Shipley Shines in Coverage of Transportation Debate

Garren Shipley, who covers the General Assembly for the Northern Virginia Daily, demonstrates once again that his dispatches are critical reading, for he covers topics you won’t read in any of the major metro dailies. Today he previews the legislation that the House of Delegates will submit next month to overhaul the relationship between state and local government in the maintenance of and planning for roads. So far, Shipley is the only political reporter to break from the herd and cover transportation as something other than a debate over taxes.

Readers of Bacon’s Rebellion, of course, will find the House proposals familiar. As we wrote earlier this year, the House would (1) mandate urban development areas, (2) create urban transportation service districts, and (3) curtail the admittance of subdivision roads into the state road network.

While my pieces were long and verbose, Shipley provides a quick, readable snapshot of the issues. As Shipley quotes Del. Clay Athey, R-Front Royal, new money for the state’s road system is out of the question unless it comes along with fundamental reform. Said Athey: “Funneling a bunch of additional money into a transportation system that’s broken because of poor local land use policy …. [means] that we’ve wasted our money.”

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15 responses to “Shipley Shines in Coverage of Transportation Debate”

  1. Mandating urban development areas is exactly equivalent to mandating that those who do not happen to be in those areas may not participate in or benefit frome the wealth tha growth generates. As such they will be subsidising the urban areas once again.

    How long will it take for people to understand that if they wish to maintain the rural areas as rural, that they must also be somewhere near profitable, that they too must participate in the areas grwoth, somehow?

    The only other possible outcome is that only people with extreme wealth will be able to live in the rural areas. We will eventually have a commuting problem in reverse, in which truckloads of farm landscapers exit the cities every day to maintain the countryside, just as happens today in Lisbon and other European cities.

  2. “The only other possible outcome is that only people with extreme wealth will be able to live in the rural areas.”

    Umm, that’s basically the situation we have now. The only way for someone to own a large piece of land where I live is to either be born with it or have someone die and give it to you. And I am not talking about 5, 10, 20 acre lots. I am talking about lots of 50+ acres…..large pieces of land.

    I have relatives that are farmers and they seem to be able to run a profitable operation on rural land that has been in the family for generations. How much longer that will last is unknown. I have no idea how much they pay in taxes to the county on their land. But, if the tax on the land was such that it made it unprofitable to farm then I would assume they would quit farming.

    IMO, taxes on land are part of doing business. If they are such a burden that they bankrupt an operation then I would agree that we have a problem. If that’s the case then I would be all for a plan that would place rural land in a special taxing district which would allow them to be taxed at a lower rate then areas in a UDA. To me, that seems fair and equitable.

    If you can’t make money raising beef cattle, goats, turkeys, etc., on your land I fail to see how that is your local government’s fault. If they have “zoned” you out of such activities and also “zoned” you out of being able to sell and develop the land for housing then I would agree that you are getting screwed. But, if that’s not the case I think there are larger issues that prevent you form making money above and beyond your property taxes. It would seem to me that things like foreign competition, free trade, etc. have a greater impact on a farms bottom line then local property taxes.

    How many people are actually getting the shaft from local governments because they are zoned out of doing anything profitable with their land? Is this a new phenomenon?

  3. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    We discussed this problem in October.
    Shades of Henry George

    The solution is to allow property owners to set up George districts. Normal tax districts and reverse George districts. If you want your land to remain rural, join with your neighbors and put it in a reverse George district. Then your land will not be taxed.

    If you and your neighbors like to pay land taxes, keep things the way they are.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    A Danish company is building a new container port in Portsmouth.
    The facility will handle 1 million containers a year. The House
    plan does nothing to provide us the funds we need to upgrade our
    rail lines and roads to handle this additional traffic that will
    be generated in Hampton Roads. Nor does the plan provide funds
    for billions of dollars of unmet needs in the state.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Right On Mr. Wamsley

    Mr. Hyde wants us to make him richer because he (rather his wife) owns land.

    Reading this post and the last one makes it clear why Mr. Bacon is so important to coming to an informed understanding on the importance of settlement patterns.

    Anon Zoro

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m not entirely unsympathetic to Ray but essentially I think his view is that it is unfair to designate some properties as available for denser development while not others.

    I’m not sure what his attitude is about the availability of water/sewer and other infrastructure necessary to support more intensive development and who might pay for it.

    But I would point out that anyone, including Ray can acquire land so-designated and develop it. These folks are called developers and they purposely seek out land that can be developed – no matter where. They do not use their money to acquire rural land that is not so designated (and not likely to be).

    I keep saying… it’s ALL about the infrastructure – where it is… where itis not.. and who pays to upgrade/expand it.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Wow! After reading the article. I AM impressed.

    I would agree.. if legislation likes this passes – it would be hugely beneficial.

    Primarily what it does is it makes the folks who make land-use decisions – more responsible for the provisioning of the needed infrastructure.

    If this is perceived by the public as coming from the House and distrinquished from the Senate “more money” mantra … interesting things could happen.

  8. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, I am glad to hear you are responding positively to the ideas emanating from the House. They represent only a first step, but they are moving in the right direction. They also show that members of the House are thinking seriously about land use.

    For a detailed exposition of the thinking behind the legislation, I refer you to my previous columns:

    Seventy-Five Years

    The Devolution Solution

    Focused Growth

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    But Recall, None of these Ideas work unless there are region wide plans for Urbanside and Countryside seperated by what Doctor Risse call a Clear Edge.

    Anon Zora

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Remember there are 3 parts.

    Local, Statewide and Regional.

    JLARC recommends that responsibilities be allocated along these lines and reorganizing VDOT’s district boundaries to align according to regions.

    The MPOs would handle regional roads within the MSA and VDOT would handle roads of Statewide significance that transcend MPO boundaries.

    Right now in MPOs with MSA populations of less than 250K population – VDOT still controls the money allocations – which, in essence, means they control the regions priorities because they can allocate or not according to VDOT priorities rather than regional priorities.

    This is what is happening right now in several MPOs across Va including Fredericksburg and Charlottesville.

    The first part – the localities could well be under control with the legislation being proposed.

    The other two parts – MPO and VDOT wouldr require giving the MPOs both responsibility for priorities but also a way to raise funds for their regions.

    Then VDOT would get the gas tax for maintenance and a way to raise revenues for statewide significance roads.

    The problem all along in my humble opinion has been a dysfunctional allocation of responsibilities with localities pointing their fingers at VDOT for land-uses snafus and VDOT saying that land-use is not their responsibility – even though when they propose new location roads – they justify when, where, how based mostly on land-use decisions.

    Some folks refer to this as devolving. I see it as rather more precise allocation of responsibilities to eliminate the loopholes used by both sides to justify their own priorities.

    Once localities are responsible for local roads – especially subdivisions and VDOT responsible for statewide roads, then MPOs will be responsible for Regional transportation decisions and I will submit that since elected officials vote at the MPO level – that citizens WILL have much more ability to hold “someone” (besides VDOT) accountable for transportation decisions.

    It won’t be perfect but I feel it foster a more accountable system for decision-making that we have right now.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    It amazes me that people see such simple solutions to very complex problems.

    If all of the counties in the state took over maintenance of subdivision streets yesterday, there still would be a transportation crisis in Virginia. Look at the figures; they do not lie. VDOT has been spending less to maintain secondary roads in counties over the past five years. So where are the savings coming from? It took VDOT 13 years to perform the FIRST piece of maintenance on the secondary road in front of my house.

    Let’s say VDOT keeps responsibility for a nice primary highway or major secondary road in a county and spends lots of state money to four-lane it. Now, the county comes along and begins rezoning the land along the newly widened road for a WalMart, Target, and many fast food restaurants. Where is the coordination between land use and transportation?

    I hope Mr. Bacon attends the hearing on the two major bills that he trumpets on January 9 at 3 p.m. Please be there to add your voice on this legislation.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    I trust that Anon 5:14 is wrong and that these bill would do more than move the deck chairs.

    We must have Fundamental Change, all else just accelerates the advent of Collapse.

    Anon Zora

  13. nova_middle_man Avatar

    We need both everybody wins we need transportation/growth/planning change and more money since the last update was 1986

    lots of backpost reading to do good stuff by everyone as always 🙂

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “It amazes me that people see such simple solutions to very complex problems.”

    Simple description of a report that is 165 pages long.

    I have a suggestion.

    I did abbreviate in the extreme but why don’t you go for yourself to the report .. read it.. and come back prepared to discuss the merits of their recommendations?

    If you do that and then you STILL think that what I’m advocating is “simple-minded” . .then I’ll accept that view.

    Here’s the link:

    now go do your homework .. and report back… 🙂

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Gross I do not have a problem with the JLARC recommendations except if they are so important and beneficial, why were they not enacted during the 2001 General Assembly Session?

    No, my comments were directed toward the feeling that mandated urban development areas, local transportation districts paid for with additonal real estate taxes, limited impact fees, and no more public secondary streets will solve the current transportation problem.

    Again, I hope everyone who is interested in this subject will appear at 3 p.m. on January 9 in House Room C in Richmond to speak on those three initiatives. I hope especially that Mr. Bacon is there to report to his readers.

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