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Fairfax County Joins Growth Control Coalition

Lee District supervisor Dana Kauffman (D) succeeded Monday in persuading the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to vote unanimously in favor of his motion for the county to join the Virginia Coalition of High-Growth Communities.

"This is a group that is, and has been, pushing for greater control over managing the pace of development in the counties that are most vulnerable," Kauffman explained. "It's being driven by the inability of local governments to get more control over our public facilities."

Kauffman went on to clarify, "We have been offered more control before by the General Assembly, but it has always been in the form of a poison pill. We'll give you this if you give up this. This group is looking at crafting a viable public facilities ordinance.

"By being a member, we have a say in that crafting. And, by joining the coalition, we are taking a large-scale approach. Hopefully, it will be joined with a separate resolution, but part of the same legislative package, dealing with Transferable Development Rights (TDR)."

MOUNT VERNON District supervisor and vice chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Gerald W. Hyland (D), supported Kauffman in his effort to have Fairfax become a member of the Coalition. "Even though Fairfax County is 85-percent or more developed, we still have the same problems as others where we do have undeveloped land. We also have a great deal in infill land vacant," Hyland emphasized.

"I fully supported Dana's position that we should join. It lends the weight of Fairfax County to the lobbying efforts of the Coalition. And, that will be a plus," Hyland said.

"The Coalition has been trying very hard to get its arms around the problems posed by the developers. Growth has a severe impact on those communities where there is an opportunity for a lot of development. This is particularly true when it comes to schools and other community support services," Hyland said.

"The political weight of the development community to oppose our positions has been significant. They have exercised great power in the General Assembly over the years. It's time we gain more control because we are the ones who pay the bills," he said.

FORMED APPROXIMATELY four years ago, the Coalition was founded by Loudoun County Board of Supervisors chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large). He serves as its chairman. It is composed of some 25 counties, including Fairfax, spread throughout the commonwealth. Others are debating the pros and cons of joining.

Fairfax County paid a $3,000 fee to join, according to Kauffman. The amount varies with the size of the member. Fairfax County is at the highest level.

It is expected to be very visible when the next General Assembly convenes in January. "They seem to be gaining traction with the Assembly," Kauffman stated.

The Coalition's prime effort is to fight for passage of more control over public facilities by Virginia communities. They also want local jurisdictions to have the right to impose fees on developers to help pay for such things as increased classrooms, roads and other infrastructure and service requirements brought on by development.

THESE TYPES OF tools would gives local jurisdictions the power to make development pay for itself, according to Kauffman. It would help the jurisdiction absorb the new development on a graduated basis rather than as a massive increase all at once.

Thus far, the Coalition has not had much success in gaining control over land use. But officials hope for increased success this year with the potential support of Gov. Mark R. Warner (D). Some also feel that slow growth is gaining momentum, particularly with the recent defeat of the Sales Tax Referendum.

"If we can work out any differences we might have among the various members of the Coalition, it is always better to speak with one voice when dealing with the General Assembly," said Susan Mittereder, legislative liaison for Fairfax County. "We have attended some of their meetings in the past to become familiar with their concerns."

Even though Fairfax County is not as severely impacted by high growth as counties such as Prince William, Stafford, and Loudoun, Kauffman emphasized, "I want to make sure that this county (Fairfax) is at the table when the legislation gets crafted."