Developers Must Show Road Costs in Marshall Law
My House Bill 1521 (2006) became law and requires full road cost disclosures for any locality which amends its comprehensive residential or commercial zoning plan after July 1, 2006. This law applies to the huge 34,000 home Greenvest mega development in Loudoun, and the 6,500 home Brentswood proposal in Gainesville. This law requires that developers cannot simply hire a consultant to produce lowball road fix estimate. Local government officials must give the public the actual costs of roads that will be needed for developments they approve. Road cost estimates must come from VDOT, not consultants hired by developers or a locality, or even the professional staff of a locality.
Counties must show current and future road building costs for new developments using VDOT cost figures on an easy to read map. Citizens will be able to see the cost of new roads required when Supervisors approve new development.
Development vs. Tax Increases
In 2006, Gov. Kaine asked me to introduce HB 1610, his growth control bill which I did. The current practice of first building houses, then increasing real estate taxes to pay for all the new roads needed to fix the resulting traffic mess, is unfair to families and keeps Virginians sitting in traffic.
The bill allows a locality to deny new subdivisions if the present roads or mass transit are inadequate to handle traffic generated by the new development. However, if the developer pays for the road improvements, the county must allow the development to be built.
Florida has laws like HB1610, and the home building business had been booming. HB 1610 also allowed all Virginia local governments to collect transportation money for rezonings so the new roads could be funded close to the time that the new homes would be built.
The Virginia Home Builders lobbied heavily against HB 1610 even though it only dealt with re-zonings and not the many thousands of previously rezoned subdivisions. I predicted that failure of HB 1610 would make a transportation tax increase more likely. (That happened with HB 3202 in 2007)
Before the November 2005 election, then candidate, and now Governor Tim Kaine said it was a waste of money to increase taxes for roads without addressing development issues.
Since then, the governor changed his mind. At his request in 2006 I introduced his bill, HB 1610, which would have freed up road money for Northern Virginia by allowing all localities to postpone development for rezoning applications until adequate roads were in place, or make the developer pay for new roads.
I told Governor Kaine HB 1610 would lose in committee, which it did, but I found a way to revive it. At one point Governor Kaine supported my effort to amend a road bill of mine (HB 1192) which passed the House, and was reported to the Senate with language from my growth control bill, HB 1610. On Friday, February 25 we had the votes to pass it in the Senate Local Government Committee, verified by one of the Governor's top aides. Unfortunately the developers told the Governor that they would remove their support of his tax increases it he went ahead with his bill. When the Governor removed his support, the measure was defeated.
Loudoun's Greenvest Defeated:
In 2006, Dulles South Transportation Alliance proponents claimed they had $750 million in NEW road funding for their proposed 34,000 house Comprehensive Plan Amendment project (CPAM). This figure was incorrect. Almost $450 million, or 60%, of the $750 million represented money for roads that had already been constructed, were under construction, or were bonded or proffered for already approved projects.*
That left roughly $302 million in promises, but not legally binding proffers, purported to address an undetermined and unidentified road infrastructure network for 34,000 new residences. And this does not even address all the other necessary capital projects.
I contacted VDOT's Chantilly office and learned that Loudoun County had not requested road cost figures from VDOT, in part, because Loudoun does not know what roads are needed to address this massive Greenvest residential buildup.
Loudoun has a legal obligation to request CPAM road cost figures from VDOT under my HB 1521 passed this year, and a moral obligation to tell the public who is paying this bill what the bill would amount to. The Book of Luke relates that if a builder finds out too late he does not have the money to finish a project after he lays a foundation. "all who behold begin to mock him, saying "This man began to build and was not able to finish.'" (Lk. 14:29-30)
Who would consider buying a car without knowing what it would cost to buy and operate? Why conduct public business in a blind manner? Why the rush to grant favored developers vested property rights before the real costs of this project are made public?
When just the presently approved houses are built for Loudoun there will be over SIX hours of stop and go traffic on Rt. 50/Rt 28, and at Braddock Rd near Pleasant Valley Rd. and between 2 and 6 hours of stop and go traffic on the Greenway and on I-66 near Rt. 29.
This assumes completion of the Dulles Metro extension, widening of Rt. 50, Braddock Rd., the Greenway, and all area roads in the Constrained Long Range Plan.
Virginia does not have the money to pay for this runaway development even with a huge tax increase.
*Delegate Marshall's findings are based on:
1. a list of roads for the 34,000 houses furnished by Supervisor Snow;
2. a list of roads constructed, under construction, proffered, or bonded were identified by the Loudoun County Administrator's Office;
3. road costs figures published by the Dulles South Transportation Alliance as compiled by a former Loudoun County Planning Official.