The Virginia state Senate is expected to vote Monday on a measure that would weaken a land-use tool used for decades by local governments to get builders to add roads, parks and other improvements to new home developments.
The bill, which calls for placing restrictions on what local officials can ask for in development negotiations, is one of two measures working its way through the General Assembly. A House version of the bill passed 68-27 last week.
Both measures are generating strong opposition from local officials in Northern Virginia, where development deals have helped shape the character of some of the region’s fastest-growing communities.
Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William county officials say that changing the legislation would hamper their ability to negotiate for extra amenities from developers that, in the past, have been crucial to community support for new housing in places like Merrifield or Woodbridge. Officials also argue that amending the land-use tool would open them up to lawsuits if builders whose projects were rejected argued that they were denied because of their refusal to agree to “unreasonable” proffer requests.
“For a community to support new development, the community needs to be assured that the development pays for itself,” said Corey A. Stewart, chairman of Prince William County’s board of supervisors. “These new restrictions that the General Assembly is proposing to place on localities make it more and more diffficult for us to say to the community that a development is paying for itself.”
Do developments ever pay for themselves? Do developers really pay for the new schools, roads, community centers and open spaces required? Most do not. However, it appears that the state of Virginia wants to hog-tie localities even more to eliminate the appearance of holding a developer hostage.
The Washington Post further adds:
Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham,) who co-sponsored the Senate bill, said the aim of the legislation is to keep local governments from making far-fetched and arbitrary requests.The bill requires that proffers be limited to offsetting impacts that are directly attributable to new residential developments or new uses for existing developments. Local governments can require developers to offset the impact to off-site public facilities — such as a sewer system — but only if that builder’s new development also benefits from the improvement.