A Victory for Genuine Smart Growth, or Just a Cry of Inarticulate Rage?

Democratic Party gains in the General Assembly, including the takeover of the state Senate, has rightfully been treated as the big story of Virginia’s 2007 elections. But there’s another story big story: the swelling anti-growth backlash at the level of local government.

Anti-growth candidates swept to victory in Loudoun County, Fairfax County and Chesterfield County. The smart growth movement also gained ground in Warren, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange, Albemarle, Hanover and Powhatan counties.

Conservationists are spinning the Tuesday election results as a huge victory for “smart growth.”
Said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of Coalition for Smarter Growth: “Governor Kaine is widely seen as having won his election, particularly in the outer suburbs, because of his support for better growth management. Two years later, growth management remains the hot-button issue, with those local candidates who were most strongly identified with smarter growth often carrying the day.”

Said Lisa Guthrie, Executive Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters: “The local support for better growth management remains strong and I hope it signals to state legislators, both new and old, the importance of supporting land use tools for local governments and transportation investments that support smarter growth. The frustrations over growth expressed in this election shows that the state must do more, not less, to help localities to focus growth and infrastructure in walkable communities, protect rural farmland and open space, and invest in transit.”

While I am a strong advocate of smart growth, in my observation newly elected anti-growth activists often make matters worse. They naively impose growth controls that have harmful unintended consequences: restricting housing supply, pushing growth to outlying counties, forcing people to commute longer distances. Indeed, the remedies of many anti-growth populists are the very antithesis of smart growth: prohibition of higher-density development, opposition to Transit Oriented Development, even opposition to mass transit itself. Just witness Prince William County.

I interpret the local election results as an articulate cry of rage against Business As Usual. Until more evidence comes it, I do not assume that the newly elected boards of supervisors will embrace anything resembling “smart growth.” I hope the optimism of Schwartz and Guthrie is well founded. But I wouldn’t bet money on it.

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63 responses to “A Victory for Genuine Smart Growth, or Just a Cry of Inarticulate Rage?”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree with JB’s “take”.

    There is discontent combined with a really “fuzzy” idea of what Smart Growth is or is not.

    Please note that Schwartz’s organization is called “The Coalition for .. SMARTER Growth”.

    This is no accident.

    The term “Smart Growth” has been co-opted just as the term “GREEN” has and virtually every business picks from a perceived Chinese Menu of options from which to self-label it’s products as “Smart Growth”.

    …”Loudoun County, Fairfax County and Chesterfield County. The smart growth movement also gained ground in Warren, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange, Albemarle, Hanover and Powhatan counties.”

    of these, virtually all but Fairfax are “outer ring” jurisdictions with significant commuter demographics.

    The question that needs to be answered is… exactly what is Smart Growth in a jurisdiction whose residents are commuters to jobs in urbanizing areas?

    I’ve asked before… if building a “multi-use” development on a Greenfield site – 50 miles from where the majority of those who will live in that multi-use work – and do not, in fact, live and work locally – what kind of “Smart Growth” is that?

    Developers claim that by building multi-use .. combining commercial with residential that they create communities that reduce traffic because both parts of the work/live equation are supplied.

    But the truth is.. that most of these multi-use do not provide affordable housing for the folks who work in those multi-use.

    You actually have folks out-commuting who live there and the folks who work there.. in-commute from housing they CAN afford.

    And JB has it right about local attitudes – because if a developer actually proposes multi-use that has affordable housing – median-income priced apartments and the like (density), the locals go high order.

    So… is it “Smart Growth” or is it “Smarter Growth”?

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “pushing growth to outlying counties,”

    I live near the Fauquier / Warren county border. On the Fauquier side is deer habitat: on the Warrn side there is deer and people habitat.

    The differnce is stark.

    But, you left out one of the most important unintended consequences (or maybe it is deliberate, which would be worse). One of the purported reason for smart growth is to save money on infrastructure by directing growth.

    But what that means is that at least part of the money that is saved is actually borrowed from those who are “protected” from growth. It means that those living in the growth areas are gaining the extra benefit of uncrowded extra space at the same time they get the benfits of lower costs for infrastructure. They get a double savings, and those who are protected get a double whammy. And it is really a triple whammy because we recognize that such people pay more in taxes than they get in services. As a result, they pay more, get less, and miss out on whatever capital gains are made in the growth areas.

    Until and unless smart growth advocates recognize and address this issue, they are going to have enemies that will work to thwart their efforts.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    It is far better to have at least “smart” growth advocates in places like Loudoun rather than in-the developers’-pocket thugs like Bruce Tulloch.

    Inarticulate rage is a way over-the-top description.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “far better to have at least “smart” growth advocates in places like Loudoun rather than in-the developers’-pocket thugs”

    even if the result of “good intentioned” smart growth is exactly the same as “thug” development?

    “That’s the problem.

    Smart Growth” is not going to solve the issues that are at the heart of the discontent … if it becomes merely a way to re-label the same kind of development.

    When a locality has unhappy people because of crowded schools and roads, “Smart Growth” that just spawns more of the same… is what?

    What it is , is a handy way way developers to re-badge the same product – which is building “affordable homes” NOT for the local folks to work locally but for the commuters who don’t want to buy house where they work.

    If you don’t collect the necessary proffers and impacts for the growth – that will need the infrastructure – you’re just repeating the same mistakes.

    Trust but verify.

    Require that any multi-use proposals provide the number of truly affordable (in development) units for the folks who will work in that multi-use to get proffer/impact fee exemptions.

    Otherwise, treat that growth the same as you would ANY traditional greenfield development SFHs.

    Citizens who act like turnips deserve to be treated like turnips.

    “Get Smart” is the term that citizens should be paying at least as much attention to as “Smart Growth”.

    Multi-Use needs to have performance standards with respect to whether it is truly Smart Growth or not.

    Growth needs infrastructure. Any development that seeks to avoid mitigation on the “theory” that it is “Smart” needs proof in my view.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Far better than what? According to whose metric?

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Why don’t you just come out and say it, Larry? The only good growth is no growth.

    “Anti-growth candidates swept to victory in Loudoun County, Fairfax County and Chesterfield County. The smart growth movement also gained ground in Warren, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange, Albemarle, Hanover and Powhatan counties.”

    I’d say that pretty much covers it. So where IS growth going to go, now that we have convinced ourselves that growth is bad and expensive, and only belongs someplace else?

    If “the state” must do more, not less, to help localities to focus growth (preferably someplace else) and infrastructure (that we won;t pay for) in walkable communities (with driveways and plenty of parking), protect rural farmland and open space (for free, and ignoring market facts), and invest in transit(for everbody else), then we are going to be right back at sqaure one with NOVA against ROVA over who is going to provide the funding (us) for something that we cannot agree on how to do.


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    How are you going to collect the proffers and impact fees to pay for the infrastructure that growth requires when when even you admit that growth happens where the infrastructure exists, and no one will approve infrastructure in their back yard because they don;t want the growth, and won’t front the money.

    It is just a circular, roundabout, cycnical, and selfish way of saying we want to keep other people from having what we have now. Oh, and by the way, what we have now includes the benefit of enough votes to control other people’s property in order to keep growth from happening, so we don’t have to worry about or plan for infrastructure anyway.

    We don’t wan’t growth, we don’t plan on having it, and its not gging to happen anyway (here).


  8. E M Risse Avatar

    Jim Bacon:

    Well put!

    We all need to recall the wonderful things that happened the last time a “smart growth” board was elected in Loudoun County.

    It was 1999 and without a comprehensive view of what needed to be done they set up the “dumb growth” board elected in 2003.

    Kaine is championing the “balance” in the GA. Looks more like at least two years of “Gridlock-As- Usual.”

    The problem is this:

    It is 8 years later:

    The Dollar is falling,

    The housing bubble has burst,

    The Fed Chairman has reversed himself and says the economy is headed south,

    The Chineese having sold us more than we can afford are switching to the Euro,

    Gasoline hit $5 in Californina,

    In othre words, there is a lot less to work with to achive functional settlement patterns now than there was in 1999.


  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “How are you going to collect the proffers and impact fees to pay for the infrastructure that growth requires when when even you admit that growth happens where the infrastructure exists, and no one will approve infrastructure in their back yard because they don;t want the growth, and won’t front the money.”

    The same exact way that Montgomery County, Md and Spotsylvania, Va is doing it – with impact fees on new development – to pay for the infrastructure that is needed to mitigate the impact of new development.

    You call this “anti-growth”. I call it “Smart Growth”.

    and you know what.. the State apparently agrees.. because they not only allow it.. they’re encouraging more of it with UDAs and USDs.

    Even T’il Hazel believes in this concept.

    The answer to “no-growth” citizen sentiment is to address the problems that are upsetting the citizens.

    Some citizens think that the panacea “smart growth” will someone magically fix the infrastructure problems and developers are more than happy to bring forth a multitude of proposals that they self-label as as “Smart” and what I am saying is that if those proposals do not include proffers and impacts fees sufficient to partially offset their impacts – then the only thing that is “Smart” is the developers marketing.

    Pro-growth folks who think that developmers are entitled not have proffers/impact fees are living in a dream “dumb growth” world these days. Across Virgnia, everywhere where growth is occuring, citizens are sending a strong message and if you are an elected leader and ignore it – you’re gonna be an unelected.. ex-leader.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    What most people want is balanced growth — development that exceeds the capacity of infrastructure should not be approved, when approvals are necessary.

    Infrastructure is the facilities necessary to serve a community of X size and includes both what is there and what can be constructed in an affordable manner, within the timeframe that the new development will be constructed.

    Adding 1000 new homes creates a demand for public facilities, regardless of whether the homes are condos, townhouses or SFHs. The specific impact will vary, but the bottom line is those new residents will require new facilities. When will new facilities be placed online and who will pay for them?

    Calling things “smart growth” doesn’t answer these questions. Hopefully, a few of these newly elected people will ask the questions and wait for sound answers before making land use decisions. If not, many of them might find themselves unelected in 2009.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    “The answer to “no-growth” citizen sentiment is to address the problems that are upsetting the citizens.”

    I don’t care how much money is avaialable or how it is spent. the only way you make the no-growth people happy is with no growth. They are going to try to use the smart growth initiative by making is so expensive that it turns into no growth.

    A lot of people believe that the APF, smart growth, green growth, historical growth, or wahtever else you choose to call it are just a cover for no-growth.

    If you expect to have exactly the kind of growth you want, exactly where you want it, and when you want it, then you need to show some interest in investing in your plan, or everyone else will think you are either a bag of hot air, or a liar.

    The mortgage market being what it is, just makes it that much easier.
    At least until you trhow the 25% of the economy that is the construction and service trades out of work.


  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    TMT is dead on.

    take something simple like roads.

    The standard trip generation manual will say that most residential will generate 10 trips per day.

    The “theory” behind smart growth is that some of these trips can be “captured” if the home is located in close proximity to where shopping and work is – and that an auto trip may never leave the development and/or biking or walking can be the mode.

    But a multi-use development where most folks who live there don’t work there is not capturing any auto trips.

    And it’s worse than that, beause the workers who don’t live there but work there.. are adding to the total trips that that development is generating – and that is in addition to folks who live elsewhere and shop there.

    They key feature of truly “Smart Growth” is the re-capture rate of traffic generation.

    Any development, as TMT stated, that generates trips is going to need road capacity for those trips.

    If a road is already maxed, and more growth that generates more auto trips is generated – even if it is called “Smart” – is not smart no matter who smart it looks if it ends up creating gridlock.

    And this is what spins up citizens whether they live in Spotsylvania or Fairfax.

    A new development is proposed and citizens are saying – “where are these cars going to go”?

    Developers .. will say that the development is “smart growth” – implying that it won’t generate as many trips as traditional development.

    Citizens are suspicious – and rightly so.

    We need performance standards for development that claims to generate less traffic than what the manuals say to plan for.

    And this is what citizens are expecting from their elected leaders – to address the issues.

    And that is the problem with the newly elected. If they – conciously (or unconciously) accept “smart” growth claims without verification of those claims – people who want “balanced growth” lose confidence and become “anti-growth” because they don’t trust the process.

    I guess one could refer to such an attitude as “inarticulate” but would it be any more or less than the folks who are anti-tax – because they don’t trust more taxes to do anything more than take more money out of their pockets.

    It’s the same dynamic… in my view – except at the local level – it’s not that hard to throw someone out of office. The problem is usually who will replace them.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Cool, now we are willing to have growth, as long as it generates zero traffic, creates no environmental degradation, and doesn’t annow anyone who already lives there.

    That shouldn’t be too hard.


  14. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    I simply can’t resist the urge to chime in on this one. (Full Disclosure- I am the Land Use Administrator for Magnolia Green) I’ll use what I know(Chesterfield) as an example of what I hope will end with a point.

    Of 5 supervisors in Chesterfield, 3 will be “new”, one is a highly knowledgeable former planning commissioner, and one returns. However, Chesterfield had low voter turnout which tells me the larger majority of residents are complacent. They all ran campaigns on a “smart growth” platform but only one of them even attempted to define the term. If you ask five people what the definition of “smart growth” is, you’re going to get five different answers.

    There are developments that provide a balanced mix of uses with affordable housing and recreational opportunities. I work for one of them. They have successfully negotiated the county’s first Community Development Authority that is completely focused on OFF SITE improvements. ($35,000,000.00) There is land set aside for two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school, a library and a fire station. They are building a 2mg water tank. I can comfortably say that this development is mitigating its impact.
    BUT- (South) Magnolia Green consists of 3550 homes of various types, 212 acres of community centers, and a golf course on nearly 2000 acres. Smaller developments don’t have the ability to provide infrastructure in such a comprehensive manner.

    There are people around here (including myself) who are advocating for one county wide Comprehensive Plan. (We have about 20 area sub plans now) This is where our greatest opportunity for achieving sustainable development patterns is. I am hoping the county will contract with an outside firm, so politics is kept away from the process in the first phases, and common sense can reign supreme. I know it’s a lot to ask, but what the heck. We ALL need to fund infrastructure somehow, some more so than others…but…

    I was on the Chesterfield Impact Fee Advisory Committee and the recommendation was NOT to adopt the ordinance as written. The legislation needs to be amended and the ordinance needs to resemble the intent of it. So, my rather long winded point is this…

    We need PUBLIC EDUCATION. Even if the public doesn’t know they need it. Density education, school capacity education, commuter pattern education, and human settlement pattern education. If the people who did bother to vote think ANYONE can change the latter in four years, they are setting themselves up for disappointment, and this viscous cycle will never be broken.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree with Andrea on most all points and especially education.

    And I also believe that she is right about the ability of the biggier developers to put together a financial plan that has significant infrastructure improvements – and yes CDAs are one of the ways to go.

    One caveat. I did not hear about the transportation improvements. Perhaps they are present but unmentioned.

    3550 homes will generate 35,000 car trips a day.

    This is more than many existing minor arterials convey – and is about 1/2 of many major arterials in the State. It’s not a small number.

    One lane of modern road will move about 1200 cars an hour and then you have the intersections, signals and interfaces with the major arterials – which if already maxed will not be able to easily absorb the 35K without improvements.

    This is the 600lb gorilla in the closet .. after you deal with things like schools and other infrastructure.

    There ARE some developments now that are willing to offer significant (and effective) transportation proffers but Virginia law mostly restricts those improvements to the area around the development – rather than arterials several miles away – that serve the development.

    In my view, this is why the advent of the UDAs and USDs from HD3202 is an important step forward.

    The UDAs basically let the locality do a UDA-wide CDA for infrastructure – very similiar to how service districts and water/sewer authorities work – without having to get 51% of the parcel-owners approproval – a tedious and clumsy process…

    Right now.. a developer has to buy the parcels piecemeal .. and then put a CDA on the assembled parcels (as the owner) and then sell/lease sub-parcels.

    The UDA will allow (I think) the locality to designate an entire area as .. essentially a CDA.

  16. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    I apologize. I failed to mention that the entire $35,000,000.00 is for off site transportation improvements. They are rebuilding two roads as four lane median divided facilities with landscaping (roughly 5 miles) and doing additional work along 360. None of the proceeds of the bonds will be used on site. The land dedications, water, sewer, and tank are separate improvements that Magnolia Green is providing mainly as conditions of zoning.

    The UDAs and USTDs are one of the reasons the density education is so important.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    “The land dedications, water, sewer, and tank are separate improvements that Magnolia Green is providing mainly as conditions of zoning.”

    So, if you are big enough, and put together enough parcels sold by those who can’t do anything with them, you can buy back the rights that were stolen from individuals years or decades earlier.

  18. Groveton Avatar

    From the Northern Virginia viewpoint, I’d say the rage was rather articulate. The NoVA perspective is that the Republicans can neither contol taxes nor use the taxes they raise effectively. So, at the state level – Chap Peterson beats Jeannemarie Devolites – Davis. Vince Callahan retires after 40 years and (it appears) that Margi Vanderhye wins over Del. Callahan’s understudy Dave Hunt. And so on. At the county level, John Foust beats Joan DuBois. And so on.

    The Republican Party is in serious jeopardy of losing Northern Virginia for the rest of my lifetime. And this will get to be a bigger and bigger statewide and national issue as Northern Virginia’s population continues to grow as a percentage of Virginia’s population.

    I really don’t personally care whether the Republican Party of Virginia lives or dies (metaphorically speaking). However, I see great peril in a loss of choice for the voters in Northern Virginia. As the Republican Party fails on many different levels, the Democrats become the only choice. As in Chicago, the Democratic primaries become the real election with the general election serving as a coronation.

    As for “Smart Growth” or “Smarter Growth” – I don’t know what that even means. It sounds good but what are the top 10 things that Northern Virginia should do to implement “smart growth” or “smarter growth”?

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton, I think the NoVa perspective is even simpler than that, it’s the fact that the R’s won’t bring home the bacon to NoVa. NoVa sees that money gets split to all regions even though a large percent of the population and state tax base comes from their region.

    This is a pattern nationally as well with the acceleration of urbanization creating an urban v rural split in how government money is fought for. The parties are merely becoming reflections of this split and the politics within the party are evolving to match those splits. It’s why you hear long time R’s and D’s asking why their party has changed so much and doesn’t match what they thought the party represented; e.g. why don’t R’s care about fiscal responsibility anymore.

    “As for “Smart Growth” or “Smarter Growth” – I don’t know what that even means. It sounds good but what are the top 10 things that Northern Virginia should do to implement “smart growth” or “smarter growth”?”

    NoVa could go back in time and come up with a regional plan that linked growth and infrastructure planning, but that genie is already out of the bottle. The problem is that the problem is so bad that even if you had zero growth from here on out, it would still cost a fortune to fix the problems. Unfortunately not growing would be stupid as there is rapid urbanization going on worldwide that is accompanying globalization, so that if an urban region doesn’t accept this another region could easily attract their business away from them.

    I would say probably the best smart growth decision that NoVa could make would be to direct commercial growth to areas that have access to existing multi-modal transportation (bus, train, auto, metro) such as CC, Rosslyn, or Alexandria and away from areas like Tysons that require massive infrastructure investments to become even reasonable to move around in. It’s much easier to add capacity to the existing train lines and bus lines on HOV then to fit in expensive new metro lines or superhighways. Also if you look at total jobs in different sections of DC, Tysons has roughly the same as Rosslyn or CC, yet Tysons is gridlocked while Arlington is manageable even during rush hour. Note I’m not saying everyone needs to move to high rise condos around TOD, I’m just saying that transportation infrastructure planning is easier if everyone is largely going to a centralized area where base infrastructure exists, unlike the current system where everyone goes everywhere in random patterns.


  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Add Greene county to your list of places which voted against growth.

    Greene has been getting the overflow growth from Albemarle/Charlottesville and replaced one pro-growth supervisor with a smart-growth one.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    ZS – very interesting comments. A few of my own.

    NoVA has changed dramatically through domestic out-migration and immigrant in-migration. I’ve seen statistics showing that, since 2000, domestic migration (people living in the US of all races and ethnic backgrounds) is negative for Fairfax County by more than 90,000 people. But for immigration (presumably both legal and illegal), Fairfax County would have lost population. The county grew only through immigration.

    This is not right or wrong, good or bad; it just means that Fairfax County is quite different today than it was just several years ago. It does not surprise me that an almost 10% change in the makeup of a county would also result in political changes. I suspect that many people are voting the same as they did 10 years ago. (Not all, of course.) But the identity of many of the voters have changed.

    Second, the GOP has lost its moorings. Gilmore failed to maintain spending discipline that both Wilder and Allen had established. The RINOs in the Senate carried on the tradition and have been enabling growth in spending under both Warner (buty only after he got his tax increases) and under Kaine. Many Republican office holders simply overspent. There are few fiscal conservatives in Virginia.

    I fully agree that Tysons Corner is radically different from anything else in the world. What has worked fairly well in Rosslyn, Bethesda or Ballston will not work in Tysons Corner. Those areas have many entrance and exit roads. Tysons has relatively few and is ringed by the DTR, the Beltway and Route 7, with Route 123 running through it. All of those roads are already above capacity and cannot be expanded sufficiently to handle substantial growth at Tysons.

    Moreover, Fairfax County/VDOT data show that, even with Dulles Rail, 6-to-8 of every trip to and from Tysons will be by automobile. The bigger Tysons gets, the worse the gridlock will be. As Kate Hanley once told me, “Perhaps, we need a new level of service for Tysons — G.”

    Realistically, Tysons Corner cannot grow much beyond what is already in the Comprehensive Plan. Fairfax County would better served by focusing growth in Reston-Herndon and South County.


  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Tysons is gridlocked while Arlington is manageable even during rush hour.”

    dumb question – why is that?

    What makes Arlington “smart” and Tysons .. not so “smart”?

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    The sentence should have read: 6-to-8 of every 10 trips to and from Tysons will be by automobile.

    Long day. Sorry.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    TMT, You definitely make a good point about how a small demographic change can change elections. I always find it amusing that commentators talk about areas being solid red or blue when it’s about 60/40 or even closer. When you think about it if you went in a room with 10 people and 6 were left and 4 right, no rationale person would argue that the sample is solid blue.

    One of my philosophical thoughts on democratic politics is that balance must be constantly maintained between sides over time and therefore parties must evolve in their positions based on where the center is to return to that balance. If parties were to remain stagnant in positions forever, then one party would always be dominant as time progressed and overall cultures changed. I base this on where the center is in a state such as VA versus MD. The change of control from R’s to D’s is almost a natural cycle that must be maintained to return balance.

    “Tysons is gridlocked while Arlington is manageable even during rush hour.”
    “dumb question – why is that?”

    As was noted before their are many entrances and exits in Arlington. There is a much better split between cars and transit; basically multiple options gives transportation planners flexibility in adding capacity. Like I noted before it’s much easier to add a few extra buses or train cars and tweak a couple lights than to put in new infrastructure. Tysons options are to put in an expensive rail system, somehow retrofit a grid in, build a ton of amenities to make it a desirable place to live and upgrade the highways around there. So we can spend who knows how much money on Tysons and frustrate Fairfax residents who don’t want it urbanized, or we can put the jobs in established areas that have the base infrastructure already in place.

    “What makes Arlington “smart” and Tysons .. not so “smart”?”

    Simple. PPPPPP


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    Arlington is manageable even during rush hour because they deliberately created a huge bottlenck at 66 and the beltway to prevent traffic from getting to Arlington.

    And don’t forget, even in Arlington traffic is worse than it once was, according to locals.

    Then there is the fact that large numbers of Arlingtonians leave Arlington to work elsewhere.

  26. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, Why is Arlington manageable during rushing hour? I addressed that issue directly in this column: “Vanguishing the Density Demon“. Bottom line: Arlington has done a superior job of coordinating land use and transportation, and it has not shied away from density.

  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    excellent article! I don’t remember seeing it… and I had not because that date was when I was paddling a river in Northern Canada.

    I get the impression from some respondents here that it is “too late” for Fairfax to “fix” Tysons by using the Alexandria model for evolutionary changes.

    Other’s claim that Tysons is doomed because it is “boxed” in and the implication is that because of that it does not even have the options that Alexandria had/has.

    I keep thinking – an automobile cordon toll for Tysons might be want it would take to deflate automobility but I’ll admit – Tysons is a place I don’t know and it’s a place I stay away from except when I visit REI…. (Recreational Equipment Inc).

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    “Arlington is manageable even during rush hour because they deliberately created a huge bottlenck at 66 and the beltway to prevent traffic from getting to Arlington.”

    Yet there is no bottleneck on 395 GW Pkwy 50 or 29 so plenty of traffic can get to Arlington. That bottleneck is due to a poorly designed interchange with the beltway that has left entrances and exits forcing traffic across 4 lanes of traffic to exit at Tysons. The bottleneck on 66 is where the toll road merge is.

    “And don’t forget, even in Arlington traffic is worse than it once was, according to locals.”

    Worse then when, 1950; I’ve lived here for years and getting around here during rush hour is very manageable. Compared to going anywhere in Fairfax or Montgomery at that hour it’s a breeze.

    “Then there is the fact that large numbers of Arlingtonians leave Arlington to work elsewhere.”

    The vast majority that leave the county go to DC not to Tysons/Dulles. I drive to DC daily and I can tell you it’s significantly easier and faster than the occasions I have to go to Tysons.

    It’s easy to forget that Arlington and DC have significantly more jobs than Tysons. Arlington around double-triple, and DC around 10-15x. The one shortfall in Arlington/Alexandria is that we need more residential housing to better balance with the number of jobs here.

    I don’t think the issue with Tysons that it is doomed, it’s just not possible in its current form to expand much without massive infrastructure investment. Right now there are around 80,000 workers there and rush hour is maxed out, but Tysons wants to double or even triple office space in the next 20 years. As TMT points out even if you add a metro line there, only 20-40% of users will utilize it, so maybe best case you can get another 50,000 workers there. That requires $5B for metro, $2B for HOT lanes, and who knows how much to make Tysons walkable for all those metro users and desirable for residents.

    On the other hand adding office space to Crystal City involves adding a couple trains on VRE, possibly metro cars to the blue line, commuter buses on 95/395 HOV, and maybe a new station at the southern part; all significantly cheaper combined than any of the projects in Tysons. Workers w/families can still have homes in the suburbs with manageable commutes and singles can live nearby in a desirable area.


  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well.. they have a second chance with the BRAC Belvoir issue – right?

  30. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    folks say they don’t know what Smart Growth is.

    One aspect that comparing Alexandria to Tysons makes clear that automobility is vastly different between these two.

    I’ve already pointed out that any development that claims to be “smart” but generates the same number of auto trips as “dumb” development while IMPLYING that it does not – even the folks who develop it ..”think” that “Smart” is, in fact, about less auto trips because that is, in essence, their marketing approach.

    So.. turn this around… a development that generates the same amount of vehicle trips are more traditional development – what is it that would make it “smart” if not reduced auto trips?

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    Hve you got the actual numbers on jobs? I think Fairfax has as many jobs as Arlington and DC combined, but I don’t know how that breaks out by area.

    VRE trains are already running at 15 minute intervals in Crystal city, and they often have congestion delays as it is. I’m not sure how feasible adding more trains is. They are already SRO and longer than the platforms, plus they have to negotiate with the freight traffic.

    I did both the Crystal city thing and the Tyson’s thing. they are both a hassle. When going to Crytal city I found that if I missed the train, I could drive and get there before the train I missed. The price was the same, but at least on the train I could sleep.


  32. Anonymous Avatar

    Smart Growth? What is it?

    I looked at several conties and calculated the value of building permits issued per capita. A hihg number indicates that construction is adding to the general wealth more than a low number.

    I calculated the number of building permits per capita to give an index of the rate of growth.

    I divided the first index by the second index to calculate the ratio of the increase in wealth to rate of growth.

    In Fairfax for example the average building permit value is $131,578. But fairfax only issues one permit for evey 483 persons so the value of growth in Fairfax is only $272 per person. In Appomattox, Accomack and Arlington the values range form $1160 to $1487 per person.

    But in faster growing Fauquier, Loudon and Spotsylvania the figures range from $1690 to $2099 per person.

    Spotsylvania has the highest value per permit, at $198,182 followed by Accomack at 170,751. Arlington is at the bottom of the list at $100,388. Go figure, who would have figured Spotsy to be more elitist than Fauquier?

    You would think that those counties with the higher value of growth per person, would be generating more per capita wealth, and this would eventually show up in lower tax rates. But, as Larry points out, if the cost of infrastructure is going up faster than the the per capita wealth, then the opposite will be true, for a while.

    Arlington issues a lot of permits for its population, but the value of each permit is small. As a result the efficiency of their permit issuing agency is only half that of Spotyslvania.

    Spotsylvania is gaining individual wealth at almost four times the rate of Fairfax. For the difference between $272 and $2099 dollars you can pay a lot of tax. I suppose a valid question would be to compare the gain in individual wealth due to construction to the Average increas in assessed value to get some idea whether the gain in wealth is reflected generally or not.

    Source of data was Mapstats.


  33. Anonymous Avatar

    RH, I checked the stats for you. Fairfax has around 560k jobs w/about 80k in Tysons. Arlington is at just over 200k, Alexandria around 100k and DC around 800k. I would assume based on traveling trends and where larger commercial districts are that a larger percentage of jobs in the DC/Arl/Alex region are the 8-5 type than what is in Fairfax where you would have more service based jobs that serve residents outside normal working hours. The growth of 8-5 jobs are going to be the ones that have the most impact on infrastructure. The question being where do you want to target those 8-5 jobs.

    You are right that getting to both Crystal City and Tysons is a pain and I’m not trying to suggest otherwise, but with CC you already have multiple options in place. Like you said you miss the train you can get in and drive. Having multiple systems can compensate for one another when one goes down. If the trains delayed or broke down you can drive or catch a bus or cab; likewise when a major accident closes down the highway you can catch the train instead. It just provides a bit of a relief valve to the overall system. In Tysons if there’s a disruption, forget about it you’re stuck.

    I think the congestion delays on VRE got fixed this year from building an extra line over one of the bridges. I saw a WP article recently that performance was up significantly and ridership has come back. With the 15 minute intervals in CC, if you want to add 25% more capacity you buy more cars and run trains every 12 minutes. To do that on the highways around Tysons would involve adding not just lane capacity to the highway, but to the surface streets as well, which is big time RE costs. VRE isn’t the best example since the state leases the lines and it’s more complicated than simply adding trains, but the original premise works with commuter buses on HOV, metro lines, etc where the state owns the transportation assets.


  34. Anonymous Avatar

    I am glad Ms. Epps has contributed to the discussion because based on every complaint I hear about the absence of ‘workforce’ housing in Chesterfield County due to cash proffers and how CDA’s are such a better tool, I am sure that Magnolia Green will be a beacon on hope for those people needing workforce housing in Chesterfield.

    Why? Magnolia Green will not pay one cent in cash proffers and all of the CDA infrastructure costs will be added to the yearly real estate tax bill of the home buyer. Thus, the homes in Magnolia Green should be at least $15,000 less than the new homes in neighboring developments.

    If there is not a comparable number of affordable housing units in Magnolia Green then it will confirm the propaganda that cash proffers are the only problem keeping workforce housing being built. Further, it will show that the emphasis on CDAs as an adequate replacement is just another smokescreen.

    So, Magnolia Green, here is your chance to be a beacon and to prove the argument. Don’t blow it!

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    Good analysis. I agree, except I’m still not sure you can space the trains much closer. Trains leave Manassas anf F’burg on roughly half hour schedules and they have to merge in Alexandra. I think the delays you wer talking about were happening on the F’burg line further south, and they were freght and construction driven.

    We know what merges are like, and they still have to negotiate with freight. And they still have slow trips due to hot rails in summer, etc. Some of the cars are antiques.

    The Maryland lines have been at it much longer, and they still have problems. Really, I think you need dedicated rails.

    I like VRE, I think they try hard and do a good job, overall. It is too bad Warrenton ripped up the tracks to make sure it never comes there.


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    OK, so I went back and compared the value of growth per capita with the existing median assesd value.

    On that basis, Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun are doing the worst job of boosting the average assessed value, and Appomattox, Accomack, and Spotsylvania are doing the best job.

    See, Larry, you never knew you had it so good!


  37. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Isn’t this sort of like saying that if Spotsylvania is growing twice as fast as Fairfax then it’s twice as good?

    It sounds impressive until you look at the base population.

    Spotsylvania could grove at 5 times the rate of Fairfax and still not add as many new people or jobs.

    when you start out small…growth percentages sound large – and they are relative to the county itself with respect to overwhelmed infrastructure but comparing Spotsy to Fairfax is like comparing a VW bug to an 18-wheeler in terms of gross size.

    For instance, Spotsylvania has 20,000 school kids. guess how many Fairfax and Loudoun have?…

    If Spotsy buys a 100 million school outright – the tax rate would have to go up a dollar… more than double… from current.

    numbers are fun and misleading…sometimes.

    trends and graphics show the truth.

    If you overlay the actual numbers on an equivalent scale – you get a much better appreciation of realities – like you clearly see the difference between a VW bug and a 18 wheeler.

  38. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: proffers and workforce/affordable housing.

    Not rocket science to do this.

    First – multi-use to be considered a “good” project should offer:

    1. – it’s share of the needed workforce housing as measured by the need relative to county population

    2. – the price should be within 10% or so of the median income locally.

    3. – if it meets these standards – then waive some proffers.

    4. – Projects that don’t meet these benchmarks should be considered more of a benefit to the developers than to the locality.

    That’s the standard that I advocate.

    The “balance” should be that not only the developer benefits but the development itself provides one or more things that the community needs. Further, if the development basically is a net drag on the community then there really is no good reason to approve it.

    So the standard for development that will be approved is to meet some minimal benchmarks and it appears to me – that most areas are in need of workforce housing and transportation improvements these days.

    so ..that’s my definition of “Smart Growth”

  39. Anonymous Avatar

    I included the base population and housing stock in rationalizing the numbers, and the relative value of the existing housing stocks, so I did take scale into account.

    Scale works against Fairfax, just as it does any large business: you have to do a lot more business to get the same percent increase. Struggling Wal-Mart is the current example.

    But, the figures I quoted had nothing to do with growth percentage: that was factored out. The numbers show how much the growth that is occuring affects the average value of all homes, relatively speaking. If the growth is causing average home values to go up, then your home, which already exists probably is not going up as much, and your share of the total cost goes down.

    The only question is whether the costs go up faster than your share goes down, but even that has to be considered in light of whatever increase in value your home does have.

    As for trends, I’ve only done two counties, but if you compare Fauquier and Loudoun over thirty years, the trend in net per capita wealth is highly evident.

    I only looked at seven counties with these figures, but just looking at this simple spreadsheet, Id say the figures are compelling: some counties are doing a better job of administering growth, some counties are getting more bang for their growth buck, and some counties are doing their existing residents better than others.

    I’ll admit this is preliminary, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand, just because it doesn’t fit some preconceived notion.


  40. Anonymous Avatar

    “if the development basically is a net drag on the community then there really is no good reason to approve it.”

    TA DA!

    Now replace the word developemnt with the word(s) of your choice: conservation, pollution abatement plan, job creation, transportation level, birth rate, ethnol subsidy, health insurance premium, flood control, county fair, quality of life, you name it.

    Then go one step further: if it is not a drag on the community, is there enough gain to compensate those few who lost out in the deal?

    If you can meet that standard, then you really DO have a good reason to approve it.


  41. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    let me correct.

    If a development PROPOSAL…is a drag… don’t approve the proposal.

    You’d be surprised how many developers jump up and down about “walking” .. come right back with things they were told they would need for approval.

    And that is what I am saying. Localities do not have to approve multi-use proposals that do not provide a clear benefit – like workforce housing or significant transportation infrastructure.

    The fact that there are developers out there that WILL make such proposals tells us that not every proposal is a good deal and that we can afford to be “choosy”.

    we don’t deal with things like pollution, birth rates, and the such this way at the local level.

    The acceptance/approval of a proposal has to be commensurate with the recipient of the proposal’s ability to manage the elements of the proposal.

    That’s why pollution abatement is handled at the State Level DEQ and not the local level.

    Let’s at least try to compare apples to apples RH… comparing something like a birthrate to development proposals in the context of “Smart Growth” is so far afield as to be completely off the ranch…

    next thing we know.. you’re gonna claim that Smart Growth causes birth defects .. or worse…


  42. Anonymous Avatar

    It doesn’t matter what level the policy is goverened at, your concept of what should be approved or not, and why, is correct and it applies to almost all policy decisions. I’m glad we finally agree, or that at least you see the concept in one limited application.

    At the national Center for Environmental Economics, run by EPA you can see documents such as “What Do We Spend on Environmental Protection?” Which includes the following quote: “If all of the benefits of all environmental regulations were quantified and quoted in monetary terms, determining whether the aggregate benefits exceed costs, and by how much, would be a simple matter of comparison. But there is only a partial Benefits of Clean report, and for a good reason. The environmental benefits of many regulations are not quantifiable, while those for other regulations can be quantified but are hard to value in monetary terms. Indeed, regulations for which all benefits are quantified and monetized are the exception rather than the rule.”

    It goes on to expalin why they believe the vast majority of regulations are cost effective, and it describes the history and law behind the searc for sudh answers including a number of presidential directives and executive orders dating Back to Nixon.

    It also says : “Of course, one is bound to find the occasional regulation whose costs are decidedly larger than the benefits.”

    I beleive that taken as a whole, environmental regulations are a net benefit, but the mere fact that EPA would concede such a thing means that there is room for improvement. We cannot get that improvement if we dismiss the entire discipline. We can’t get that improvement if we grossly understimate costs and overestimate benefits in our environmental zeal.

    That’s the environmental argument. As for the growth argument, it is pretty clear to me that anti-grwoth activists don’t know what they are talking about. If they did, they would come with more numbers and fewer homilies and platitudes.


  43. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “The environmental benefits of many regulations are not quantifiable, while those for other regulations can be quantified but are hard to value in monetary terms. Indeed, regulations for which all benefits are quantified and monetized are the exception rather than the rule.”

    Isn’t this what I’ve been telling you for dozens of posts about ROI and pollution and why folks don’t have the inherent right to pollute and don’t get to decide ROI either? much less be compensated for not polluting?

    The fact that it is difficult to render a precise accounting of cost/benefits does NOT mean that the proposer of something is given the benefit of the doubt.

    In actually means the opposite.

    Anyone can make a claim as part of their proposal but the key word here is “propose” as opposed to “I have this right especially if you cannot refute my ROI claims”.

    In other words, unverifiable claims do NOT benefit the person making them and they are not given the benefit of the doubt – because we know from experience that this is bad premise in many cases.

    It’s what you don’t know and can’t prove or verify that can later turn out to be farm more harmful than originally thought.

    And this perfectly describes the concept of trying to determine what the cost of proffers should actually be to adequately mitigate growth impacts.

    In virtually all cases – it has been determined that not enough was charged in the first place.

    In fact, I cannot think of a single case where a locality subsequently determined that they got too much impact money and built more infrastructure than they actually needed!

    If they did.. developers would be the first to complain.. they would point at some road and say… “see.. this road is virtually empty and did not need to be built with the proffer money we gave you”.


    One of the goals of smart growth is – cost effectiveness. to build in such a way that efficiencies – such as reduced auto trips – can save on infrastructure costs.

    The problem is that a developer will say “This mixed-use project is “Smart Growth” because it’s designed that folks can live and work in the same area”.

    The truth though is that this is – an unverifiable claim and has yet to be demonstrated as true by most recent multi-use developments.

    It appears to be true in Alexandria but not in Tysons and not in Fredericksburg…

    So the same question… if a development that claims to be “Smart Growth”, does not, in fact, reduce the number of automobile trips, then what is it about that development that allows it to be called “Smart”?

    The fact that it cannot be verified is NOT grounds for approval and, in fact, it’s grounds for denial.

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    Not quantifiable means not quantifiable. It doesn’t mean that you can assume the quantitiy is inyour favor, or that it is so large you are necessrily right. If unverifiable claims do NOT benefit the person making them then they also do not benefit the EPA or environmentalists. Under the law, both sides have an equal right to be heard on these matters, whether you choose to believe it or not.

    It absolutely does NOT mean the opposite, although there are often cases in which we give the benefit of the doubt, or in which there is no doubt. Unquantifiable means Unquantifiable, and sometimes it means we just haven’t tried hard enough.

    There is no more justification for giving one side the benefit of the doubt than the other: this is an argument that you cannot make out of both sides of your mouth whichever way suits you at the moment.

    It is also EPA’s way of telling you how cavalier they are about a series of presidential orders and law concerning this issue.

    In any case, I do not have and never have had any issue where the laws appear to be in order.

    My only contention is that there are cases in which they are not. And this is a case that even EPA admits is possible. My only contention is that if “one is bound to find the occasional regulation whose costs are decidedly larger than the benefits.” then we as environmentalists should keep an eye out for it, because that is money we could spend on better things.

    Surely you don’t disagree with that. The mere fact that EPA has a national center on cost benefit analysis shows that even they believe there is room for continual improvement.

    Don’t forget, EPA has just a big a stake in seeing a positive ROI as industry has in seeing a negative one. EPA claims the cost of environmental regulations at 2.7% of GNP (compared to 4.0 for defense). But even EPA concedes that this does not include all the costs or externalities of those costs. There is widespread scepticism and disagreement on both sides concerning costs and benefits but thousands of reasonable people are constantly whittling away at them.

    Except for you, of course.

    But, be that as it may, you made the statement that “if the development basically is a net drag on the community then there really is no good reason to approve it.” and I agree with you.

    Now all we have to do is agree on how to define and measure what a drag is. And you don’t get to define it with unquantifiables.

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    Only half the problem is that that a developer will say blah blah blah and make a claim for smart growth. The other half of the problem is that people like you will not make a definition of smart growth (or smart environmental laws) that does not depend on unquantifiables.

    Just so you can then say that the positon of others is unverifiable, and should therfore be turned down.

    If you actually put a price on smart growth, someone might meet it, and then you’d have to put up with growth you don’t want.

  46. Anonymous Avatar

    “It’s what you don’t know and can’t prove or verify that can later turn out to be farm more harmful than originally thought.”

    And that CAN, COULD, MIGHT cut both ways, even if our current experience shows that it seems not to, in most cases, right now.

    Your argument is insufficient, and self contradicting. We cannot assume the other guy is always wrong without evidence, and at the same time claim that OUR evidence is unquantifiable, and therfore it must be large.


  47. Anonymous Avatar

    “In fact, I cannot think of a single case where a locality subsequently determined that they got too much impact money and built more infrastructure than they actually needed!”

    You haven’t looked very hard, then.

  48. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”Not quantifiable means not quantifiable. It doesn’t mean that you can assume the quantitiy is inyour favor”

    yes it does if the law says so.

    What it means is that if what you want as a proposal is unquantifiable then you don’t get what you want.

    The “other side” is the law that basically says that if something is not quantifiable then using something that is not quantifiable as a justification to gain approval – will not be accepted.

    The “other side” is the EPA and the current law – that you may agree with but it is indeed the controlling entity in making the decision.

    The position that I take – is basically to align my views with how the EPA works.

    and the EPA says that ROI and cost/benefit decisions are not based solely on things that cannot be quantified and that even if something can be quantified, getting accurate cost data may not be possible either.

    These are not the “other sides” … opinions.. they are, in fact, the rules.

  49. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well.. how about an example…

    how about the most egregious example that you can find of proffers collected and spent on infrastructure that was not needed.

    the standard for developments by the way is similar to the EPA in that they have rules and you are indeed free to make a proposal but it is definitely not your opinion verses their opinion.

    if the trip generation manual put out by AASHTO says that your development will generate a 1000 car trips a day and you claim that your development will only generate 500 auto trips a day because it is a “Smart Development” (or whatever) but you can’t prove it…it’s just your opinion quess what…

    you get turned down. There is no judge who will look at your opinion and then theirs and then decide.

    The localities development manual is not their opinion. It is the rule that you must abide by unless you can provide data that they accept..

    What I am advocating is that if somone claims that their development will only generate 1/2 of what the trip generation manuals say – then the burden is on them to provide verifiable data that is accepted by the locality who might consider your claims.

    It’s not your opinion against theirs… it’s your opinion .. and their decision… and they can turn you down if you don’t agree.

    There is no 3rd party “decider”.

  50. Anonymous Avatar

    It is your money. If you want to argue in favor of wasting it in favor of arbitrary and dictatory statutes, knock yourself out.

    “yes it does if the law says so.”

    And I have already quoted you the law that says this is NOT so with regard to environmental statues. The government IS required to listen to reasoned arguments from both sides.

    Your argument is that you win because your argument isn’t reasoned: it is by right.

    The trip generation manual put out by AASHTO, for example, IS under serious scrutiny because it contains, and has contained for a long time methodology known to be flawed. Same as the AFT cost of community services studies, and same as many common building codes.

    Originally, these were designed with good intentions, but they have since become de facto means of supporting the (previous) status quo: one that no longer exists, or is at least subject to change.

    Sooner or later AASHTO or some other authority WILL get sued, and there will be a judge that comes down on the side of common sense.

    Then we will look at each other and say, gee, why didn’t we see that? Because we were blinded by “The Authorities”. In the environmental and safety world, it is common for industry to “we can’t afford that” But when they are faced with no choice, they find a way to cut the costs.

    Or, If one player findss a way to cut the costs, hw will use the regulation to bludgeon his competition.

    It is no different on the regulatory side. We can’t give this up, because that’s the way it is, it was always done this way: we will lose our power, for chrissake.

    Then one day we wake up, like the actor in the Bridge on the River Quai, saying “What have I done?”

    When the Tea Party went up against the tea tax, and the abolitionists went up against the slave traders, the law was against them, for a while.

    In both cases the authorities, and everybody else, would have been a lot better off if they had not been quite so sure of themselves.

    There is a third party decider, and it is society. I beleive that society will listen to reason, common sense and facts, longer than they will listen to some unfounded claim of emperor for life.

    Even if the emperor claims to be benevolent, with unquantifiables, of course.


  51. Anonymous Avatar

    EPA is the controlling entity, but they are REQUIRED to listen to reasoned debate, and they are REQUIRED to show that no group is unreasonably disadvantaged through development, application, or enforcement of their rules.

    AS environmentalists, I believe we have an obligation to assist them in that requirement.

    You believe it is better for them to do as they please and to have the power to do as they please.

    I think that is a position that is both crazy and unsupportable.


  52. Anonymous Avatar

    “the EPA says that ROI and cost/benefit decisions are not based solely on things that cannot be quantified and that even if something can be quantified, getting accurate cost data may not be possible either.”

    And six presidents and numerous laws have ordered them to keep trying anyway. That is part of the law, too.

    They are not trying hard enough, because they are lazy, power grubbing bureaucrats, who understand only part of how things work.

    Their “opinions” are the rules. I have handed them data only to hear them say, yes, you are right, but that is not what we are going to do. It is not what we want to do, even though you are right.

    It is enough to make you want to throw up.

    I agree their opinions are the rules, what I’m telling you is that if and when their opinions are wrong they are hurting all of us.

    There are serious problems in the airline industry now, and they deal with more than inconvenience, delays, and lost baggage. There are things that need to be fixed, but they will not be because “those are the rules”.

    Until we have another midair collision over New York or Los Angeles.

    How many times have you watched a dangerous intersction, knowing it can’t be fixed, because “that’s the rules” until there is a terrible accident. You KNEW it was a dangerous intersection, you could SEE the evidence, yet it wasn’t Quantifiable Enough for The Authorities.




  53. Anonymous Avatar

    When the anticollision system now used on aircraft (and hopefully soon to be replaced) was developed, it took decades and hundreds of millions.

    Not to develop the system, that was easy. The cost was in changing the opinions and the regulations. The system has saved countless lives, no thanks to the regulators.


  54. Anonymous Avatar

    There is even a name for it in cost benefit analysis. It is called regulatory capture.

    If you think those guys are universally working in your favor, you are dreaming.


  55. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “The government IS required to listen to reasoned arguments from both sides.”

    That’s correct. There are hearings and there are documents submitted for comments.

    But your idea that your opinion has as much weight at the current regulations is worse than wishful thinking. It shows an lack of understanding or a refusal to admit realities.

    The trip generation manual put out by AASHTO, ….

    Sooner or later AASHTO or some other authority WILL get sued”

    This shows how much you do not understand.

    The EPA or a locality has the right to ADOPT whatever information they think best reflects their policy and implementation.

    No one is going to sue AASHTO because a locality has ADOPTED their manual to use for planning purposes.

    You, as a citizen, can disagree with the adoption of that manual or the information that is in it and you can make a case that other methods are better … and at the end of the day, the locality can say “thanks for your opinion, but we think AASHTO has it right”.

    Yes, your opinion is considered and, in truth, if you point out a flaw that you convince others to agree.. some changes may come about over time…

    For instance, AASHTO is looking into claims of lower traffic generation from mixed-use.

    But what the heck would you sue them for? Because your opinion is different from theirs and localities believe them rather than you?

    This is really really foolish in terms of a concept.

    You have a right to your opinion. The Government has to listen to you. At the end of the day, the Government decides.

    what is it about this process that you do not understand or accept?

  56. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “AS environmentalists, I believe we have an obligation to assist them in that requirement.

    You believe it is better for them to do as they please and to have the power to do as they please.”

    If I believed that, I would not have been in favor of the EPA doing nothing with regard to pollution in the first place.

    If I believed that, I would not believe that EPA should exist as a government entity.

    Instead, I actually support even stricter pollution policies.

    But unlike you.. I don’t think it is a contest of my opinion verses the EPA’s opinion and that my opinion counts equally and further that some 3rd party “decider” will decide if my opinion is correct or the EPA’s opinion is correct.

    EPA – IS, in fact, THE decider.

    They will listen to you and they will listen to me and they will listen to those Environmentalists that you claim to be allied with – and then they will make a decision.

    You totally misunderstand the “merit” of an opinion.

    NEPA … actually requires the Agencies to respond to SUBSTANTIVE comments.

    Take a stroll through the dictionary –

    # substantial: having a firm basis in reality and being therefore important, meaningful, or considerable;

    # defining rights and duties as opposed to giving the rules by which rights and duties are established; “substantive law”

    you are confusing your “opinion” with a “right” – as usual.

    an example:

    WRONG: “I don’t agree with your use of the AASHTO standard”

    RIGHT: “The AASHTO value is incorrect and here is data from an equally creditable organization that proves it.

    Your PATH: I disagree with AASHTO and I hope someone sues them

    what would you sue them for?

    for providing info you don’t agree with?

  57. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here is the approach I favor for determining whether a development is truly Smart Growth (or not).

    “A major obstacle to incorporating smart growth principles ….is the shortage of data and methods for quantifying the effects of smart growth.

    Critical decisions should not be based solely on logical opinions or anecdotal evidence …. the most effective and widely-used performance indicators are described below.

    Measuring Mobility and Travel-Related Impacts

    * Vehicle Trips per Household
    * Vehicle Miles Traveled
    * Transit Mode Share
    * Walk and Bike Mode Share
    * Travel Time
    * Hours of Congestion
    * Multi-Modal Level of Service


    then let me give a specific example of a metric/performance standard:

    Jobs/housing Balance:
    Ratio of total jobs to total homes


    Note that this is a specific number not the unproven/unverified claim/opinion of a developer that his/her development will provide housing for the folks who work there [thus reducing auto trips].

    Instead – the developer discloses exactly how many houses will actually meet this standard.

    And the way this number is verified is by looking at the average salaries of the jobs in that development and then looking at the average price of the homes that are claimed to be affordable to the folks with those salaries.

    The “ideal” is that everyone who works there – lives there and then claims of reduced traffic generation are entirely believable and would warrant a significant reduction in proffers/impact fees.

    But, let’s say that the ratio is not one to one but the developer still claims reduced auto trips.

    How would you decide?

    One way is to bond the full proffer amount – contigent on subsequent actual traffic counts.

    The developer would receive a refund based on actual numbers of reduced traffic.

    The important thing that needs to be recognized is that the developer is:

    1. – not entitled to a reduction in proffers because he says so

    2. – his claims need to have proof

    3. – it is his job to provide the proof – not the job of those who are considering whether or not to approve his request.

  58. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    I am not worried about ‘blowing it”, I live in a community that is 30 years old. If I had the ability to control the market price for homes I would. I think the prices in Magnolia Green will surprise the public as much as they surprised me, even with a Nicklaus Golf Course, but someone is missing the point. On to the CDA- within the 15-20 years of development, who do you think pays for the subdivided lots that are not sold? Think about it.
    The simple fact of it is there was a need for infrastructure and it has been provided for. The only argument that can be made now is NIMBY, touché!

    Larry, has anyone ever said you were stubborn? Right, but stubborn nonetheless. (I’m joking with you) I can also see the point anon is making. At least you have offered a definition of the term. I wish Chesterfield would allow the opportunity for differential proffers, incentive zoning, TDR programs, and a few other land based control mechanisms, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    Jim- #58? That has GOT to be some kind of record?

  59. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Andrew – stubborn … yes.. but I can and do change my positions once someone convinces me with a clear example of where I need to re-think.

    I support differential proffers.

    I support waiving some proffers in it can be shown that a project’s benefits exceeds it’s impacts.

    I support turning down development flat out that imposes impacts higher than it’s benefits.

    How? Performance Standards.

    Level of Service Standards.

    AND.. a suggestion.

    Using the Smart Growth Performance Standards for things like car trips – have them apply at the UDA level.

    So if a project “captures” live and work folks not just within their own project but within the UDA that the project is inside of – then count those folks as meeting the standard also.

    That way.. you create performance standards for Smart Growth WITHIN the UDA and not just stand-alone Smart Growth Projects.

    One serious issue with Smart Growth is that it tends to have a lot of impervious surfaces and large storm water runoff.

    A “good” development will recapture the storm runoff for irrigation.

    re: undeveloped lots and who pays.

    explain further… brain fart…

    re: 58 posts – well not exactly 58 substantive posts… some were blather (some might say most were).

    I DO think that Andreas comments have moved the dialog.

    In general – some of the most germane and useful comments on the growth and development conundrum come from developers themselves who want to do “good” developments (not to say that there are folks who want to build “bad” ones… 🙂 )

  60. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s something else I think, relevant to the Smart Growth conundrum:

    …”For some companies, the availability of more affordable housing for new workers west of the airport in Loudoun was what made the difference. Booz Allen Hamilton, a McLean consulting firm, began an expansion into Herndon in the fall of 2005. Its decision to expand in the Dulles Corridor was based largely where its growing workforce would live.”

    Many employees have settled into new developments along Route 7 in Loudoun, according to Gary Lance, a senior director of facilities and administrative services for the firm.

    “We looked at the demographics of the people we were hiring, and that was kind of the center of gravity out there,” Lance said.

    Avoiding the heavy traffic of Tysons Corner and the District is another motivating factor for many who choose to work in the offices around Dulles, even though congestion there has worsened in recent years.

    “That was one the main reasons I wanted to come out here, is to be closer to home,” said Sibley”


  61. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The WaPo article referenced above is quite excellent for understanding some of the dynamics of why companies locate where they do (and don’t).

    but I also want to add a though about the UDA’s.

    FW – freedom works – visits BR sometimes and he (and others) have espoused a “no zoning” approach to development – citing Houston as a glowing example..

    … and I’m always scratching my head because I don’t understand how any kind of rational planning for infrastructure can happen with that scenario.

    … on the other hand – UDAs do the opposite. They encourage/require communities to explicitly PLAN infrastructure to support growth.

    Spotsylvania has drawn a boundary around the area that it will make water/sewer available as a “by-right” amenity.

    It’s a good start.

    But guess what? The developers have said that they are running out of places for new SFHs and need to expand the water/sewer area.

    I think this dilemma perfecting fits into the concept of a UDA and further to the idea that development be viewed as whether it is a benefit and especially so if it is to fit within the vision of a locality’s Comp Plan.

    I see the advocacy of the expansion of the water/sewer as NOT a motivation to provide mixed/use development much less Smart Growth but a bald-faced attempt to further “sprawl” the county and add more costs on taxpayers for expanding roads, water&sewer rather than investing and improving the existing infrastructure.

    .. so long story short – a locality that uses performance standards as a criteria for not only approving development but allowing flexibility and even incentives on proffers is being much more proactive and serving it’s citizens than areas which just sit back and see what literally comes down the pike next.

    The UDAs are the hidden diamond in the rough with 3202 in my view.

  62. andrea epps Avatar
    andrea epps

    Well said Larry.
    I have some thoughts to add to the UDA discussion. Anyone who understands planning knows that density is a good thing, the issue is always with the design. However, most people go on living their lives and don’t understand the concept of density and mass transit. I think one of the major hurdles localities will face when designating UDA’s is explaining why the higher density is good for their area. It’s the same exact problem that causes TDR programs from becoming a mainstream tool. When localities figure a way to explain the “vision”, maybe they will be able to adopt TDR programs that work, save Greenfield’s and farms in perpetuity, and finally be able to manage sprawl.
    I like the idea of standards, but has the GA given us the ability to do that in any way other than as general language in the comp plan?

  63. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “….has the GA given us the ability to do that in any way other than as general language in the comp plan?”

    why wait for them?

    get the BOS and local planners to sit down with developers and agree on an approach – and then establish a precedent by voting for something both sides agree on.

    re: density – you can better “sell” density if there ARE performance standards in my view.

    The concern that many citizens have is that a particular kind of development “claims” to reduce traffic but citizens are way past the idea of “fool me once”… stage. To them… “density” means development on steroids…

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