by James A. Bacon

A few days ago I published a post about the effort of a Chesterfield County business group to rid the county of proffers. It was a bad idea, I suggested. As long as government is responsible for road, water, sewer, fire and rescue, etc., someone has to pay for it. Property owners, I argued, should pay proffers in proportion to the obligation they impose upon the county for the new infrastructure. (See “In Defense of Proffers.”)

That was then. This is now. Yesterday, I had a long chat with Peter Katz, a New Urbanism author and planner whom I had profiled in “The Fiscal Fix.” Currently living in the D.C. area, he was in Richmond to buy a new bicycle. We caught up at a restaurant where, sitting on the front patio, we looked upon a most un-New Urbanism setting of an expansive parking lot.

With some hyperbole, Katz refers to as “evil” the proffers, impact fees, community amenity charges and other payments that local governments exact on the recognition that suburban growth does not pay its way. He enumerated a number of reasons why they are counterproductive.

  • Proffers may pay the up-front costs of building new infrastructure but they don’t pay the full life-cycle costs. Local government still must tap general tax revenue for maintenance and replacement.
  • The “rational nexus” legal doctrine maintains that impact-fee revenues must be spent on infrastructure projects related to the development project paying the proffers. Local officials may have other ways to spend the money to greater effect, such as supporting mass transit, but their hands are tied.
  • Proffers have unintended consequences. To avoid paying proffers, developers sometimes hop, skip and jump to a locality that doesn’t charge them. Typically, such counties are farther from the urban core. People drive to job centers close to the core, stressing even more lane-miles of road than they would have otherwise and contributing nothing to upgrading them.

One possible alternative, Katz suggests, is a system used in some parts of Canada — “development charges.” These differ from proffers and impact fees in important ways. First, the charges cover full life-cycle costs. Second, the charges are determined with the benefit of intense input from a wide range of stakeholders. Third, they apply to everyone across the board; no one gets a sweetheart deal. Fourth, the charges are structured with the recognition that some locations require more infrastructure investment than others. In-fill development in a district already served by roads, water/sewer and public safety services, for example, would engender smaller charges in a district where the infrastructure had to be built from scratch.

On the other hand, Katz is also partial to the idea of simply paying for infrastructure with ordinary property tax revenues. The key is to approve only projects that fiscal analysis shows in advance will collect enough taxes to cover the life cycle costs and build up enough reserves to pay for new infrastructure when it’s required in 30 years or so down the road. As a practical matter, that means approving only projects with a small infrastructure imprint — with greater density.

I lean toward the old-fashioned property-tax approach for another reason. Local governments can either create economic value with well-chosen transportation investments or destroy value with ill-designed projects. The ability to soak developers for proffers and impact fees saves them the trouble of thinking very hard about whether they are creating value or destroying it, expanding the tax base or diminishing it.

Note: I have modified this post to better reflect Peter Katz’ thinking.

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32 responses to “The Evil These Proffers Do”

  1. Back up the truck. Proffers in Virginia are applicable only when land is rezoned to higher density. The proffers are intended to pay for additional infrastructure needed to support the higher density. Removing proffers (or impact fees) has the effect of making the costs public, while privatizing the profits. It sure sounds like corporate welfare to me.

    And I don’t buy the “gee, people benefit by urban development, so they should be willing to pay for the great benefit.” All development creates demand for more infrastructure and, over time, more operating expenses for local government.

    I challenge all of these New Urbanists to explain Tysons.

  2. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    We must be having mental telepathy. This Saturday morning before this latest proffer article went up, I completed my conclusions on the evils of proffers within the earlier In Defense of Proffers article showing how proffers have open up a Pandora’s Box of Horribles in Tysons Corner.

    In this case I related those consequences to the most recent theft of Interstate I-95 by Fairfax County’s Tyson’s Corner. How proffers are being used as the prime tool to accomplish that theft, creating the illusion of solving traffic problem when in fact they reinforce and magnify it. Thus they leave an ever more intractable problem for generations.

    Here’s the post from the earlier article:

    TMT says: “and these folks will not only need roads in and around Tysons but roads to commute on to Tysons.” Larry replies: “Isn’t that a valid criticism of how Fairfax develops and externalizes impacts?”

    Of course Larry is correct. And I suggest Tyson’s Corner is the poster child for how often proffers twist the market to achieve bad results. Developers do not give away money for public good. They pay money to get results that make them more money. Here in the Tyson’s Corner example, they paid money in proffers to buy the right to build far more office space than multi-family space near the Metro than otherwise possible. Unenforceable caps was the fig leaf to cover up that very bad planning decision. Like so many bad decisions that have gone down before, the result will haunt our region for generations.

    This cynical policy will gridlock the interstate beltway north of Tyson’s Corner for some to 10 to 15 miles north into Maryland for the next 50 years. An interstate has in effect been shut down to interstate traffic in both directions by the use of proffers. So developers used proffers as a tool to buy the interstate I 495. This allows them to build yet more office buildings in Tysons without building anywhere near enough residential nearby to make their new development traffic neutral. Thus, perversely, proffers can be used by developers and public officials to promote bad planning that results in highly adverse negative affects throughout a region.

    I suspect one reason for this awful result may be that Fairfax has no other way to get the money for mass transit, other then by “cutting a deal with the devil.” Thus the legislators in Richmond have a hand in the game. Too bad that the 2 billion dollars that might be spent on the North South Connector could not have been spent on Tyson’s and other northern Virginia close in mass transit projects. This money then could be used to gain the leverage to insure that responsible development is built in Tyson’s Corner. Instead the proffer systems reversed the leverage, giving it to private developers. S0 proffers gave the developers the advantage, not the reverse.

  3. yeah I’m not buying Mr. Katz views either especially after he bails out of the financial impacts and says: ” … partial to the idea of simply paying for infrastructure with ordinary property tax revenues. The key is to set the property tax at a level sufficient to pay full life-cycle costs”

    taking his idea – how would you go about paying for water and sewer?

    I think there is a confusion between initial capital investment and downstream operational and maintenance costs.

    ALL taxpayers – existing residents and new residents pay the O&M costs just as ALL people hooked up to water/sewer pay for those costs – once they are hooked up.

    The question he avoided was – how do you build new infrastructure to serve new growth?

    Do you increase property taxes on existing residents to pay for it?

    using his rationale – he’d charge the existing people hooked up to water/sewer higher rates so that the water/sewer system could be expanded for new growth.

    not buying it.

    water/sewer works this way. If you want to build a house that connects to water/user – you have to pay a (usually hefty) “availability/connect” fee to basically run a pipe from the existing main pipes to your home.

    the amount you pay for that connection is way, way more than what it actually costs to run that pipe to your house so what is it you are paying for?

    you are paying for the capital infrastructure costs of what it took to make the big pipe available for you to connect to.

    who else would you charge for that? other people already hooked up? all taxpayers who are not even hooked up?

    If Mr. Katz addresses the water/sewer issue and then draws some rationale that justifies making other non-water/sewer infrastructure operate differently, I’d at least listen.

  4. proffers were never intended to pay for lifecycle costs. The costs that we are talking about are the initial infrastructure costs. Where do you get a new school or a new road for new subdivisions?

    You might get away with existing taxpayers joining with new ones to pay for new schools when the growth rate is low – like 1 or 2%

    Modest tax increases can keep up.

    but what do you do when the growth rate is higher than that?

    what happens when the growth rate hits the point where instead of one school every 5 years, you start to need 1 or 2 per year?

    who pays for that?

    When you tell existing taxpayers that their tax rates have to go up – every year – higher and higher to pay for new schools, libraries, EMS, roads, etc – what happens?

    One thing that happens is – elections. People get voted out of office for raising taxes year after year.

    so what do elected officials do instead? Well.. they then don’t build new schools or new roads or other infrastructure that is needed…

    contrast that with water/sewer.

    what happens when you don’t collect enough money to expand water/sewer systems?

    you cannot do what you do with letting schools and roads get overcrowded.

    The State will not let you lower your drinking water standards to save money nor will they let you do wastewater treatment on the cheap so the only other 2 options are – charge the people who need the connections or charge all taxpayers.

    there is a 3rd option. Charge the people who are already hooked up to water/sewer – higher monthly O&M fees.

    that idea works until the bond rating agencies or the state finds out what you are doing and makes things ugly.

    The problem with the folks who are opposed to proffers – is that either they don’t have any reasonable alternatives or they advocate making all ratepayers or all taxpayers pay for new infrastructure.

    Most local politicians are not real leaders.. they just take the path of least resistance – until the county gets into trouble then they bail.

    The responsible leader recognizes that you cannot have growth without paying for the new infrastructure and that who pays needs to fairly allocate the costs to those who want and need.

    One problem is that proffers in Virginia are all over the map. One county will charge 4 times what another one does and that drives the homebuilders to Richmond to lobby against proffers in general.

    but doing away with proffers is going to ultimately do away with localities approving rezones to accommodate new growth. They’ll just start saying “no”.

    be careful what you lobby for.

  5. Jim, there were several posts on the original text. What happened to them?

  6. the “updated” post is no improvement.

    the next to the last paragraph basically advocates that everyone pay for new growth (which is the developers usual view)

    and the next (last) post goes off on another issue that is basically unrelated to the “who pays” issue and goes off on what KIND of development is BETTER – as if the costs would be different – i.e. “dense” is cheaper. No.. dense is more expensive because you have to have even MORE infrastructure to support density – or – at least the issue is debatable but it slides off the issue of who pays and why.

    I’m NOT in favor of penalizing new residents OR using proffers or fees to limit/discourage growth.

    but there IS a fairness issue that I continue to say is best illustrated by looking at water/sewer in terms of how it gets planned and built and who ends up paying for it.

    People who already have paid for their water/sewer connections and now are paying for monthly operational and maintenance fees are not going to smile kindly on the idea that not only should they buy connections for new people – but that they should do it no matter the rate of growth or the density.

    I’m surprised at Jim. He’s usually a “user pays” guy and here he is supporting subsidies…

    go figure!

    1. I’m still a “user pays” guy. Frankly, I’m trying to figure out the proffer thing. I could be persuaded that builders should pay an up-front fee to cover costs, and then the municipality should structure property taxes to cover all maintenance and replacement costs across the city.

      If we do accept the principle that developers and builders should pay, we then need to ask ourselves, upon what basis do we charge them? Proffers differ from impact fees, and there are pros and cons to each. And then there is the Canadian system, which no one in the U.S. seems to talk about.

      I don’t know the answer. I’m still working on it.

  7. Fair enough!

    I’m not a “the developer should pay” guy. I know and realize that the people who pay are not the developers but the ultimate buyers.

    The developers care because higher prices hurt sales and weirdly out-of-whack fees between adjacent localities screws things up also.

    and I agree with the developers! If localities were reasonable about proffers, we’d probably have less angst but it’s also hard to believe that not in a single place in the US.. there’s not a reasonable proffer/impact fee system and we have to go to Canada to find one?

    Also, no developer that I know of makes the case that water/sewer fees make homes less affordable and therefore should be a free service of the county – paid for by all taxpayers.

    The “Canadian” system seems to me to be one where all taxpayers pay to provide all infrastructure – and specifically is not – “user pays”.

  8. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    This is an interesting discussion. We are coming to understand that some types of development impose a continuing deficit cost on society. Who pays for the deficit? When and how do they pay for it? Or what happens if they can’t compensate to losers? How do you compensate the people entitled to drive interstate road who have had that interstate road taken away from them can’t by improper development built along the interstate right of way in order to co-opt those entitled to use it.?

    We are also learning that some development creates great wealth. Should we not strive for that result? And, as to the excess public revenues generated by that development, who get’s the benefit of it. Should the revenue generated by development that is built the right way (so as to generate revenue surpluses) be spread around to other areas operating at a deficit? Why should people living in revenue positive communities support those who chose to live in revenue negative communities? Why should not those making that choice pay for their operating loses themselves?

    Does the Virginia proffer system even begin to address these issues? Or does it by in large create bad habits and bad policies? Habits that corrupt the system rather than solve its problems. We dealt with some of these issues in this website’s article titled: Smart Growth for Everyone.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      On this subject see also this website’s earlier article entitled: Land Use and Tax Revenue in Fairfax County

    2. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Correction to last 2 sentences in 1st para. “Or what happens if they can’t compensate the losers who can’t drive an interstate road that’s been taken away from them by development knowingly built along the right of way to co-opt the interstate for its own use, taking it away from those it was built to serve?

    3. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Perhaps these question are so difficult because State and local governments are finding it ever harder to fund public infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, parks, etc) that new communities coming on line demand. And often the problem compounds because some of these new communities are hollowing out the older communities left in their wake.

      How do we fix this? How do we dig the problem out by its roots, instead of using short term solutions that dig our deficit hole ever deeper by allowing us to build more communities that don’t work long term?

      One way is to build (or rebuilt communities) into engines of wealth. A suburban county thus works to capture within its borders ever more land that is built into efficient highly productive engines of wealth communities that benefit the whole county. Like the 11.5% of Arlington County land that was built to and now generates more than 50+% of its wealth.

      When this sort of development happens, you don’t need proffers, impact fees, taxing districts, and other “tricks” that far two often cover up the weaknesses of how you are building your community. Or that twist your market out of shape. Nor are you taking the easy way out – the one that makes a fast buck for a few now but piles future costs on the backs of future residents. No, doing things this way, your communities will pay for themselves naturally, and keep on generating future wealth. Property taxes then grow exponentially for ever growing array of public facilities. Such things then can be paid for the old fashioned way because their is plenty or money to go around.

      Of course nothing is free or easy. Developers need now to built financially healthy communities. Local government must require it. And then it must be the developers’ best helper in their efforts to achieve that goal.

  9. I don’t think it’s that hard. If you move into a subdivision -you’ll need to pay for the infrastructure that directly serves it – just as you would for a garage or a finished basement or a shed in the backyard.

    I do not think that residential development is a “wealth generator” except for the developers. Providing services for residential development is a loser financially for govt because of the fact that each kid costs about 10K a year to educate and most residential comes no where close to that number in the property taxes it pays.

    I do not believe in telling people where to live or not to live nor do I believe in preventing them from moving to where they want to live – but the honest truth is that when people move into a community – they and their family are going to need services and infrastructure and someone has to pay to provide it.

    it’s that simple.

    when you have a child that goes to school – it is going to cost about 10K to pay for his teacher, bus driver, cafeteria worker, nurse, etc and that’s real money that has to be paid not monopoly money.

    where does it come from ?

    If you have a child and you pay $4000 a year in property tax, where does the rest of the 6000 come from?

    remember – this is operational cost not the initial infrastructure cost which is the business of providing a seat for your child to sit in when he goes to school. If we don’t provide that seat for him in a new classroom – he’ll have to double up the class size with other kids.

    my view on this is that it’s pretty simple but we have a hard time facing it.

    we want to make it more complicated than it actually is so we won’t have to face the reality of the numbers.

    and don’t get me wrong. I LOVE KIDS and I WANT THEM to get the very best education that we are capable in providing and we should not do it on the cheap.

    having said that – the reality is that new growth needs both infrastructure and facilities – schools, roads, libraries, EMS, etc and these things are real and cost money and you can’t wish the money to appear – it’s got to come out of someone’s pocket.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      So we agree.

  10. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    All of the stories related to Chesterfield have missed a couple of points.
    1. I thought they were supposed to review the POLICY. They did not look at making the fee differential, nor did they discuss removing the prohibition on transferring density.
    2. Someone thought it would be good timing to hire a PR firm. They made Mr. Winfree the public face of the group, but none of the stories I have found mentioned that his VP at Village Bank was the developer responsible for the most sprawl inducing zoning case in the past 10 years. Maybe he did not hold that position then, but it has a bad appearance.
    3. I chaired the Impact Fee Advisory Committee a few years ago. The committee did not recommend the ordinance. They took a pass on 50 million dollars that could have been used for transportation. (The committee was a little builder heavy)
    4. This is the third time in 10 years Chesterfield has had some kind of financing committee. Take away millions, replace it with nothing…GREAT idea.
    No, FIX the system. Start at the STATE level. Incorporate some of the ideas mentioned here. This Pi#$es me off…And I don’t like the current system…and I don’t even live there anymore.

  11. Few local governments in Virginia have any idea of the true costs and benefits of growth and, therefore, can’t begin to honestly assess the amount of any proffer. This study of Charlottesville and Albemarle County indicates that growth rarely, if ever, pays for itself.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Looks like interesting report. I’ll read it.

  12. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    I do not know the specifics of the locales mentioned, but Andrea and Salz raise important points generally.

    Vested interests are typically very hard to turned around on the local level. So, if a few locals have been very successful at building residential track subdivisions in the past, they’re likely against anything that might alter they building them in the future. They’ve invested money, plans, and years of hard work, making sure they their future resembles their past. Naturally they resist any and all change to way “business is done around here.”

    Thus a key to solving a big problem, such as “removing the prohibition on transferring density,” can be met with stoney silence or outright hostility. Local change, despite all of its merits and the crying need for it, can be very difficult, depending on local politics and power structures. A lot to things need to come into play to get things working in ways that meet the future.

  13. I need to correct something about the stated costs of education.

    It’s TRUE that most localities pay around 10K and that the local share is around 5K and it’s also true that most folks only pay around 2-3K in property taxes (although folks like DJ pay substantially more, but MOST….).

    but it’s ALSO true that people DO pay Federal and State income taxes as well as sales tax and all 3 of those also help to pay school costs.

    it’s still not enough – if people without kids (including empty nesters), and businesses did not pay taxes the local taxes would have to go up to make up the difference.

    this, by far, is the problem, when counties grow “faster” than about 2 % a year. 2% and under, everyone, the existing folks and newcomers can usually keep up with modest increases in the taxes.

    but when the growth rate goes higher than that – something has to give and if proffers are not collected, then major tax increases are required.

    with roads – what happens, is most localities in Virginia do not increase taxes to catch the roads up. They usually get as much as the can from VDOT and then just let the roads get crowded.

    libraries and ball fields manage to get built and water/sewer is mandatory- as I said. I’ve yet to hear developers claim that water/sewer costs make houses “unaffordable” ….. they accept the reality of the need and costs but then they choose to employ that argument when it comes to schools and roads, etc.

  14. let me lay out a couple of real world examples on costs of infrastructure.

    a high school that can handle 1000-1500 students can cost 50-100 million dollars. A penny on the tax rate in my county can generate about 1.5 million dollars. You float a bond to pay for the school but how will you pay it off?

    Now add an elementary and a middle school – a new school every year – and taxes start to go up just to pay back the bonds.

    now, lets take a road. A road in our country is costing 33 million dollars to add a 3rd lane on each side for 2 miles.

    go back to the same tax numbers. one penny on the tax rate generates 1.5 million dollars.

    Now add the other roads that also need to be widened for new growth.

    I do not think that ALL the costs of additional infrastructure should be put on newcomers but look at the dollars I’ve shown above for new schools and roads.

    EMS is also expensive when you add personnel which is what you have to do if you are going to provide and maintain 24/7 service for the county. A million dollars in new revenues will buy you about 20 employees.

  15. I’m also curious about Jim Bacon’s philosophy with respect to tax increases to pay for infrastructure for new growth.

    Jim has made it clear that tax increases are bad and especially so if they are to be used because of waste or for the purpose of rent-seeking and subsidies.

    but what are tax increases to pay for growth ?

    is that acceptable from the “no tax” adherents?

  16. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    Actually, I have never seen a development community in any locality that was opposed to transferring density. In fact, last night the Chesterfield Planning commission recommended approval of a case that added roughly 4 acres to Centerpointe, and moved about 35 units to the new property.
    There are several ways to transfer density, and no matter the method, density transfer can support a local land use plan, compensate the property owners, save the taxpayers millions of dollars of unnecessary infrastructure costs and help solve the “stale zoning” problem.
    The biggest problem I have found are local budget managers who refuse to consider differential proffers. Some of them just do not seem to realize the actual savings they would see. This is not to say however, that all costs disappear in infill areas. New residents require services wherever they are located, but transferring density from the hinterlands to suitable infill areas should be a no-brainer.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Andrea , you said above:”1. I thought they were supposed to review the POLICY. They did not look at making the fee differential, nor did they discuss removing the prohibition on transferring density.”

      What does the prohibition refer to? Also what’s a “differential proffer”?

      Finally why don’t density transfers get off the ground in your experience. Like you apparently, it seems to me they are a baseline tool for solving many of these seemingly intractable problems.

      (I take it from your comment that the Centrepoint deal added adjoining ground to increase the project’s density. Did it move those new 35 units of density from elsewhere outside the now enlarged project?)

  17. so, here is my “polite” question. If density is “good”, why shouldn’t it be an unrestricted rezone right (if approved?) rather than having to “transfer” rights?

    are we not essentially saying that density costs money and we need something in exchange for it in order to justify it?

    serious but “polite” question.

    If a developer made a proposal for high-density in an area the county had designated to support high density.. why are there “strings” attached?

  18. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    “so, here is my “polite” question. If density is “good”, why shouldn’t it be an unrestricted rezone right (if approved?) rather than having to “transfer” rights?”

    It a way that protects peoples vested rights while it also promotes better development patterns by using those rights elsewhere.

  19. whose rights are being “protected” by making density a quid-pro-quo?

    it would seem to me that is density is “good” and the “right” way to develop that we would incentivize it rather than restricting it.

    the way we do this by granting density in return for setting aside other land makes it sound like density is bad and need compensating offsets.

    The entire sole purpose of the (now essentially defunct) UDA legislation was to REQUIRE localities to designate places where they would AT LEAST CONSIDER higher density than what might be currently designated.

    It was purely voluntary in effect, because it did not require approval – only consideration but the part that was not voluntary – was the designation of enough land to support a set number of years of projected growth.

    It would have been to the localities best interest to designate the least amount of land at the highest possible density to meet the UDA stipulations but many jurisdictions specified a bunch of designated spaces and some, like Stafford designated “nodes” where water/sewer currently does not exist at all.

    but my point is – that if density is good – and promotes an optimal settlement pattern – why put restrictions on it instead of incentivizing it in the first place?

  20. …. and who knows.. if you INCENTIVIZE density, and don’t require the developer to spend scarce investment money on “preserving” external parcels, he/she may well have enough to include affordable housing in the density.

    Are PDRs and TDRs actually counterproductive to optimal density?

  21. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    The cash proffer policy in Chesterfield specifically prohibits the transfer of density from one property to another.

    The proffer amount is the same regardless of the location of the development. So, a proposal 25 miles from the nearest public facility, on a two lane substandard road requires the same $18,966.00 proffer as a proposal in an infill area with adequate facilities. A differential proffer would recognize the difference in cost to provide facilities, and be set accordingly. The proffer for the proposal in the hinterlands might be 30k, while the proffer in the infill area might be 5k, depending on the existing infrastructure.

    Density transfer programs are very successful in many places. VA Beach has a good Greenbelt program (TDR in nature, as are most) as does Montgomery County MD. for example.

    However, the concept of TDR (transfer, as opposed to purchase or lease) is a transaction between two private property owners. The farmer looking to sell his density potential, keep and continue farming operations (if he wants to) and be compensated for his development potential, would sell those credits to a developer in another area, planned and suited for the additional density.

    The problem, in part and not including the current economy, (at least in VA) is the way a local program must be set up. The locality has to create the program by ordinance and Plan, which in and of itself is usual. But local governments have not rallied to embrace the concept of the private system, even though the locality would administer it (unless they asked me to do it).
    I believe that as the economy gains strength in the development arena, more localities might take a look at the TDR option, but I would also like to see a few changes to the enabling legislation that would provide a bit more flexibility.

    The Centerpointe deal did not ADD any density. They added a few acres of adjacent land and moved a few units to the newly incorporated property.

    @Larry: (I am confident you know all of this, as I have been rambling about it for years 😉
    Any density transfer concept is an incentive for both the sending property owner as well as the receiving owner. IF THEY ARE PROPERLY ADMINISTERED, they also support a local land use plan, logical growth patterns and optimal use of public infrastructure funding.

    Density itself, in the proper location IS good. The key here is PROPER location.
    One of my favorite sayings: “The devil is in the DESIGN, not the density”. A well designed project at 10-20 U/A can even appear less dense than a poorly designed project at 4-6 U/A. I suppose any “strings” that would be attached would vary by locality, but the developer could use a transfer program to achieve that higher density and provide affordable housing.

    You know as well as anyone that density is not good everywhere, and public perception of it is difficult to change. So no, I do not think PDR and TDR’s are counterproductive. I think localities who do not understand them are.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Chesterfield’s prohibition of density transfers combined with its “undifferentiated proffers” strikes me as a crude, counter-productive system.

      1. reed fawell III Avatar
        reed fawell III

        PS – Chesterfields “undifferentiated proffers” strikes me as an odd duck. An anti-growth measure, and revenue generating scheme unrelated to impact cost or good planning, it’s unfair to all concerned and punitive in nature, thus insuring bad results. The density transfer prohibition which reinforces the proffer system’s rigidity, compounds the harm.

  22. @Andrea – density at or above 4du requires water/sewer, right?

    so …water/sewer is a scarce commodity that gets more expensive the more it “sprawls”, right?

    so the more compact and focused water/sewer is – the better opportunity for “good” density that (in my mind) would INCLUDE smaller, more affordable units.

    I just don’t really understand the logic of “trading” property that cannot be developed at higher densities anyhow for higher density in properties than can.

    it almost seems as if two different concepts are being conflated – dense development that can be done well (or not) and preserving land – which in an of itself – not done with any master plan and/or patchwork – without regard to whether it should be logically developed in the future (or not) or whether it has some historic or natural, cultural significance to it that would deem it worthy of protection on it’s merits as opposed to “stopping development” of vacant but insignificant land.

    I often drive the rural areas of Va and do wonder what is the pertinence of putting land that is not significant and not threatened anyhow nor likely to be far into the future – of putting than land in a Conservation easement and taking it off the tax rolls.

    but I’m especially ignorant of the actual linkage between areas designated for dense development being “traded” for areas that are no so designated and likely to never have water/sewer necessary to densely develop them.

    it seems like apples and oranges to me and to be honest.. I watch virtually every BOS and Planning commission meeting and the elected and appointed are befuddled and so far, I’ve not heard a clear, articulate, compelling justification from our planners. And they recently took some heat from the BOS asking why tax dollars are involved in this to start with.

  23. I think the train has left the station on the toll issue anyhow and here’s why in my view:

    Virginia’s road system is essentially fully built out with a couple of exceptions.

    The rest of the road system is already in place and the problem is that some of it needs more capacity – more lanes – but more lanes cost big money now days and in some cases where new lanes would take developed properties – the costs are just prohibitive and really – looney – because we’d be buying very expensive “best and highest use”tax generating property for top dollar and turning it into property that earns no money and pays no taxes – basically so that anyone who wants to can drive at rush hour for whatever reason they want – no matter it’s economic value.

    that’s dumb.

    and that’s the train that has left the station.

    the decision has been made that when we add capacity to existing roads – it’s going to be tolled to pay for it – to put the costs on the people who want that capacity on that road. And the toll will vary to require people to include in their decision – an economic justification for their own situation.

    people will start making decisions that INCLUDE the real cost of their trip – which they will now be paying for – rather than expecting it to be provided for “free”.

    This is not rocket science. Tolls have been around in the Northeast for a long time. the Pennsylvania Turnpike would never have been built if not for tolls. What’s changed is the ability to dynamically vary the price of tolls because of improvements in technology that have removed the need for tollbooths.

    from now on, you travel unimpeded – no booths – but you do pay.

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