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Thursday, February 11, 2016

General Assembly passes stealth anti-proffer bills

The following article was originally posted on the website of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance. Annandale/Mason residents will have a chance to bring up this issue at the General Assembly Town Hall Meeting, Saturday, Feb. 13, 10 a.m.-noon, at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School. Sen. Dick Saslaw is expected to be there.  

Local government officials and community development activists have watched with concern and alarm as SB549, an anti-proffer bill, moved swiftly through the Virginia Senate. Promoted by the homebuilders association and sponsored by Sens. Richard Saslaw and Mark Obenshain, this legislation significantly limits the ability of local governments to negotiate proffers with developers for needed infrastructure and community amenities.

The bill passed the Senate in a 29-8-2 vote on Feb 9. A companion bill, HB770, passed the House in a 68-27-2 vote on Feb 4.

Originally, the focus of this legislation was on fast-growing counties in the commonwealth that impose a set dollar amount per residential unit to address infrastructure needs from anticipated growth. Over time, these fees have become excessive, with some as high as $48,000 for a single-family dwelling. Also troubling is the inability of some of the localities that were charging these fees to account for how these funds have been spent.

However, a disturbing but perhaps unintended consequence of these bills is that it is unclear what impact they will have on negotiations between developers and local governments regarding site plan approvals for a rezoning application in a higher-density, mixed-use development.

Many of these areas in Northern Virginia –  in Tysons, Seven Corners, and the Route 1 corridor, for example – obtain community benefits, such as contributions to parks and open space, affordable housing funds (or affordable units), stormwater management, and public facilities other than schools. All are excluded as eligible proffers in the legislation.

In a letter to the Northern Virginia delegation, Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova stated:
“Developers often tell us that they prefer flexibility to negotiate a wider range of items – this bill would limit that flexibility by prohibiting them from including libraries, workforce housing, and other public facilities in those negotiations. Passage of this legislation would severely hinder our ability to work with developers to address the concerns of our shared constituents. In addition, developers will be negatively impacted if they no longer have the flexibility to negotiate a wider range of proffered improvements, because they may be precluded by this legislation from qualifying for density bonuses or similar higher-density redevelopment options in the County’s Comprehensive Plan.”

Advocates from the affordable housing community, as well as commercial developers (who had not been consulted by the homebuilders in advance) voiced their strong opposition to these bills, but both bills moved through the legislative process so fast that it was too late. The bills will be sent to the appropriate committees at crossover on Feb 17, and if adopted, will be sent to Gov. McAuliffe for his signature.

That is the last chance for advocates to make their case that this legislation removes land use control from the purview of local governments in concert with its citizens and applies a clumsy, one-size-fits-all approach to growth and development.

7 comments:

  1. Watch Saslaw go to lobby for the homebuilders once he retires. This is a lousy deal for taxpayers who have very little say in our by right, Dillon Rule state other than what the local pols can extract at negotiation for their zoning permits. What a sell-out!

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  2. And now we know what you get for $58,000. http://www.vpap.org/candidates/47/top_donors/

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    1. Fascinating to see where our government officials get their money!

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  3. For those Penny Gross haters if you think she has been owned by developers now, just wait until she and our Board of Supervisors have nothing to say about how land is developed for housing. This is a huge precedent setting mistake that local entities will not be able to recover from. Where's the outrage?

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    1. It is a sad day. Liberals in VA have crushed "we the people" and our property rights.

      Annandale/Mason residents will have a chance to bring up this issue at the General Assembly Town Hall Meeting, Saturday, Feb. 13, 10 a.m.-noon, at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School. Sen. Dick Saslaw is expected to be there.

      That is the last chance for advocates to make their case that this legislation removes land use control from the purview of local governments in concert with its citizens and applies a clumsy, one-size-fits-all approach to growth and development.

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    2. This was co-sponsored by a Republican and it speaks more to money in politics, lobbying and favors. Most of the local delegation voted against this power grab. But right under our noses, this travesty happens in the name of ensuring "local" ethics. This rather than passing real ethics reform, tearing away the rights of a local community to have their voice heard through our local representative process. This Dillon Rule doesn't recognize we are no longer a rural area and maybe urban governments should have much more say in how we grow.

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    3. $2,031,385. That is the amount Senator Saslaw spent in the general election last year. http://www.vpap.org/candidates/47-dick-saslaw/ That kind of money doesn't come without a price. Corruption, corruption, corruption. to Quote Penny, "That's democracy in action."

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