Lingamfelter’s Land Mine

Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, at left.

by James A. Bacon

Whoah, dude! There was a lot more in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Round 2 package of transportation legislation than his Friday press release summary let on. In my haste to knock out a quick story late in the day, I focused on the garnish on the bill — the proposed grant of road, bridge and highway naming rights to commercial interests — and missed the meat. (See “Name that Tunnel!”)

There was a potentially explosive provision hidden within the larger package. In the bland words of the press release, the transportation “funding and reform” bill submitted by Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, “Amends statutes regarding local transportation plans to ensure that state and federal dollars are spent in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

Sounds pretty inconspicuous, doesn’t it? In fact, this measure would dramatically expand state authority over local transportation decisions under the rubric of integrating land use with transportation planning. In the abstract, I have long advocated stronger ties between transportation and land use. Whether this particular legislation is a good thing or a bad thing, I cannot say, but it surely looks like a very big thing. (Thanks to Bacon’s Rebellion reader “Bosun” for actually reading House Bill 1248 and bringing this to my attention.)

As part of their comprehensive zoning plans, localities are required to identify transportation infrastructure that will be needed to support growth and development. HB 1248 would require localities also to include a map showing those improvements as well as VDOT’s estimates of how much they would cost. Further, the plans must be consistent with the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s (CTB’s) Statewide Transportation Plan and Six-Year Improvement Program. “The locality shall consult with the Virginia Department of Transportation to assure such consistency is achieved,” mandates the bill.

In a related measure, the bill contains a paragraph designed “to integrate land use with transportation planning and programming, consistent with the efficient and economical use of public funds.” If the CTB finds that a local or regional long-range transportation plan is inconsistent with its own Statewide Transportation Plan or Six-Year Improvement Program, it can “withhold federal and state transportation funds for transportation capital improvements.”  Likewise, if a locality or regional planning organization requests the termination or alteration of a transportation project that has received state or federal funds, the localities involved shall be required to reimburse VDOT for all such funds expended.

What is the thinking behind this measure? What abuses is it designed to correct? Does it represent a lead-up to devolution? Would the bill give too much power to VDOT and the CTB? Would it encumber localities with more bureaucracy? I have lots of questions and no answers. I’ll start digging. But one thing is easy to predict: Local governments will raise a ruckus.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


6 responses to “Lingamfelter’s Land Mine”

  1. I missed it also but let me add…. Most counties include road plans in their Comp Plans but NOT in their Capital Facilities Plan.

    Unlike water/sewer and other infrastructure where there is a direct connect between utility needs and plans for the future… and the collection of availability fees to fund the capital facilities fund… there is no such mechanism for roads.

    So they draw these maps of the roads that will be needed in their comp plan but guess what – up until now – their answer was that it was VDOT’s job to fund and build the planned roads.

    Never mind that the roads in their comp plan far, far exceeded VDOT’s ability to fund.. in many comp plans.. totally unsustainable… but apparently just fine with the State and VDOT.

    So one of the best things that could happen IMHO.. is to REQUIRE counties to have actual capital facilities planning and funding for roads in the comp plan.

    this would also have a good side benefit. Right developers resent paying proffers for transportation as they feel the money disappears down a black hole..

    if the law requires that proffers go into a funded capital facilities plan.. the connection between land-use and transportation is made much stronger.

  2. There is already a requirement that the local comp plan include a transportation plan. The bill goes further in that it is the first time our state is requiring consistency between the local and state plans; if not, your knuckles get rapped with a very expensive ruler.
    This may be the first step down the path of statewide planning!
    Since the state is paying the bills [some say barely], they they should have input. Transportation Impact Analysis, urban development areas, etc. was an attempt to tie closer together local land use decisions and state transportation decisions. Those are being rolled back in the name of economic development and returning the housing market to the pre-recession days.
    Mr. Larry is not correct about the proffer black hole. In order to accept proffers, localities have to adopt a capital improvements plan. In fact, proffers for roads or roads built or improved by developers is about the only local road building that has been going on over the last 20 years as the state runs out of money. If you look at most capital improvement plans, however, proffers make up less than 10% of what is needed for projects. Further, for larger projects, like a road, the locality has to collect proffers from developments over a long period of time or as phases of development proceed in order to assemble the money needed for a road. Proffers are not a big bundle of money up front in most cases. Now there is a law that proffers cannot be collected at the time a building permit is issued, like has been done in the past, but only upon issuance of certificate of occupancy. Sort of late in the process if the affected roads need to be upgraded.
    One problem with the “land mine” bill is that every time the CTB changes their plans, affected localities have to rush back and amend their comprehensive plan, something that, by law, takes some time lest they be found out of compliance and penalized.
    Also, is the Statewide Transportation Plan or the Six-Year Improvement Plan the right vehicle? What about the VTRANS 2035? Bosun

  3. re: capital facilities plan. Nope. They have to have FUND for the proffer and cannot spend it but on certain things with a nexus to the development and if the money is not spend in a certain time frame it has to be given back.

    but I think Bosun dodged the original question. Yes counties have transportation “plans” in their Comp Plan but they are totally bogus in most because there is no unified capital facilities plan much less a target build date for projects. They are basically lines on a map.

    In terms of proffers..the problem is that you’d have a road that the land along it is gradually being developed and you cannot build the whole thing just from initial proffers… from the first developments.

    In a better scheme – each road would have a capital facilities plan that accumulated proffer money as well as tax money sufficient to keep the project on track for a build date – which would be very similar to how we currently do water/sewer master plans.

    I’m all in favor of conformity with the state plan for primary and interstates since the state does bear responsibility for maintaining them and …protecting their functionality from hare-brained local development schemes that essentially parasite/co-opt publically funded infrastructure for private gain.

    Just look at what happens to a proposed new interchange. The state should not allow that land to be developed in such a way that it damages or degrades the functional utility of that interchange.

  4. Bosun “might” be talking about transportation districts which do get the infrastructure built and paid for with a supplemental tax rate.

    This works for small areas where there is a major shopping center or other type development but the much harder problem is to deal with a linear road corridor which develops over time… and eventually the increased traffic exceeds the capacity and improvements are needed.

    Getting proffers from developers for this kind of development have a time-limit on them and if not mistaken are “lost” if not spent in some period of time.

    The locality is restricted (perhaps prohibited) from using that money to proactively buy future right-of-way also.

    The state allows what is know as Official Maps which allows the county to designate future road corridors/improvements but it has to be a precise survey path AND if someone wants to sell their land – the county is required to buy it right then and there.

    So basically.. these are issues that VDOT cannot deal with and if the county does not deal with them.. then the can gets kicked down the road until something has to be done.

    In the past.. VDOT got the nod – when they had money.

    No more… now VDOT does not have that money …and devolution is the de facto result.

    About the only legitimate complain that the localities and counties have is how in the cutbacks – their ox was served up to be gored first.

  5. Mr. Larry – I hate to burden you with the law, but here goes:
    #1 The governing body of any locality accepting cash payments voluntarily proffered on or after July 1, 2005, pursuant to § 15.2-2298, 15.2-2303 or 15.2-2303.1 shall, within seven years of receiving full payment of all cash proffered pursuant to an approved rezoning application, begin, or cause to begin (i) construction, (ii) site work, (iii) engineering, (iv) right-of-way acquisition, (v) surveying, or (vi) utility relocation on the improvements for which the cash payments were proffered. A locality that does not comply with the above requirement, or does not begin alternative improvements as provided for in subsection C, shall forward the amount of the proffered cash payments to the Commonwealth Transportation Board no later than December 31 following the fiscal year in which such forfeiture occurred for direct allocation to the secondary system construction program or the urban system construction program for the locality in which the proffered cash payments were collected. The funds to which any locality may be entitled under the provisions of Title 33.1 for construction, improvement, or maintenance of primary, secondary, or urban roads shall not be diminished by reason of any funds remitted pursuant to this subsection by such locality, regardless of whether such contributions are matched by state or federal funds. The governing body of any locality eligible to accept any proffered cash payments pursuant to § 15.2-2298, 15.2-2303 or 15.2-2303.1 shall, for each fiscal year beginning with the fiscal year 2007, (i) include in its capital improvement program created pursuant to § 15.2-2239, or as an appendix thereto, the amount of all proffered cash payments received during the most recent fiscal year for which a report has been filed pursuant to subsection D, and (ii) include in its annual capital budget the amount of proffered cash payments projected to be used for expenditures or appropriated for capital improvements in the ensuing year.
    #2 Reasonable conditions may include the payment of cash for any off-site road improvement or any off-site transportation improvement that is adopted as an amendment to the required comprehensive plan and incorporated into the capital improvements program, provided that nothing herein shall prevent a locality from accepting proffered conditions which are not normally included in a capital improvement program. For purposes of this section, “road improvement” includes construction of new roads or improvement or expansion of existing roads as required by applicable construction standards of the Virginia Department of Transportation to meet increased demand attributable to new development. For purposes of this section, “transportation improvement” means any real or personal property acquired, constructed, improved, or used for constructing, improving, or operating any (i) public mass transit system or (ii) highway, or portion or interchange thereof, including parking facilities located within a district created pursuant to this title. Such improvements shall include, without limitation, public mass transit systems, public highways, and all buildings, structures, approaches, and facilities thereof and appurtenances thereto, rights-of-way, bridges, tunnels, stations, terminals, and all related equipment and fixtures.
    #3 No proffer shall be accepted by a locality unless it has adopted a capital improvement program pursuant to § 15.2-2239 or local charter.
    #4 A local planning commission may, and at the direction of the governing body shall, prepare and revise annually a capital improvement program based on the comprehensive plan of the locality for a period not to exceed the ensuing five years. The commission shall submit the program annually to the governing body, or to the chief administrative officer or other official charged with preparation of the budget for the locality, at such time as it or he shall direct. The capital improvement program shall include the commission’s recommendations, and estimates of cost of the facilities and life cycle costs, including any road improvement and any transportation improvement the locality chooses to include in its capital improvement plan and as provided for in the comprehensive plan, and the means of financing them, to be undertaken in the ensuing fiscal year and in a period not to exceed the next four years, as the basis of the capital budget for the locality. In the preparation of its capital budget recommendations, the commission shall consult with the chief administrative officer or other executive head of the government of the locality, the heads of departments and interested citizens and organizations and shall hold such public hearings as it deems necessary. Localities may use value engineering for any capital project. For purposes of this section, “value engineering” has the same meaning as that in § 2.2-1133.
    #5 As part of the comprehensive plan, each locality shall develop a transportation plan that designates a system of transportation infrastructure needs and recommendations that may include the designation of new and expanded transportation facilities and that support the planned development of the territory covered by the plan and shall include, as appropriate, but not be limited to, roadways, bicycle accommodations, pedestrian accommodations, railways, bridges, waterways, airports, ports, and public transportation facilities. The plan should recognize and differentiate among a hierarchy of roads such as expressways, arterials, and collectors. The Virginia Department of Transportation shall, upon request, provide localities with technical assistance in preparing such transportation plan. Bosun

  6. Bosun, I appreciate the sharing the code. Let me ask you to show me the transportation capital facilities plan for the county of your choice that is in conformity with their county-wide transportation plan.

    we do not have a county master plan for capital facilities for transportation similar to what we have for water/sewer.

    We do not collect “availability” fees for transportation and we are not allowed to put proffers in the overall capital facilities plan but instead the proffers have to be devoted to improvements for the specific development NEAR where that development is.

    There are no capital funds for specific roads. There are no completion dates shown for all of the listed improvements. There is no annual appropriations into the funds for those improvements.

    Most all proffers go for on-site improvements in the same general area of the development. Proffers cannot be used for an improvement..6 miles away even if that improvement is needed because of traffic being generated by that new development.

    For instance, a large new residential development is 6-miles from an I-95 interchange. The county was not allowed to use the proffers to improve the interchange area even though it was the new housing development (and more planned) that spawned the increased traffic.

    The most important thing the GA could do would be to REQUIRE each county to have a Master Plan for Capital Facilities for Transportation and allow proffers to be put in that fund to be used for the projects the county has established as priorities – as they currently do with water/sewer hookups.

Leave a Reply