Light Sunday Reading II: “The Planning Penalty”

The American Dream Coalition, a think tank funded by Dulles-area developer Chris Walker, has published a paper, “The Planning Penalty: How Smart Growth Makes Housing Unaffordable.”

The starting premise of this report is that the price of the house pictured above can vary region by region by as much as a factor of eight. The four-bedroom home, which sold for $150,000 in Houston recently, would cost as much as $300,000 in Portland, Ore., $600,000 in Boulder, Colo., and $1.2 million in San Jose. Some of that difference can be accounted for by demand — some localities are simply more desirable places to live. But most of the difference, argues the report, can be explained by restrictions on housing supply associated with “growth management.”

What author Randal O’Toole calls the “planning penalty” can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars per dwelling. Writes O’Toole: “Between 1999 and 2005, regions with growth-management planning saw prices grow by 4 to 11 percent per year, while regions without such planning saw prices grow at only 1 to 3 percent per year.”

Northern Virginia and increasingly Hampton Roads, it seems, have devised the worst of both worlds. Segregation of land uses, low densities and beggar-thy-neighbor planning by local governments has created both high-cost housing and traffic congestion. Congratulations, guys!

The solution is not giving more power to local governments. It is not social engineering. What we need is a market-based solution that honors consumer sovereignty — homeowners would be free to live where they want and in the kinds of community they want — with the proviso that people pay the locational costs associated with their choices.

The challenge for Virginia is to revamp funding mechanisms for roads, utilities and public services in order to create a locationally level playing field, and to give developers more freedom to innovate new types of communities that address housing affordability and traffic congestion in creative ways. Rather than micro-manage growth, planners should define the “Balanced Communities” and “Clear Edges” (see Ed Risse’s writings for details), which provide the broad parameters within which free markets would function.

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14 responses to “Light Sunday Reading II: “The Planning Penalty””

  1. Well, I suppose the guy who paid $1.2 million for that house in San Jose is paying his locational costs.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I would agree that there is a planning “premium” that is in ADDITION to supply/demand factors for locations.

    The county proffers are about 20K.. so that cannot explain the “affordability” issue.. other factors are in play.

    Spotsylvania’s growth rate is in the top 15 in the entire country…and virtually all of it is due to “by-right” development that does NOT require local Board of Supervisors approval. In other words the thesis presented is a canard.

    ALL of the exurbs that surround NoVa are bound by the Dillion Rule.

    Here’s two questions:

    1.- what is Chris Walker’s definition of “Affordable Housing”? Does he consider apartments and other housing that is NOT traditional 1/2 acre SFHs?

    2.- what would happen if Spotsylvania and other NoVa exurbs decided to approve ALL residential rezones for 1/4 acre residential lots? Would housing then become more affordable?

    Doesn’t this sound a LOT LIKE.. build more road capacity to improve reduce congestion… but we can’t tell you how how much to build.. just build it until congestion goes away?

    What Chris Walker is advocating is providing MORE 1/4 acre single family homesites.. and that is HIS definition of more “affordable” (not more affordable housing.. such as options OTHER than 1/4 acre homes.)

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    As one who has been in the planning profession for over 25 years, Mr. O’Toole’s arguments are nothing new. Even HUD during the Reagan years published a similar report.

    Any item we buy, from Fords to asprin, is increased in cost because of regulation. No one would dispute that. Some regulations are put on by the federal government, others, like those mentioned in Mr. O’Toole’s document, are the result of residents responding to their fear of the “unknown” and pressuring their elected officials to pass the “penalties.” I guess one solution to the problems would be for Congress to legislate one size fits all land use regulations.

    I am sure that Mssrs. O’Toole and Walker would not like it if the locality in which they lived suddenly repealed the zoning, subdivision and other land development control regulations. The value of their property would likely decrease without the planning “penalty.”

    It is good that the costs of these regulations are brought to the attention of the public and elected leaders. Yes, safe and affordable housing is a problem, but it is a universal problem from Wise County to Fairfax County.

  4. A place to sleep, eat and watch TV in may be housing, but it is nowhere near as valuable as a place you can actually live in.

    And yes, absolutely, if NOVA jurisdictions got outof the way or streamlined processes there would be more housing and the prices would be lower.

    Two examples.

    When I built my Alexandria home, on an existing lot with water and sewer in place, it took me over 18 months to get a building permit, and four months to get an accupancy permit. The actual cost of the construction was only $90,000, but the cost of the delays was almost as much as the construction costs, because in the meantime the mortgage rate went from 6% to 10.5%, which I was stuck with for years. And those costs there were in spte of there being no proffers involved.

    In those hyper inflation days, the cost of construction went up substantially, too. There was simply no excuse for what happened in the planning office. Every tme I went there a new, non-English speaking, subcontractor had my file, which was “lost” four times. Fairfax was in it’s slow growth phase in those days, and they would use any excuse to delay construction.

    Now, here I sit with substantial land available, and ostensible rights to build. However, the county has thrown up so many barriers, that I cannot, in fact, use the rights I have (left). If I could use them, or even one of them, my low overhead situation would allow me to build a very nice home for some local teacher or someone in that price range.

    Even if they had not already taken away all the rights I previously had, except the ones remaining that I now cannot use; then a tleast I could sell the excess rights assuming there was a market for them. But those markets are also restricted.

    There is no physical or environmental impediment to such construction and no reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to do it. Not being allowed to do it is sereiously compromising my ability to care for the rest of the place, and it is costing someone a home as well. The only reason I can’t do it is because of a political ideology.

    If you want to have a political agenda, fine, but don’t put the cost on my back, and that of my friends who might like to rent space from me.

    That’s just two examples that I know of personally, but take that and multiply it by all of NOVA and think of what it means.

    Would there be other problems that develop as a result of having the planning boards actually do their job, instead of merely obstructing, obfuscating, and exhibiting authority for either the fun of it or worse, to support some agenda that is not even related to community development? Yes, of course.

    But here is what I think. The official morons who have been interfering with my life, and by extension that of my tenants, for the last 20 years have made a life-long enemy out of me. Nothing is going to convince me that what they have done is not wrong, wrong, wrong. They can forget about ever seeing a supporting vote from me or anyone that I can convince otherwise.

    Do that to enough people over a big enough area, for a long enough time, and eventually the pendulum will swing back, and swing back with a vengeance. I’d like to see something that makes more sense than that, something that results in better, more livable communities, rather than more lawsuits.

    I’d like to see more money spent on what we agree on than what we don’t agree on, with the result that we all live better for less. But I don’t think that is where we are heading.

  5. “The value of their property would likely decrease without the planning “penalty.””

    Exactly. That is precisely the point. As the Boston Globe recently reported:

    “Homeowners form the largest interest group. For them, unaffordable housing is not a problem; it increases the value of their portfolio. Moreover, since any new development brings some inconvenience, most homeowners prefer new construction in any community but their own. Antigrowth homeowners get ideological cover from environmentalists who do not care if housing is cheap or expensive as long as new homes don’t eliminate green space. They don’t much like cars, either.”

    Now Bacon’s rebellion has recently been accused of being apathetic towrds asphalt, but I should point out that sterotypes don’t get that way by accident. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    I’m not a big fan of Randall O’Toole, but I wouldnt mind seeing him in a live debate, or better yet, mud wrestling with EMR. Either way it should be good for a laugh, and about as intellectually stimulating.

    Howver, Ed Glaeser, a professor of Economics at Harvard notse that “Since 1950, housing prices have risen regularly by almost two percent per year. Between
    1950 and 1970, this increase reflects rising housing quality and construction costs. Since
    1970, this increase reflects the increasing difficulty of obtaining regulatory approval for
    building new homes…..Our preliminary evidence suggests that there was a significant increase in the ability of
    local residents to block new projects and a change of cities from urban growth machines
    to homeowners’ cooperatives.”

    At least Randall O’Toole has some support in his beliefs. I happen to think that Glaeser’s statement is accurate. So does the state of Massachusetts, because they have now passed regulations that penalize local jurisdictions for being overly restrictive.

    It is true. Anything we buy from Fords to Aspirin is increased in cost because of regulation. BUT NO ONE SAYS YOU CANNOT BUILD A FORD. Just that if you do, you must meet certains standards for safety. You can build an airplane in your basement, if you want. But you may not be able to build a basement.

    No one is telling me I cannot build A SINGLE HOME on 170 acres for reasons of safety. They are teLling me I cannot do it because THEY DON’T WANT IT. Not that they don’t want it now, not that they don’t want it for ten years, not that they are willing to grant me a concession when I’m ninety. THEY DON’T WANT IT, EVER.

    So, according to Glaeser and Gyourko, as much as half of the price of housing in some jurisdictions is directly atributable to zoning regulation. We are not talking about building codes, which are related, ostensibly, to safety. We are talking about restrictive zoning ordinances as a means of social engineering, for which the effectiveness is far from demonstrated, unless you are talking about its effectiveness at artificially enhancing value.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Apparently it is A-OK for the public to just screw a landowner if it wants to protect “the public’s interest in preserving the uniqueness” of his property. Sorry, buddy, your 157 acres are now worthless to you because we really really like looking at your property, and if you develop it, we won’t get to enjoy it as much.

    For liberals, the collective always trumps the individual. If the collective (the public interest) wants your property, it gets to take it. The assumption is that this “public interest” is some kind of organic, knowable element. In truth, it is simply an expression of political power by whoever currently prevails in the current day political institutions.

    If that means this landowner is in effect forced to donate his land for this purpose, so be it. It doesn’t strike them as unfair that individuals have to pay for something that supposedly benefits the “public.”

    Why is it horribly unfair that the public should be required to pay for things that are in the “public interest” ?

    Should there should be no restraint on the “rules” the “public” (read: the land use planners inside any municipality) can apply to your property? Whatever rules they layer on, you just have to obey. If the rule requires a 200 foot setback from a ditch that means you can’t build on your property, tough luck. If the rule is an environmental overlay that prevents you from adding on to your house, tough luck.

    The “public” should not be forced to pay for the private cost of the rules. That is unfair to the public. Only thing is, as this article shows, it is the public that pays the price anyway.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Gee.. it’s very difficult not to see and understand the frustration and I can directly sympathize because on a less scale.. I have similar issues.

    I have a measly 5 acres and when I bought it, it could be subdivided into 2 lots as long as one was at least 2 acres.

    You can guess what happened next… a new ordinance was passed that took that right away.

    On the other hand, I know what this was done – because each new home was costing county taxpayers more than 20K and taxes were going to go up to cover the shortfall. Not only 20K initially but annual operating costs also.

    The two primary culprits were schools and roads.

    A relatively low growth rate (like 2% which is the State average) allows existing residents to pay a little extra to keep up with roads and schools but when the growth rate accelerates then the equation changes drammatically and the locality has two choices:

    1. – either raise taxes substantially or 2. – take actions to reduce the growth rate and/or make growth pay for itself.

    Voters .. NOT planning officials per se have a LOT to do with county housing policies.

    People will get voted out if they raise taxes too high and/or too fast.

    But what really puzzles me.. is that if the landowners are correct in their assignment of blame for restricting their rights .. and each local jurisdiction has MORE and MORE landowners – what haven’t they spoken at elections and voted in people who will take away the landowner restrictions?

    I would think that the landowners would put up a candidate .. finance him/her.. have him/her go to every landowner and promise relief and that person’s election would be almost automatic…

    For myself.. I’m a landowner but I would not vote for such a person and I do not think I’m alone.. I’m probably in the majority.

    So that’s the challenge of the landowners who do feel unfairly restricted… to convince other landowners until there is a clear majority at elections.

  8. Jim Patrick Avatar
    Jim Patrick

    Larry Gross said… “the locality has two choices: 1. – either raise taxes substantially or 2. – take actions to reduce the growth rate and/or make growth pay for itself.

    What doesn’t happen in #2 is honesty. Too often indirect means —gimmicks— are used. To slow growth, simply reduce the subdivisions per time period. A direct, equitable slow-down of growth. Where subdivision was once per year, the law can be amended to read once per 3 years, or 5 years….

    Re your landowner conundrum. The puzzle is solved once you realize that homes are residences; places to reside. Despite claims that they are investments —claims stridently heard when nearby construction is proposed— houses are not investments by their occupants; they are primarily shelter.

    The phenomenon is not uncommon, even in developments. [NY state examples, probably not legal in Virginia] Once residents in a homeowners association become a majority, they may vote against construction on (their neighbors’) unbuilt lots.

  9. In Fauquier county there are only two thousand farms, maybe 700 of any real size. There are 65,000 other residents. Even if you got every landowner, they would still be outnumbered by people who want to save “their” lifestyle at someone else’s expense.

    In your case the county saved $20k. I don’t know how that was figured: Fauquier claims it is $2300 per year that they save. But they are effectively renting that savings from you, in perpetuity or until they give you your building right back. It seems to me they ought to at least have the courtesy of paying you 5% interest on what they claim you are saving them.

    I imagine Spotsylvania also has a program for PDR’s, as Fauquier does. So here they are, in one case buying valuable property rights and in another case simply stealing them. I can’t see any way that is ethically defensible.

    If you look at the Too Conservative blog there are 91 entries concering Loudoun’s Zoning issues, and the comments are all over the map. I beleive an awful lot of stuff gets railroaded through on the basis of apathy and activism, that doesn’t really have a lot of thought behind it.

    I’ve said before that I think the housing loses money argument is contrived and weak, probably outright wrong. We may have an inequitabe and screwball way of paying for the county budget, but one way or another it is all paid by people who live in houses.

    Same goes for roads. the way we have chosen to pay for them is screwball and inequitable, but we chose to do it that way.

    In either case, to then point at one side of the inequity and say, hey, these guys aren’t paying enough makes no sense to me. All the bills we have for the roads we get are paid, and mostof the people doing the paying are either road uses or road beneficiaries.

    Argue that the inequities need to be addressed, but don’t use the fact that we have chosen to install these iequities to argue against houses or roads. I think Jim Patrick is right, this line of argument is fundamentally dishonest.

    And, if you want to staart onthe inequities, I’d suggest that the 300% overtaxation of farmers would be a good place to start.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m not in disagreement about some of the discussion.

    I think we need to recognize that everyone who owns land is a landowner but that the ones most concerned about their “rights” are those that have undeveloped land and view it as a financial asset that they own and control.

    The value of any asset is not guaranteed. Changes can happen that directly affect the value of that asset.

    It happens all the time. You own stock in a land-line phone company and boom.. they’re out of business because of cable and wireless.

    New government regs can make the value of a stock of a company that pollutes .. go belly up.. out of business.

    Is this unfair and wrong?

    I’m sure it can be viewed that way by the person whose asset’s value was affected but as I said – they are no guarantees and actually there is a standard warning for stock investiments – the prospectus.

    The value of land is very depending not only on WHERE it is but also what infrastructure exists to serve it.

    You can own 10,000 acres… 300 miles from a road and that land won’t be worth what ten acres is next to an Interstate with water/sewer and high speed internet access. Is it somebody’s “fault” that there is no road nearby? Is it the responsibility of taxpayers to build that road to your property?

    In years past – taxpayers paid for infrastructure and many raw land owners experienced “windfalls” as the infrastructure was built close enough to their properties to make it more valuable.

    They didn’t work hard to get the payoff. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time – and folks learned…. and land-speculation became a way of gaining wealth. way back.. when the rails went west.

    Does the availability of that infrastructure make a “right” to develop adjacent land without “interference” from the government (which is, in fact, representative of ALL taxpayers “rights”)?

    I maintain that a landowners “rights” stop at their property lines. If they need infrastructure then it becomes a public issue and the public’s right to determine when/where/how/ infrastructure will be provided because that infrastructure is paid for by the public.

    Using “available” (existing) infrastructure is still “using” infrastructure that was paid for by someone other than the landowner and if we are talking “equity” then let’s indeed keep straight what the equities are.

    Apparently some landowners think that it is their “right” to have their infrastructure needs paid for by the public.

    The problem that we have with roads, schools, libraries, fire/rescue is that unlike water/sewer we don’t capitalize them in such a way as to know the actual costs well enough to assess them.. AND .. to be honest.. landowners of undeveloped land are OPPOSED to such fees anyhow.. Impact Fees are Infrastructure Fees and those folks lobby against them every year int he General Assembly and then landowners cry about the unfairness of restricting their development “rights”.

    You can’t have it both ways in my view. Pick a path. If you want to develop – be prepared to pay the costs and not seek to have those costs paid by others.

  11. Larry, your asset argument doesn’t hold water. If I own ten shares of stock, the value may go up and down, but I still own ten shares of stock.

    If I own ten building rights, that camw with the property when I bought and paid for it, the values of those buildingrights may also go up and down.

    But if the government came and took eight of your stock shares, you would think they were stealing from you. If the government takes ten of your building rights, then they are stealing just as well.

    We are not talking about the guy who has two building rights and asks for a hundred, we are talking about the guy, like you, that had two and now has one.

    You will never convince me that is not wrong. The county sets themselves up as part of the land transaction by recording the deed. It is their responsibility to protect people and property. The building rights that come with a property should be protected just as the boundaries are protected.

    Now, suppose you have your two building rights, and the county passes a new regulation that leaves you your building rights, but the reg is intentionally passed with intent to make them worthless, say they set your minimum drainfield size at two acres, knowing it will eliminate hundreds of lots. If it is a true safety issue, then that’s one thing, but if there is a conscious decision to make one reg and another overlay, etc. etc., then that is a stealth attack on property rights and it is just as dishonest as stealing. This is what happened in Oregon, and why the voters finally revolted, twice.

    A regulation that is necessary for public safety, that is desinged to prevent damge oustise your “property line” if you will, is one thing, but simply confiscating your property or confiscating your property under the guise of public necessity is something else.

    When the spotted owl regulations came into effect a lot of woodland owners went out and cut down all the trees favored by the spotted owl because they knew that if one was seen on their property, all was lost. That would not have happened and the owl would have been safer if the regs had been designed fairly and if it hadn’t been obvious that the regs were being mis-used.

    I also don’t buy the argument that the infrastructure was paid for by someone else. The farm has been paying taxes for decades, and even the county says that farms pay 300% of what they owe in taxable services. Where did the money go?

    Surely, you are not going to argue that houses don’t pay their way, but at the same tame they are the ones that paid for all that infrastructure?

    The roads get paid for, they are not free. The infrastructure gets paid for, it is not free. The schoools get paid for, they are not free. We have a screwed up and inequitable system for footing the bills, but the bills get paid.

    Just because we have a screwed up method of paying the bills is no excuse for telling someone that we are going to steal your existing building rights because you aren’t paying your fair share!

    When we can sort out who really pays for what and wht the costs really are, and when we set impact fees for those costs that actually cross your property line, then I’d agree, let’s set impact fees and be done with it.

    But, once we achieve that Nirvana, then what argument will you use to prevent devlopment? After all, the builders will be paying their own way. There will be no reason to prevent growth at will except for environmental and conservation reasons, and those people can be expected to pay their own full costs as well.

    And, if it is fair to pay impact fees for costs you incur on others, why isn’t it fair for others to pay impact fees when they incur costs on you, like taking your building right?

    And, by the way, I am located next to an interstate, within a mile of an exit, it was built on property that was once part of the farm, and for which the state paid the princely summ of $200 per acre. In spite of that, I still had my development rights restricted, whereas any place else in the state I would probably be zoned light industrial.

    I don’t see where internet access is any product of the government, and I sure don’t see any “windfall” happening around here. Even if that windfall happens some day, I don’t see that you can call it a windfall when the money has been invested and the taxes paid for over a hundred and fifty years! You actually think that would be a windfall?

    If the county told me what my impact fees were, I might not like it, but it would be bettter than the current situation which is, we will let you do nothing, ever. But, if they are going to have impact fees then they are also going to have to deal with (or calculate out) all the other ineqities that make impact fees appear to be necessary under our present screwed up system of paying for what we get.

    And we do pay for what we get. You may not like the method under which this happens, but you cannot deny that the bills get paid. Roads get paid for by people who use and benefit from roads. Infrastructure gets paid for by people who use and benefit from the infrastructure. The system we use is screwed up – I don’t have any children – why should I pay the 60% of taxes that support schools?

    But just because the system is screwed up doesn’t mean that you can single out one party and say they are getting a windfall. We elected representatives who designed that windfall into the system. So, just as landowners are free to go object and vote, so are those that see inequities and windfalls.

    Trying to please everybody is exactly how our represntatives came up with the system we have, whn all they had to do was be fair and honest, with rules that people can understand. Like Stealing is Wrong. Forcing others to do work for you without payment is wrong.

    That doesn’t seem so hard to me.

  12. Monterey County, California, is a classic example, though by no means unique. A recent story in the Wall Street Journal quoted residents of that coastal community as saying how much they liked its lifestyle and ambiance — as a justification of laws that make it nearly impossible for anyone with less money to live there.

    First of all, laws forbid building anything on three-quarters of the land in that county. Existing residents who support such laws don’t own that land but they can politically keep others from living on it, which is the whole point of much rhapsodizing about “preserving” this and “saving” that.

    Land prices skyrocket when the supply of land is arficially and drastically reduced, which means that housing prices become astronomical. The consequences for those on the outside looking in were illustrated by the story of a farm worker in Monterey County whose family had been living in a room for years but who now could finally afford to buy a small house.

    This farm worker was described as “thrilled” to the point of tears as he bought a 1,013-square-foot home for $490,000, even though it would take 70 percent of his income to make the mortgage payments. He planned to rent out one of the rooms to try to make ends meet.

    His situation was not as unusual as it would be in most other places. The average share of income required for someone with the average income in Monterey County to buy the average home there is 60 percent.

    But of course this does not apply to the existing residents who bought or inherited their homes in years past. Far from suffering economically from the laws they pass, they see the market values of their own homes go up by leaps and bounds.

    One of these residents describes herself as a liberal Democrat
    and an ardent environmentalist. Election results in this and
    other affluent counties in coastal California suggest that she
    is very much the norm among the new nomenklatura.

    The green nomenklatura talk egalitarianism like the old red
    nomenklatura and similarly ride roughshod over others while
    doing it. ”

    The new nomenklatura
    By Thomas Sowell
    Wednesday, September 6, 2006

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: 11:15 AM, Ray Hyde

    If I own ten building rights, that camw with the property when I bought and paid for it, the values of those buildingrights may also go up and down.

    “But if the government came and took eight of your stock shares, you would think they were stealing from you. If the government takes ten of your building rights, then they are stealing just as well.”

    …. Ray .. they’re not taking your land anymore than they’re taking your shares because your “rights” do not include freezing in place all laws and regs that affect the value of your holdings whether they be stock or land.

    You’re claiming the equivalent of freezing all laws and regs that affect the value of your stocks to be what they were when you bought those shares because those are your “rights”.

    As time goes by – new laws and regs are written all the time by governments at the Fed, State and Local levels that can have direct impacts the value of your holdings.

    And I admit that whether or not such laws/regs are “takings” is a hot debated subject but you were never entitled to have your land rezoned in the first place and the concept rezoning is based on what impacts will result off property as a result of the rezoning.

    The term “building rights” … implies a “right to build” but it really is not about an administrative process building a new barn,etc it’s about subdividing the land and/or how many net lots a parcel can yield after determinations are made with respect to land that cannot be developed say for drainfield reasons, etc.

    IF .. it is determined that drainfield size can affect public health .. in other words.. over time… a too-small drainfield will probably fail and result in polluted runoff… then I think you don’t have the “right” to pollute.

    If the argument is essentially that your version of acceptable risk/protection is different from the state/localitie’s idea then fine but unless you are a credentialed expert and can demonstrate that the state/locality is wrong.. then they continue to have the protect the public’s “right” of not allowing insufficiently-sized drainfields to be built that ultimately will fail and become a public responsibility.

    If new evidence comes to light.. that current drainfield size are too small.. then they can act in public’s interest.

    What you are arguing is that.. a drainfield size determined to be “OK” 50 years ago.. is a “right” that cannot be changed.

    re:I also don’t buy the argument that the infrastructure was paid for by someone else. The farm has been paying taxes for decades, and even the county says that farms pay 300% of what they owe in taxable services. Where did the money go?”

    MOST of your taxes go for recurring.. operational expenses for maintenance. For instance – the road that serves your farm – has to be maintained… ditched… repaired… plowed.. re-paved, etc. THAT’s where your taxes go.

    What you are arguing is that any amount of taxes that you pay will actually cover the expenses for both maintenance and new improvements.

    re: “The roads get paid for, they are not free. The infrastructure gets paid for, it is not free.”

    Where does the money come from to expand the road in front of your property when your property and others like it are developed for more homes?

    Right now – no one seems to know because the State no longer has the resources and most localities do not have a procedure in place to recover those costs. There is no “availability” fee for roads like there is for water/sewer.

    That “availability” fee for water/sewer – goes directly into a Capital Facilities Fund to build new infrastructure. This approach assures that as new development takes place – that funds are set aside to improve the system once it reaches capacity.

    We have no such equivalent for roads.

    I feel that if we actually had such an equivalent for roads that “restrictions” on growth would ease.

    It’s the main reason why localities want to keep you and others from developing your property.

    In fact.. if you check out the bills in front of the GA .. you’ll find that the Rust Bill for Northern Va …

    “Most of the increases would affect visitors (an increase in the hotel and car rental tax) and builders (an impact fee for each new house built).”

    The Bill’s prospected with regard to passage… might be problematical.. but I think this points out that at least some legislators … also believe that there has to be a connection between new homes and transportation infrastructure.

  14. No Larry, I’m talking about actual rights that were previously posted and promised by the government which, having done so, is responsible for protecting my property. If the government says, OK, now we need to have 400 sq ft for septic drainage becasue we have learned that 200 sq. ft. is insufficient for reasons of public safety, then that is different. That makes my lot more expensive to build on, and worth less maybe, but it doesn’t eliminate my lot or the right to have it.

    But if the government is buying rights from some people (which they are) and taking them from other people (You used to have ten rights and now you have two, all other regs stay the same) then that is stealing. End of story.

    Where it gets fuzzy is when the government deliberately creates new regulations that they know will have the effect of eliminating building rights, and when the value of those new regs is questionable. Even if such a reg eliminates my ability to use the right, the right still exists and I ought to be able to sell it to someone who can use it, but that isn’t what happens.

    Or suppose my neighbor has plenty of land, I can buy an easement and put my septic field on his property, except the rules don’t allow tha, either, because the real intent is to eliminate the building rights, not to ensure that people have adequate septic. Your argument has some merit where true safety regulations are concerned, but the fact is that they are often used cynically and incorrectly.

    Property rights are widely recognized as being a bundle of sticks. Clearly if you take one of my sticks you have taken part of my property. If you take one and then another and another, pretty soon all is lost.

    Under present law, a loss is not considered to have happened until it is total loss, or nearly so. Gradually that concept has been chipped away at, but it is exceedingly difficult to sue, because you must be first turned down for every possible administrative relief. A bill is under consideration now to change that.

    You are right. The government obviously has the ability to change the rules. But in Oregon, when the rules were changed back or eased, the environmentalists were screaming bloody murder. You can’t allow my neighbor to build, they said, I bought this place with the understanding I would have a pristine view: I demand to be compensated. So, we agree the government has the right to make new rules and losers shold be compensated when they do.

    All we have to argue about now is what the start date is.

    I agree the government is allowed to make new rules. Therefore it should not be allowed to make rules that cannot be undone. This is the situation in Fauquier. The government has a rule that says I can only develop 15% of my land. That is OK, except the should have compensated me for the loss on the other 85% when they made the rule.

    Nevertheless, the rule is in place. So, I ought to be able to build on the other 15% provided I meet all the other regs, right?

    Not so. In order to be allowed to build on that 15%, I must first proffer a conservation easement on the remainder, and give that to the government. The government then turns around and gives it to a nongovernment agency. They do this specifically, and have said as much, so that some future government cannot undo their rule.

    Clearly, if the government has the right to change the rules, this is wrong. It eliminates the right of future electees to do the will of their future constituents. It puts the current government in control of future constituents from out of the grave, even.

    In this case the government has said I may not build on 85%, and I obviously won’t. But in addition they want me to agree that this rule can never be changed, to give up the rights they previously stole, permanently. And they want me to do this in order to exercise a right that I allegedly still have. Besides that, they are giving away what is now valuable public property.

    What I have is a right that I must to pay to use, what kind or right is that? Didn’t we go through that with voting rights, alrady? And I must pay it under duress, to create a condition we both agree is wrong: preventing the government from changing the rules. Since the government has already said I cannot build on 85% of the land, and they are in a position to prevent it, then why is giving them a conservation easement which they give to someone else necessary?

    It is not necessary to prevent the land from being built on, it is necesary to create a government rule that can’t be undone, and the current pactitioners have said as much.

    Maybe it is because someone else gave big campaign contributions to get their guy elected.

    Like I said, a rule that changes the value of my stock is not the same as simply taking my stock. In may case the government has done both.

    As for the cost of services, you simply cannot make the argument that residences don’t pay their way, and then say that those people who aren’t paying their way have somehow paid for roads that make your development possible. That because you now have a windfall, you must pay them back for all the money they invested, or will invest on your behalf. (magically invested, since they aren’t paying their way.)

    If that is the argument, fine, then set the price and let me build. But the argument is cynical because what they really want is for you not to build, in order that they can have what they want without paying for it.

    If you want to make one argument or the other, fine, pick one and apply it universally. I don’t care which one. But you cannot have it both ways and ethically live with yourself.

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