Below is a letter Chairman Scott York of Loudoun County sent to Speaker Bill Howell today in regards to the GOP's plan on growth revealed this week. Gerry Connolly of Fairfax County has also bashed this idea. That's two of the "big three" of County Chairman. What does Corey Stewart of Prince William think?
I'm a little surprised the Speaker didn't have local government support for this lined up in advance...
December 28, 2006
Dear Mr. Speaker:
It is clear from your remarks of December 27th, 2006 that the House of Delegates Leadership has no idea of how land use decisions are made. Local governments do in fact have some control over zoning decisions and Loudoun County has had a clear record of denying rezonings where infrastructure is not adequate.
The problem of inadequate requirements for infrastructure has been on land already zoned for development. For years counties have sought permission from the State to deal with "stale" zoning. For years counties have requested the local ability to deny subdivision approvals if public facilities are inadequate to handle the influx of new residents. And for years the General Assembly has consistently failed to pass any legislation giving us local control over covering the costs of this new and expensive infrastructure.
The "new" House solution is simply to ignore our real needs. Instead the House solution serves only to shift the burden of costs from the State to the counties. The House version will now force counties to place the costs of maintaining new subdivision streets for snow removal and future maintenance on the homeowner's real estate tax bill or by placing an impact fee on new development in a locality's rural areas to pay for road maintenance in urban areas.
One proposal put forward recently would require counties to designate Urban Development Areas for the next 20 years where public infrastructure is already planned. This bill conveniently ignores the issue of subdivisions outside these designated areas where counties cannot deny new residential subdivisions even though the infrastructure is woefully inadequate.
The second proposal would allow counties to "volunteer" to form tax districts to pay for maintenance of the secondary roads within a district. In addition to the surtax imposed on such a tax district, the legislation would allow counties to impose impact fees in the rural areas and then transfer the funds collected to maintain the roads the county's urban areas. This legislation also proposes that the State would provide anywhere up to $15,000 per lane-mile to help maintain these roads and would give the county VDOT equipment to do the job. This certainly sounds generous however VDOT currently pays less than $5,000 a lane-mile for road maintenance in counties. For a State that does not today have money to maintain roads it is difficult to imagine that this promise can be kept.
The third proposal would no longer allow new secondary roads to be accepted into the state system. Counties would be forced to either make the homeowners pay for maintenance or impose real estate surtax on all the property within the county. This appears to be a total abdication of State responsibility for our secondary roads.
For eleven years I have been a supporter of slowing our growth until we could get a handle on our infrastructure costs. And for those eleven years the House of Delegates have consistently worked against our efforts. It is interesting that you now seem to have discovered that growth does not pay for itself; something we have lived with for two decades.
If you would care to hear directly from the Supervisors that you think have "the easiest job in the world" I would like to see legislation introduced that gives any locality that takes over maintenance of its secondary roads a minimum return of 50% of its income tax dollars sent to Richmond. Would you now support an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance? Would you now support 100% Impact Fees to be collected at the time of issuance of a Zoning Permit? These are "real solutions" counties need to offset the enormous cost of new development.
I would also request that you visit with the Loudoun County Republican Committee and the elected Republican Supervisors and convince them that they are "accountable" when they recklessly approve thousands of new residential rooftops.
It is interesting to see the sudden shift of blame to counties that have had to deal with a development-controlled legislature for years. Is there a real solution in the new legislation to be introduced this session? Or is this just a posturing that exposes the lack of enthusiasm of elected State officials to work with their local counterparts on a real, workable solution?
Scott K. York, Chairman