Board chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-At large, proposed an amendment to the county’s zoning code that would require that the new housing developments be based on an analysis of actual — not planned — capacity of the roads to handle them.
Developer involvement in building along congested highways was a factor in the call for passage of the proposed $5 billion regional sales tax hike, which died at the polls in November. Some opponents of the referendum said developers — not local residents — should be required to pay for roads since their building along heavy transportation corridors was the cause of crowding and congestion.
The board’s vote came one night after the county Republican Committee voted 33-24 against the measure.
Franklin Margiotta of Heritage Hunt, a golf course community north of Gainesville, said Connaughton had “astutely sensed what many citizens want from our government.”
In a written message he asked the committee to endorse Connaughton’s measure and noted that many Heritage Hunt residents were frustrated by the county development process which he said ignores their concerns. “They support development (and desire closer, better shopping and restaurants) but are concerned about quality of life issues and increasing traffic gridlock,” he said. Margiotta predicted unconstrained development would replace the tax referendum as a burning issue at the polls during the county election cycle next year.
Currently the county does a transporation impact analysis before allowing new developments, which takes into account roads that have not yet been built and may never be.
“I want to make our traffic impact analyses mean something,” Connaughton said. “Developers would still get to build, but the higher densities wouldn’t be allowed unless the roads already exist,” he said.
Five pro-development supervisors voted against the measure on Tuesday, while saying it had some merit.
The supervisors who consistently vote for more development and did so again on Tuesday were: John D. Jenkins, D-Neabsco, Edgar S. Wilbourn III, R-Gainesville, Hilda M. Barg, D-Woodbridge, Mary K. Hill, D-Coles, and L. Ben Thompson, R-Brentsville. Supervisors Ruth T. Griggs, R-Occoquan and Maureen S. Caddigan, D-Dumfries, along with Connaughton voted for the proposed restrictions.
Several who voted against it said the county’s proffer system would be adversely affected by the plan. Developers are required now to put up prescribed amounts of cash in various categories such as schools, roads, and public safety to insure adequate infrastructure is in place before building occurs.
Some said that system is working just fine.
“This is rushing headlong into a dark alley,” Jenkins said. “I’d like to see what we are supporting and see if it will do us any good.” Hill and Barg and Thompson asked for a work session before making a decision.
Hill said she had asked that such a measure be considered seven years ago, but the decision then was that proffers would be more beneficial for the the county.
Griggs proposed a companion measure that would require that infrastructure such as roads and schools be in place before roads are built. “The iron is hot, a lot of people are interested in doing this in the General Assembly,” she said.
According to Wilbourn, the county needs regional, state and federal solutions to transportation problems, not ones that impact local residents.