Editorial: Limiting Local Authority

Editorial: Limiting Local Authority

Assembly rushes bill limiting proffers without addressing who will pay for infrastructure.

In Virginia, a Dillon Rule state, local governments have only the powers explicitly granted by the General Assembly. And what the assembly gives, the assembly can take away.

It’s the reason, for example, that localities have limited means of raising revenue and limited taxing authority. And those limited means are one reason localities have turned to proffers, payments and improvements to infrastructure agreed to by builders as part of approval and zoning changes for new development.

Members of the General Assembly, including many who represent only Fairfax County districts, agree with builders that in many places, the way local governments are using proffers is unfair, even out of control.

Many point to Loudoun County, where builders pay substantial cash proffers, as an example. And to other counties where large, off site intersection improvements were required.

Everyone seems to agree that the “abuses” are not taking place in Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria. But the restrictions apply to these areas as well.

How are local governments supposed to pay for the costs of growth? Should the lion’s share be paid by existing residents through increase property taxes?

This is a complex question, not one that should be rushed.

But right now, the General Assembly is rushing to restrict proffers and to give developers and builders substantial clout in legal challenges to local government action. And they are doing this without any consideration to how localities will replace the resources they will lose.

It’s time to slow this process down, and for a reasoned consideration. What exactly are the abuses that require action? Look at specific examples and address the specifics.

Local delegates voting in favor of the bill restricting local proffer authority included Dave Albo (R-42), Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41), Charniele Herring (D-46), Patrick Hope (D-47), Tim Hugo (R-40), Paul Krizek (D-44), Mark Levine (D-45), Ken Plum (D-36) and Vivian Watts (D-39).

Local delegates who voted against the bill included Jennifer Boysko (D-86), David Bulova (D-37), Mark Keam (D-35), Kaye Kory (D-38), Jim LeMunyon (R-67), Alfonso Lopez (D-49), Kathleen Murphy (D-34), Mark Sickles (D-43), and Marcus Simon (D-53).

The Virginia Senate was expected to vote for an amended version of the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Reasonable action will fall to the conferees in reconciling the House and Senate versions, and to the governor, who would be able to amend the bill before signing or veto.