A proposed bill denounced by Prince William officials Tuesday night took a step forward in the General Assembly on Wednesday morning.
Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Dale City, proposed a bill that would apply a timetable to when money collected from developers should be spent on public infrastructure.
Lingamfelter said it would provide accountability in the proffer process.
County officials say the restriction could skew the timing of library and fire station construction.
The bill would require that, starting in July, any cash proffer be spent within five years.
Otherwise, the money, which can be collected to build schools, libraries, parks and roads, would be transferred to the state’s secondary highway fund.
Lingamfelter said money in that fund would still be spent in the county of origin.
“My intent is very simple,” he said. “I want to see these growth improvements put in place as soon as possible to benefit the people of Virginia.”
The money is paid by land developers who include the fee in the sale price of houses.
Last year supervisors raised the per home fee to $22,986.
Lingamfelter said he wrote the bill with areas like Gainesville, where old two lane roads service thousands of new homes, in mind.
Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large, said the county is building roads and schools as quickly as it can given the available money.
“It takes time for these funds to build up,” he said. “Some of these on transportation funds are specified for use on state related transportation projects such as Linton Hall Road. Well, the state was supposed to be finished with Linton Hall six years ago. That’s not our fault.”
Lingamfelter said he understands that roads can’t be built overnight.
“All we’re saying is keep this thing on the fast track,” he said. “Don’t delay bringing the necessary improvements to the areas that will be impacted by expansive growth.”
But County Executive Craig Gerhart said he had concerns that money collected for fire stations have a shelf life. The county would schedule construction of a station to avoid losing the funds — even if it wasn’t the most needed station.
“There’s a danger there that this would drive some decisions differently than the board would otherwise make them,” Gerhart said.
Lingamfelter said not having enough money to write a check for a new school shouldn’t be a reason to make people wait for infrastructure.
“The people deserve it and they deserve to have the growth mitigated and if there aren’t enough proffers then the local governments need to ask for more,” he said.
Connaughton said requiring the proffers to be spent in five years “doesn’t have any reflection on reality.”
“If they wanted to be helpful they would pass a law that would help us utilize already collected proffers that are encumbered,” he said. “We have proffers that are sitting in our account but their use is so specific … that we can’t even utilize those funds.”
Half of what is already collected is tied to legal agreements and specific projects, Connaughton said.
Those binding agreements are created during the rezoning process, when developers and officials agree on how much money would be collected, when and for what purposes.
For the past year, county officials have tried to ask for proffers that aren’t tied to specific projects, but intended for road work in a general area.
Recently Gerhart introduced a five-year capital improvements plan that shows how $13.9 million has been spent on road projects in two recent road bonds, which total $120 million.
It is imperative that homebuyers get the benefits that they pay for through the purchase of their new homes, said Mark Granville-Smith, president of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association Prince William chapter.
“The quicker the money can be spent is better for not only the county, but the builder and the home owner,” Granville-Smith said.
The Counties, Cities and Towns subcommittee on Wednesday recommended that Lingamfelter’s bill be moved to the full committee for consideration this week. It still faces votes in the house of delegates and the senate.
Prince William County officials are expected to visit the county’s delegation in Richmond today.
Lingamfelter said he’s still working on the bill with people who are concerned about it.
“Our ears are open,” Lingamfelter said.
Lingamfelter also represents Quantico and eastern Fauquier County.