vice chair of the Planning, Environment, Land Use and Transportation Committee for the Lake Ridge Occoquan Coles Civic Association.
Mike Garcia of Mike Garcia Homes will provide a developer’s view on the issues. Mike May, staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, will be the facilitator.
Speakers are asked to discuss their views on issues like “Gucci sprawl,” a no-growth approach to county planning and a reevaluation of the current proffer system for developers.
Throughout this year, talk of growth and sprawl has been fragmented and simplistic, as were debates over the Cherry Hill development and the 1,245-unit Greater South Market proposal, said Paul Miller, one of the round table’s organizers.
“We wanted to start a more substantive discussion to see where the consensus was,” said Miller, who added that he’s seen many people use the term anti-sprawl when their actually referring to anti-growth measures.
The discussion on Thursday, designed to focus on Prince William’s growth issues, would define the true meanings of growth and sprawl, according to the speakers’ views.
Hosen said that if residents don’t invest in a better environment, no one else will.
“There is a strong connection between natural resources and good quality of life for citizens,” she said. “That’s why citizens should care because land uses lay the foundation for good quality of life.”
Organizers of the event are hoping many residents agree and attend the discussion.
“We might be kidding ourselves, but we asked the McCoart Building staff to play speakers in the lobby,” said Miller, hoping for a large turnout.
The discussion starts at 7 p.m. Thursday and is open to the public. It will be held at the McCoart Administration Center, One County Complex Court.
Admission is free and audience members can visit with speakers after 9 p.m. in the Potomac Conference Room after the discussion.
Miller said that even though he and other organizers are also involved with promoting Occoquan’s Independent candidate Robert K. McBride, this discussion is not politically-based.
“This is not a campaign event,” stressed Miller
He said none of the speakers are affiliated with the candidate’s campaign.
“We don’t get involved with direct politics, but we certainly want to make a big deal out of these issues,” said Schwartz.
“I would participate in everything that helps move forward an open, public community dialouge on smart growth and quality of life issues in Prince William,” she said.
The round table discussion will be a place to talk about the issues and not the upcoming county board of supervisor election, said Miller.
“There’s never an opportunity to slow down and discuss these issues,” said Miller. “There’s never a chance to say, ‘what are you really talking about?’ “
This, he said, is the time.