The Most Intelligent Campaign Debate of 2007

Most of the debate emanating from the General Assembly campaigns this fall is depressingly ignorant and simplistic. But there is one race where the level of discourse on the critical issues of transportation and land use is remarkably thoughtful and well informed. In a solid piece of reporting, Chelyen Davis with the Free Lance-Star compares the thinking of Republican Richard Stuart and Democrat Albert Pollard Jr., who are contesting the 28th district Senate seat in the Fredericksburg area now occupied by John Chichester.

The two candidates have much the same vision for growth in the fast-developing district. As Davis writes, “Both advocate improving VRE service, controlling growth, extending HOV lanes south through Stafford, requiring developers to pay for more of the infrastructure that growth requires, and expanding commuter lots.” They just disagree on the details of how to implement it.

The most marked disagreement is over the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Pollard says that a locality “should have the ability to turn down developments if there are not adequate roads, schools in place.” Stuart worries that the ordinance would allow for too much subjectivity. He favors “requiring landowners to go through the zoning process so localities can control what’s done.”

Otherwise, the two candidates sound a lot alike. Pollard believes that growth should be “compact and contiguous.” He likes the idea of using Transferable Development Rights to create a market-based mechanism for both preserving open space and concentrating growth in areas served by infrastructure and transportation. And here’s a fresh idea that I haven’t seen anywhere else: Pollard also wants to get rid of “stale zoning” — subdivisions that were platted 10 or more years ago and are still on the books, but were never built.

Stuart, too, supports compact development that utilizes infrastructure more efficiently, but he emphasizes cluster development that concentrates houses in a smaller area, leaving more open space, and the end of “by right” development in which farmland can be converted into subdivisions without going through the zoning process. Says Stuart: “You can’t undo what’s already been done, but you can avoid the future sprawl by concentrating growth and requiring necessary infrastructure be built to accommodate it. And you do that through zoning.”

I agree with some aspects of the candidates’ logic and disagree with others. What I most appreciate, however, is the prospect of a debate between two candidates who have thought extensively about the issues. Whoever wins the election, the new senator from the 28th district will elevate the level of senatorial discourse about trasnsportation and land use in 2008.

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19 responses to “The Most Intelligent Campaign Debate of 2007”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Sure. Let’s downzone the farms again to save money for the developed areas.

    Remember, the whole “by right” development concept was a promise made to landowners by the government in order to soften the blow from previous downzoning.

    Sure, sounds like a great idea: let’s eliminate previously promised rights. While we are at it, lets just erase zoning plans that were already paid for and recorded. If that happens it will do away with a long standing policy that you cannot remove rights when the owner has a “vested interest”.

    Why it makes a difference whether a vested interest is written down or recorded or not is unclear to me: a promise is a promise. In my book, any Republican who backs down on a longstanding previous government promise is no conservative, and no gentleman. As for the Democrats, I wouldn’t expect any better.

    Historically, public infrastructure has been a public responsibility. Increasingly we are making it a private one, and we are passing the costs off to private citizens whether or not we allow them to build.

    But, at least we have no new taxes.


  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Growth and the impacts of growth are a hot issue in the Fredericksburg Area.

    The Fredericksburg Area would LOVE to become on of those “More Places” that many in this blog relentlessly pontificate about.

    Send your VWs, AOLs, Ft. Belvoir jobs down here… we’ll take any/all of them..

    Instead, the growth we get is more and more commuters to NoVa who clog our roads at rush hour and overwhelm the school system – which sucks every last cent out of local property tax dollars leaving virtually nothing to upgrade the infrastructure.

    This results in a tremendous voter sentiment that will vote out of office – any official who has a visible “pro-growth” attitude – because “pro-growth” done here means more people and not more jobs.

    Yes there is irony many of the “irate” anti-growth voters are, folks who took NoVa jobs and moved here for “affordable housing”.

    RH can rail about the “unfairness” of limiting development rights – but the political reality is that if you are an elected and you advocate pro-growth AND raising property taxes to pay for the needed infrastructure – you are Toast – with a capital “T”.

    So .. isn’t it interesting that the folks in NoVa who say that they’ve had “enough” and that they don’t have adequate infrastructure (public facilities) to support the growth – guess what – it’s the SAME DANG issue down in Fredericksburg.

    and THAT is why the sentiment for proffers and impact fees is not going to go away, and, in fact, is demanded by most voters.

    Thus – no suprise at all that the two candidates “agree” with each other about growth issues.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    The sentiment for proffers and impact fees is not going to go away, and, in fact, is demanded by most voters.

    Fine. Set the level for impact fees and proffers, based on true costs, and leave what the farms do or don’t do out of it. Let the market decide.

    I could offer the county a million dollar proffer and the answer would still be no. This is a law that has some basis in fact, but is fundamentally dishonest, just as Norm suggested about abuser fees. What is really going on is that people want no new neighbors.

    They want the value of open space without doing anything to support it. They want the extra taxes open space brings in to support and subsidize the developed areas, and not provide any open space services. They want the cost savings from compact development with out sharing the savings with those that sacrifice to make it possible.

    They want to make it easy for wealthy estate owners to snap up farms at well below their true value. My supervisor told me in so many words to my face. “What I want is someone wealthy to buy your farm so they can put a conservation easement on it.”

    They want to live next to open space that they don’t have to own and they can tax the pants off of, because it increases the value of their homes, and reduces their competition for road space.

    All at no cost to themselves.

    It is no wonder that the majority favor this. Now put a fair price on it and see how much they favor it.

    I know you have your own views on this, Larry, but they are utterly divorced from reality as some people face it.


  4. Groveton Avatar

    Why is it so hard to attract jobs to Fredricksburg?

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Neither of these guys are great choices. Cheyen Davis is a friend of Al Pollards so you’ll excuse me if I don’t consider this news source a credible unbiased story.

    But the facts are that Pollard had no plan or even mentioned once the transportaiton issue until after the GOP Firehouse Primary in May where it was a hotly contested topic.

    Pollard has mirrored his entire campaign in a catch-up style copy-cat way- from changing his political logo and colors to Stuart’s sky-blue with reverse stripe to changing his/copying Richards top 3-4 priorities to match his own.

    The trouble with trying to sell the world that you are some bi-partisan messiah (in a transparent way) like this is that Stuart isn’t a tough act to follow and isn’t exactly blazing new ground with anything he’s using as rhetoric.

    So we have uninteresting followed by unoriginal as our two choices.

    Chelyen Davis may have hit the nail on the head when she first reported (in an attempt to help Pollard win over undecideds and independents) that the two were essentially the same person when it came to issues.

    Stuart did it first though, and better, Pollard is just an unoriginal ministuart.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Why is it so hard to attract jobs to Fredericksburg?

    Maybe because businesses would like some hope that their business base will grow.


  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Attracting jobs to Fredericksburg.

    Whoever gets the answer can write their own check!


    re: business base

    no.. we don’t need more retail and commercial that depends on rooftops to prosper

    we want NET jobs from companies whose products are sold OUTSIDE of the Fredericksburg Area.

    Any location can get rooftops and then the WalMarts and Costcos that sell products to those rooftops.

    These are not only NOT net jobs but, in fact, the employees of these businesses usually are right on the fringe of the “working poor” who need subsidized services and/or housing.

    Believe me.. there is not a public official in Fredericksburg that would not jump at the chance to get a company to re-locate from NoVa to Fredericksburg – and provide non-commuting jobs to area residents.

    Our local MPO has taken survey’s of commuters asking them if they would be willing to take a pay cut if they could work locally.

    You guys know the answer.. it is “It depends on the salary”…

    Some folks think.. if we had rail that ran from Washington to Richmond – both directions all day long.. that companies would locate in Fredericksburg…

    Those companies want/must have a reliable way for their employees to get to meetings AND the airport in NoVa…

  8. Not Jim Bacon Avatar
    Not Jim Bacon

    Politicians are idiots.

    “And here’s a fresh idea that I haven’t seen anywhere else: Pollard also wants to get rid of “stale zoning” — subdivisions that were platted 10 or more years ago and are still on the books, but were never built.”

    Here is an even “fresher” idea.

    Let’s get rid of “stale occupancy” permits. Order all commercial and residential buildings vacated for lack of a new enhanced occupancy permit.

    These new enhanced occupancy permits would only be issued after completion of a rigorous traffic impact study by Gov. Kaine’s office. If a building passes that, the owner must then demonstrate compliance with an adequate public facilities ordinance. If the local schools are crowded, or the Chesapeake Bay isn’t clean enough, the home or office building could not receive a new enhanced occupancy permit.

    Finally, for those structures that pass traffic review, adequate public facilities and environmental review, a new occupancy tax would be levied equal to 50% of the fair market rent of the structure.

    This fee would enable the Democrats in Richmond to fund free health care for all children and occupants of approved structures. We would create Obama’s heaven on earth for our remaining citizens.

    If your traffic creating, school crowding, Chesapeake Bay polluting structure can’t meet these new enhanced requirements, we don’t want it occupied.

    Screw you. Go live and work and shop somewhere else. If you are white, move to Zimbabwe and try to take up farming.

    By the way, any structure that does not receive a new enhanced occupancy permit within 6 months will be condemned for use as an anti-terrorist training target by your local police and fire departments.

    Did I mention donors to Pollard’s campaign would be given priority review status for these new enhanced occupancy permits?

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well I’ll bet one thing.

    Neither one.. will, upon election, be treated like the prodigal son of Chichester.

  10. Anonymous Avatar


    That is really over the top: I like it, and you may not be far from wrong. What you are suggesting is not all that different from setting proffers and growth restrictions over the top. If we can restrict growth, we can restrict overcrowding, too.

    The main difference is that they address problems that might happen in the future, and your suggestion addresses today’s problem.

    Sure, why not? Cancel all the occupancy permits and start over. Decide how much your infrastructure can stand and set a limit. Auction off the right to stay up to that limit, with the money earmarked to provide moving and property loss expenses to those that leave. Those that stay will have higher expenses to compensate for all the new open space, that they would now have to pay for.

    They would be paying their new (and voluntarily so) locational costs, and they would have paid those that left enough to cover their losses. Everyone would better off. It is a perfect example of a plan to meet my criteria.

    Call it mass eminent domain if you like, but as long as people get paid fairly AND they are better off, what the heck?

    The NIMBY’s who are now enjoying open space at someone elses expense are going to hate this.


  11. Not Jim Bacon Avatar
    Not Jim Bacon


    Why should farming be exempt from the requirement to obtain a new enhanced occupancy permit?

    You should be required to do a traffic impact study of all the trucks used to haul fertilizer and diesel fuel to your farm. How much traffic are these trucks generating to haul your produce to market?

    You need to provide an updated environmental impact study to gauge the effects of your farming on the Chesapeake Bay. This should be updated annually by a certified environmental engineer. Until the Chesapeake Bay returns to its pre-industrial pristine state, you and all other farmers will have to wait in line for this new permit. You will be required to file an annual report anyway.

    You also need to provide a school impact study to determine whether the local public schools can handle the children from an additional farmer, his employees, and any legal or illegal migrant workers.

    In the event that you employ any migrant workers, you will also be required to provide an adequate medical facilities assessment for your local hospital emergency room.

    If you think you have a right to continue farming just because some government entity said you could in the past, think again.

    Perhaps this article will enlighten you on your backwards individual property rights thinking. It might help you to be more progressive about limiting individual freedom than these two amateurish clowns running for office. They really don’t know much about stealing other people’s property through regulation yet.

    “Ten white farmers appeared in court in Zimbabwe yesterday accused of growing crops on their land — in a country where millions of people will need food aid within the next few months.”

    Let’s send them both a one-way ticket to Zimbabwe so we can get some serious socialism enacted here in the good old Commonwealth.

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Are we talking about farming or developing land that used to be farmed but is no longer?

    If you farm – you do NOT have the right to dump harmful materials off of your property -and harming waterways. You don’t have that right – morally or legally.

    We now recognize runoff as a very serious problem – not only for farms but ANY type of land disturbing activities and it needs to be delt with whether an office building is built or someone is planting and harvesting corn.

    I am sympathetic to the idea that some folks used to be able to make their living .. farming the land – but no more or less than some folks could make their living in a mom/pop store or running a sewing machine at a factory.

    Times do change and we must adapt and preferably without the neverending whining about change that is “not fair”.

    We also need to be clear about the difference land development and farming.

    I find the argument that “farmers” are being unfairly treated because they cannot develop their land – to be disingenuous as well as bi-polar.

    Are you farming or are you developing land. Which is it?

    If you are developing land – MOST folks who are professionals WANT to do it in accordance with the regs because they’ve got their money tied up in it and delays caused by dickering about the regs don’t benefit the investor.

    Only the marginal operators spend their time fuming about the regs.

    If you are serious about land development – you do it.

    The next time you see a 7-11 with a storm water pond next to it – ask yourself…

    did someone at 7-11 show up in a straw hat and coveralls portraying themself as a “poor” farmer who was being “forced” to build an expensive stormwater pond – “for no reason”?

    Of course not.

    And do we see vast areas of undeveloped land because of “unfair” development policies?

    Look around.. last time I checked – we are chock-a-block with development just about everywhere that an investor makes a proposal.

    How about we agree that land that used to farmed is now properly characterized as “re-developed” when it is coverted to another use?

  13. Larry,


    NJB is not talking about appropriate runoff detention ponds here.

    He is trying to get you to think about the fact that taking away existing development rights is theft and leads to harmful consequences.

    Almost all land in this country was at one time employed in food production, whether as a farm or a hunting ground.

    Reston used to be the largest farm in Fairfax County.

    Yes, there are “vast areas” of under-developed land all over America because of “unfair development policies.”

    Everything on Route 7 going west from Tysons Corner until you get to the Loudoun County line was forcibly under-developed by politicians who gave certain rich development families in Fairfax County virtual monopolies on development rights.

    If you want more corruption and more homelessness, keep supporting more restrictions on property rights.

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    hmmm.. what is the difference bewteen “property rights” and “development rights”?

    Do we think that someone who owns property – already developed – has “rights” – including the right to NOT be taxed for infrastructure for those that want to make money selling lots?

    The affordable housing issue is just as bogus as the victim farmer issue in my view – both designed to divert the focus away from those who want to make profits by having localities provide bargain-priced infrastructure to serve their developments.

    I love the standard property (development) rights schtick…

    victim farmers and victim homeless – all because localities won’t provide carte-blance infrastructure to any/all who want to develop land.

    Show me a locality that does NOT have “restrictive” policies ( there must be at least one) AND it can be clearly demonstrated that more affordable housing is the result.

    It’s all market based. Builders – build for the market .. correction.. build to the most profitable end of the market.

    Why don’t the developers make this proposal:

    develop the land into housing that costs no more than the median income for that locality in exchange for exempting the proffers and impact fees.

    Housing for teachers, deputies, medical care workers, etc, you – know the folks who actually do live and work in that community.

    I’ve never seen a developer make such an offer – why?

    What we have is a market for those who make 100K in NoVa and want an “affordable” home 60 miles away so they can have “more house” – as opposed to being “homeless”.

    Show me again the tent city where the homeless live because they cannot afford a place to live?

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    You gotta be kidding me.

    Fertilizer comes from natural gas. I can’t possibly afford artificial fertilizer, and wouldn’t use it if I could.

    One truck fills my bulk tanks for the tractors for the year. It holds enough fuel to run my commuter car for five years. Guess which one provides more return for the money spent.

    This farm sold far more product over far inferior roads before the state took 60 acres for new highways – which I am now prohibited from profiting from.

    Sometimes the product was the and is now sold to people who come and get it. Sometimes it is delivered, and at extra cost.

    Wake up and live in the real world. You have no idea what you are talking about.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    “you do NOT have the right to dump harmful materials off of your property -and harming waterways. You don’t have that right – morally or legally.”

    That is absolutely correct.

    And you do not have the right to say that no harmful materials, zero, none, can leave my property, because that is a virtual imossibility. In fact thare are freedom to farm laws that say just that.

    In addittion, some communities require that new residents sign an affidavit recognizing that they ar moving into a farming community. That they recognize there may be night operations, dust, smells, and chemicals, and that they will not complain or sue.

    You also do not have the right to require that I pay a higher percentage of my county expenses than my residential neighbors. Well, OK, you might have the right, but it is still unethical.


  17. Anonymous Avatar


    You are good. When I first started your note, you had me going.


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    Do we think that someone who owns property – already developed – has “rights” – including the right to NOT be taxed for infrastructure for those that want to make money selling lots?

    That is utterly NOT what we are talking about.

    What we are talking about is someone who was told and promised that they had rights – in writing- from multiple administrations, over many years, only to see those promises repeatedly retracted by the new guy on the block. Ignoring totally the (generally accepted and frequently published although probably incorrect) fact that the same property has overpaid taxes for generataions, only to be charged not only back taxes but development fees, engineering requirement, proffers, etc. far, far above that reauired for any predecessors.

    What part of stealing is it that you do not understand?


  19. Anonymous Avatar

    “I’ve never seen a developer make such an offer – why?”

    I would make that offer right now. Today. And I would be turned down.


    Because my supervisor told me to my face that HIS goal for my property was to have someone wealthy buy it and turn it into a conservation easement.

    End of story.


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