Friday, February 29, 2008

Dirt Nap for SB768- well, until 2009

Varina residents can breath a sigh of relief, for now. Senate bill 768 is taking a year long nap. We never thought we'd wish anything would die in its sleep.

Of all the residents in Henrico who would have suffered due to the "Watkins bill", those of us east of Richmond have the most green to lose. The bill which was carried over to next year's General Assembly session, would have replaced the current system of proffers from developers to create local infrastructure, with a capped "impact fee" system.

Thankfully on Thursday, the Virginia House of Delegates Rules Committee voted to carry over a what the Piedmont Environmental Council, and many others described as a "terrible developer-driven bill" to next year's General Assembly session.

This bill would have shifted the tax burden associated with past and future growth from builders- onto existing Virginia residents. That it is gone for now, is a great victory. Developer interests are strong in Virginia, and it is not an understatement to say that without residents diligent efforts this victory would not have occurred.

Capped by the state, impact fees would be far less than the current value of cash and in-kind proffers, and would be reduced by so many credits, that they would shrink to virtually nothing. While developers claim the bill would lead to lower-priced new homes, local officials statewide said it would mean homeowners see higher property tax bills, and an increase in home sellers "grantor's taxes".

Ever foresee needing to move, as a result of encroaching "sprawl"? This bill would have assured that you would pay for the "progress" which was pushing you out, and then pay again to leave.

The worst result? Developers would also evade even the new "impact fees" by developing in rural areas where impact fees cannot be imposed under this law. That's here. That is Varina.

Many local governments helped bring this issue the attention it deserved. In particular these county board supervisors deserve recognition: Fairfax Board Chairman Gerry Connolly, Chesterfield Supervisor Marleen Durfee, Loudoun Chairman Scott York, and Culpeper Chairman Steve Walker.
A press release published Friday by the Piedmont Environmental Council stated, "We should not underestimate the role of each citizen's participation in this battle. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write, call, email, and visit elected officials locally and in Richmond."

Special thanks were also extended to the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and the many other local citizen groups that worked to oppose this bill.

The Council's President, Chris Miller also recognized "the tireless work of the many elected officials and their staff on this issue. While too numerous to mention individually, the courageous work of House Speaker William Howell, (shown left, with Her Majesty, the Queen of England) Delegate James Scott, Senator Mark Herring and Senator George Barker, and all of the 19 senators who voted against 768, particularly deserve mention- as does the work of the members of the House Committee on Rules.

Any time you read about Henrico, and particularly Varina, you find proud reference to our agricultural heritage. We value our fields, we appreciate our forests, but statistics show that rural land in Virginia is being developed at a pace outreaching population growth by nearly three to one, and to continue to "build out" without proper infrastructure in place to support further growth burdens us all.

Further development without sensitive planning wrecks havoc on the environment, strains local services, and puts a pounding on the wallets of the current residents via rising taxes. If passed, SB768 would have further taxed us all.

Next year when the General Assembly meets, it will be on the "odd year" 30 day session schedule, with the option to extend for another thirty days. As there are a handful of officials, whose positions pertain to Henrico, whose names were not recorded among those who fought to keep this bill from becoming law, it is up to us, to make those in office aware of the damage the "Watkins bill" still has the potential to wreak upon our wallets and the land around us.

Look at the assessment that just came in the mail, and ask yourself, do I want higher taxes? Shouldn't it be the developers who should pay for infrastructure needed to support further building, and not another burden put on current residents?

Want to read more?

Yays and Nays?
Visit Richmond Sunlight to gauge the divide the "Watkins bill" created in the Senate

1 comment:

Nelda Snyder said...

After a phone call, email and letter, our senator, McEachin, still voted for this crumby bill. Our delegate, Riley Ingram, always votes the opposite of our requests--there's no point in going to the trouble to contact him anymore. Maybe some of us could invite McEachin to "experience" some Varina gatherings and make him know our needs and especially our feelings about SB768 for next year.