Speeding Up Road Projects

Speeding Up Road Projects

July 24-30, 2002

The kick-in clause of the county's proffer system ends up slowing the timing of certain road projects, so that some sections are built before others.

But that may soon change. The Broad Run supervisor and planning commissioner want to boot the clause in sooner rather than keeping it late in the development of residential and other building projects. Under most proffer agreements, developers build roads and interchanges when a rezoning occurs and use proffers to pay for the infrastructure needed to accommodate traffic from their developments. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow the county to charge impact fees, so the county ends up relying on the proffer system.

"We can only negotiate transportation improvements adjacent to the development," said Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run.)

Since the proffer agreements have different construction triggers, roads and interchanges can end up being built out of sequence. Construction triggers are market-based and matched to the issuance of a certain number of building permit as housing units are constructed. The triggers typically kick in late in the development.

"Perhaps they never get to that size of the development, so they're off the hook for the proffer. We don't want to see that happen," said John J. Clark, director of transportation for the Office of Transportation Services, an office that opened in late 2001. "This is something in the past we didn't cover as closely as need be."

HARRIS AND PLANNING Commissioner David Whitmer sought to update the proffer system, but likely will not have to seek changes to any county laws or rules to do so, Clark said. In early 2000, Harris and Whitmer (Broad Run) held the Route 7 Transportation Summit to meet with county staff and a group of developers working on projects along Route 7. Harris and Whitmer identified ways the county could plan and speed up the timing of road improvements, such as the proffered interchange and connection of Claiborne Parkway to Route 7. They wanted proffered road and interchange improvements to be built in a quicker and more systematic approach.

"I have a strong interest in seeing these road improvements completed as soon as possible because it will ease traffic congestion along Route 659, Route 641 in Old Ashburn and improve access to the hospital," Harris said in his Broad Run Report.

Route 7 has five interchanges from Leesburg to the Fairfax County line that have been proffered but not built. One of the interchanges at Route 7 near Ashburn Road is scheduled for construction in early 2004. The connecting road Claiborne Parkway is not scheduled for construction until the 1,451st building permit is issued in Belmont Country Club. That won't likely occur until 2007-08 according to current market conditions, Harris said in the report.

AT HARRIS'S URGING, the developer of Belmont, Toll Brothers Inc., agreed to try to speed up construction of the proffered section of Claiborne Parkway. Under a proposed transportation amendment, the roadway now will be built as early as mid-2004 within two years of a separate zoning amendment that is in process. The four-lane divided roadway will connect to the existing roadway in Ashburn Farm and serve as the first through-road in Belmont.

"There are other disconnects along Route 7," Harris said. "We need better north-south access between the Greenway and the businesses located on the north side of Route 7."

In another project, Toll Brothers is proffered to build two lanes of Gloucester Parkway from the proposed intersection with Claiborne Parkway to the west. The parkway will extend from Hunt Ridge Drive to Route 659 at the 901st building permit and from Hunt Ridge Drive to where Gloucester Parkway ends now at the Ridges of Ashburn housing development at the 1,001st permit.

"It's a disjointed planning process and a disjointed building process, because the improvements occur in different phases in different projects," Whitmer said. "Our hope was the improvements would occur simultaneously and more quickly than what had been proposed."

THE COUNTY PLANS to tie future proffer agreements into the earlier stages of the developments and require that proffers be incrementally paid. Proffers are issued based on recommendations from the transportation and technical staff and are approved by the governing body.

"In the existing proffers, we're limited there. For new proffers, ... I want to be sure we have the improved facilities," Clark said. "We just have to be more diligent and frankly smart in how we conduct our business. We have to work closer with the developers and get a realistic size of the development."

The county plans on holding a public information session in August on a Saturday or in the evening on the Claiborne and Gloucester parkway projects.