Dexter Auction’s focus is purely on local government and issues in the City and County. However, I do get lots of questions about Governor Kaine’s ideas on land use and transportation issues and his interest in having the General Assembly grant more authority to local governments. I thought today’s article in the Washington Post provided the best explanation I have seen of what Kaine’s proposal would and would not address.

Northern Virginia officials say one likely effect of the plan would be to give localities greater leeway in directing growth into areas where their planners have intended it, such as near rail stops.

There are also things the proposal wouldn’t do. The plan would give local governments clearer authority in reviewing developers’ requests to rezone land but not more power to reject plans in areas where zoning allows what a developer is proposing. For that reason, the plan wouldn’t affect many building projects on the horizon. [i.e. what is called by-right development]

In that regard, Kaine is not going as far as states such as Maryland, where localities can judge projects by whether there are “adequate public facilities” to support them, even in areas where projects are allowed under existing zoning. In Maryland and many other states, local authorities assess impact fees on developers to cover the cost of public services.

In Virginia, a strong tradition of property rights and constitutional limits on local governments has led most localities to make do with a less formal system in which developers offer money for school or road improvements. Such proffers are negotiated only for rezonings and not for cases in which the zoning allows for the developer’s plans.

Brian Wheeler

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