Growth, roads and APF’s

What happens when the Commonwealth does distribute some of its budget surplus and the County remains firm in their anti-growth strategy?

The DP notes that:

If state officials allow localities to pass adequate public facilities ordinances, as they’re known, local governments could reject developments based on a lack of supporting infrastructure, such as roads and water sources. More likely, they could demand that developers pay for the needed improvements.

Over at Bacon’s Rebellion, a this comment states:

I would hope the debate would go toward asking why localities make zoning decisions that are seemingly not in their self-interest. Because if you look at their motivation – raising real estate tax revenue – it will lead you back to the General Assembly, and their decisions on how much funding localities should receive for things such as education, public safety, etc., as well as how localities can raise money on their own.

Yeah, an honest and fair discussion is a good place to start. But you know the saying- follow the money. (Bolding mine)

I have not yet decided where my opinion lies on this issue. Growth has been very poorly managed in this region.  On the flip side, private property rights are one of the foundations of (my) the real estate industry. I just do not know. In theory, forcing infrastructure to be built in a synchronous timeframe makes sense to me. I have not seen either side propose this idea. Implement this at Albemarle Place.

Right now, there appear to be more questions and more questioners than solutions being proposed. Regarding the debate on sprawl:

Virginians, like their compatriots elsewhere in the United States, are of two minds about sprawl. They decry the effects, but are unwilling to take the painful steps necessary to stop it. They favor increased spending for public transportation, but generally will not abandon their own automobiles to use it. They want to retard new subdivisions, but only after they have their own homes on large lots.

We will never solve our suburban congestion problem without addressing the sprawl issue. Roads can’t be built fast enough to meet the rising demand. Mass transportation solutions will be more expensive than users and taxpayers will tolerate.

The solution(s)? I honestly don’t know. I know this – leaders are needed who will not pay lip service to the constituents and donors, on both sides. Pandering to the short term damages, if not dooms, the prospects for the future.

Do you trust the local government to do the right thing? To me, this is simple and clear; based on their recent track record, the answer is no.

We all live here. those of us who plan to live here for the next thirty years have more incentive than others to plan wisely. Solutions anybody?

Take ten minutes to read these two articles. One, two.

Update: After reading Bacon’s Rebellion’s response to the DP article, my thought process is now refined to this: the solution is not an either/or proposition. Compromise is possible; how, I still don’t know … but it’s an evolution, isn’t it?

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4 Comments

  1. TrvlinMn December 15, 2005 at 19:55

    From the DP as posted above:

    …local governments could reject developments based on a lack of supporting infrastructure, such as roads and water sources. More likely, they could demand that developers pay for the needed improvements.

    I’m a broken record on this issue. I think that developers *must* be held financially responsible for needed infrastructure improvements. If they pass that cost on to their customers thats fine. To do otherwise amounts to a “give-a-way” to developers that seem to already be reaping huge profits. The locality and existing taxpayers should never be responsible for footing *any* of the infrastructure costs of new development.

    Passing infrastructure costs back to developer is an established practice in other states. I do not understand why Virginia and it’s localities are so averse to this practice. I mean it’s not like the developers will suddenly *stop* developing once they are made to do the responsible thing.

    And that concludes my 2 cents.

  2. Jim December 15, 2005 at 20:28

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I just haven’t evaluated thoroughly the pros and cons of each side; both have merits. Do the rights of individuals outweigh those of many? I am always leery of the “greater good” argument, but … I would like to think that developers would do the right thing, but I would also like to think that government would have been able to manage growth better. See – I’m conflicted.

  3. Ray Hyde December 30, 2005 at 10:49

    McSweeny advoctes user fees for easing congestion. He thinks that autos cause sprawl and sprawl increases the use of autos. What if it backfires and drives down demand for driving to the center, and operating businesses in the center?

    The vast majority of new job growth is already outside the central areas. Unless the use fees are universal (as in higher gas tax), this could result in more demand for decentralized jobs. The anti-sprawl/pro-conservation folks hate that.

    If you compare the costs of housing closer in with the costs of commuting, you will probably find that most people are making rational and cost effective choices. This has been studied time and again, and the results consistently show that people aren’t stupid about balancing their two largest costs.

    What McSweeney and others forget is that there is a huge up-front capital cost of moving. Since coming to the area I have lived in three locations but held ten jobs. The jobs/work problem isn’t a static problem, and the right solution is constantly changing.

    Unless the user fees are Draconian, they will never overcome the inertia and cost associated with moving.

    McSweeneys Dec 12 column was replete with statements that are frequently made and seductive but inconsequential and mostly wrong.

    There is no evidence or at best only conflicting evidence that our patterns of development have made us more dependent on the automobile. The best evidence is that a 10% increase in density produces a 0.7% decrease in autu usage. That is not a prescription for decreasing congestion by increasing density.

    There is no evidence that public transportation has been made less cost effective because of the distribution patterns in Virginia ‘s suburbs. The facts are that there is no public transportation anywhere in the world, even the most densely populated areas that is sufficiciently cost effective to pay its own way. It always requires public subsidies.

    It is true that autos cause significant external costs, but the best estimates still show that auto users pay a higher proportion of their own costs than transit users do. Autos also provide a level of service, frequncy of service, and hours of service that are unmatched in public transit.

    Even if we give up on driving 250 HP pocket rockets (like my wife’s car)and 400 HP SUV’s the auto is still the best method of transit ever developed. If any public transit ever comes close, it will suffer the same problems autos have.

    Sprawl and suburbanization existed long, long, before autos. We cannot justifiably blame autos for our desire to have a private garden.

    The transportation issue is a red herring for these people. The real issue is open space. You hit it on the head when you said why not just mandate a shutdown of exurban development.

    Why not? Well, for one thing we don’t live in a totalitarian government, yet. It is still a market society. McSweeney want people to not build in the exurbs.

    My experience is that when I want someone to do what I want them to do, I have to pay them. If the national forests and farmlands were valued as much as we value a place to live, this wouldn’t be an issue. Let’s take the user fees from transportation and use it to subsidize farmers. When they make as much money farming as they do developing, then exurbanization will stop.

    User fees for transportation are exactly equivalent to subsidizing urban landowners: they get a higher price for being closer in. The farmers meanwhile get a lower price for their far out land.

    The increase in the gradient of costs counteracts the higher costs of travel due to the commuter fees, and the end result is the same as what we have now: more pressure to move out.

    The other way to argue this is that user fees for transportation ought to go to transportation. Transportation makes it easier for people to go farther and hence creates more sprawl not less. Maybe we need to re-think the costs and values of sprawl before we try to re-engineer our whole society.

    McSweeney & Co. need to think this through a little better.

  4. Ray Hyde December 30, 2005 at 11:02

    The problem with developers fees is that they are not passed on to their customers. Studies have shown that about half of developers fees come out of the pockets of those that sell land to developers. If the developer figures he is going to make less on a project as a result of fees then he is willing to pay less for the land.

    The other half does come from the buyer of the home, but a corrollary effect is that the builder makes a larger, fancier home in order to help bury the cost of the fees. He also tries to squeeze more density onto the land. This means that his target customer has changed and homes become more expensive. The additional costs are reflected in everyone’s assessments. since there are far more existing homes than new ones, the result is that exisitng owners wind up paying more, in the agregate, as a result of construction fees than the builder’s customers.

    Either way, the builder does not pay the fees. These are popular becase it looks like the builder is paying the fees, but it is really a back-door, hidden tax tax increase camoflaged so it looks like the builder is paying.

    It is the same with toll roads. If you don’t use the toll roads, then you think it doesn’t cost you. But everyone who does use the road for business adds the cost to their basis, and we all pay.