After reading the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association’s guest column (“Storm water decision will hurt housing affordability”) in the December 20-26 edition of InsideNoVa/Prince William, I watched the video of the Board of County Supervisors’ meeting on Dec. 3 to learn the actual facts about that decision, as opposed to the building industry’s self-serving and misleading rhetoric.  

In response to numerous flooding complaints, the county’s Development Services and Public Works departments proposed three changes to better protect homeowners from storm water runoff.  One of those changes – to require the centerline of drainage swales be 15 feet from the rear of future new homes – was opposed by the building industry, despite county staff having conducted extensive research that justified the need for that change.      

Before the board unanimously voted to approve the three changes, supervisors Pete Candland, Ruth Anderson, Victor Angry and Marty Nohe made a concerted effort to please the building industry at homeowners’ expense by voting for a substitute motion that would have reduced the minimum distance of drainage swales from the rear of new homes from 15 to 12 feet.  

Fortunately, that substitute motion failed after Supervisor Jeanine Lawson strongly questioned the building industry’s claim that the 15-foot distance would increase the price of a building lot “by up to $12,000.” The building industry not only failed to support that claim, it also conveniently – but not surprisingly – failed to acknowledge the county’s provision that allows builders to seek a reasonable compromise when unique lot conditions conflict with county requirements. 

But wait, there’s more.  Although Nohe and Angry voted for the substitute motion that would have reduced flooding protection for homeowners, the official record for that action (Ord. No. 19-61) incorrectly states that Nohe and Angry voted against it.  We’re confident this discrepancy will be corrected now that it’s been exposed.  

Transparency of government operations – especially the voting record of county officials – matters to increasingly well-informed citizens who are fed up with overcrowded classrooms, traffic congestion and other county infrastructure and service inadequacies being worsened by new home development.  The results of the last election speak for themselves.   

Members of the new Board of County Supervisors can expect more “crocodile tears” and misleading information from the home building industry.  Hopefully, our supervisors won’t allow that industry, or other county officials with their own agenda, to distract them from their promise to serve the best interests of county residents and improve our quality of life.

Doug Widener is a Gainesville resident and founder of Citizens Alliance of Prince William. He can be reached at

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