Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Reality of the Future: Impact Fees and Transportation Districts

The election may have come and gone but the issues remain. The County has a new crop of leaders heading into office in 2008 at a crucial time in Chesterfield history. This election cycle was certainly full of criticisms, but in all honesty what it truly lacked were clear and concise visions concerning the solutions that constituents are demanding.

A case in point is the issue of so-called "impact fees". The current Board of Supervisors seem to be in favor of issuing impact fees on zonings not covered under the cash proffer system, which would have resulted in fees being levied on residents who applied for building permits on lots that were zoned previous to 1992. Many localities across the Commonwealth had requested the General Assembly give local governments the ability to use such fees as a means of assisting them with funding road projects and services. Earlier this year, the State Legislature gave localities the right to impose such fees.

The typical lot in Chesterfield under the guidelines of impact fees would provide some $5,800 to offset the road impacts. This is similar to the portion of the Cash Proffer which is $15,600 that goes directly toward roads in the County in the form of about $8,900 of the total proffer. These proffers are predominately paid by developers at the time of zoning and issue of building permits.

The issue now remains whether Impact Fees are dead and buried.

The Board of Supervisors that seem to endorse such fees has been changed out and the new Supervisors seem less inclined to support such measures. Dan Gecker, current Chairman of the Planning Commission and next Supervisor for the Midlothian District, is against the implementation of impact fees. His view is that such fees would place an unnecessary burden on the 700 or so resdients that such fees would be charged upon building out their properties. Gecker led the Planning Commission in its recent vote to oppose such fees after a public hearing where residents voiced opposition to being charged when they have been paying property taxes on the properties since the outset.

There is a public hearing scheduled for November 28th, but given the fact that only one of the current Supervisors will serve in 2008 there is question to the effectiveness of any debate on the issue. The current Board will be unable to change anything due to laws governing them in the last few months of office when a majority of the Board will not be returning.

Many of the challengers campaigns this cycle seem to echo the same sentiment as Dan Gecker, who at a public forum the week before the election stated emphatically that the Cash Proffer System is "broken" and that he would not endorse impact fees in the future. Gecker has voted in the past not to increase cash proffers on developers as well from the current rate of $15,600 when there was a proposal to raise such proffers to over 22,000. So it begs the question exactly how developers will be held more accountable as was proposed in many challenger campaigns when no one seems to want to come out in favor of either impact fees or raising cash proffers on developers.

So where does that leave us?

I think we are about to enter new territory in Chesterfield. This new territory has already begun rather quietly as a matter of fact in the form of Community Development Authorities or CDA's. These authorities are already working instruments with the two biggest being Roseland and Magnolia Green. Roseland being developed at Woolridge and Rt. 288 will under the CDA be able to build out roads, utilities,schools,and parks at the outset even before the residential components are built. In fact, the Roseland plan will extend Woolridge Road from Swift Creek to Rt. 288 by having the developers build the road as well as having Woolridge connect with CenterPoint Parkway near St. Francis Hospital. Fact is this would be accomplished at the start and is something that the County itself would not be able to accomplish on its own thru its own funding. Magnolia Green is yet another example of things where the developer is meeting the needs of the County by building an elementary school within its plan themselves as part of their project. So in effect alot of the criticisms waged against developers per say this election cycle are and were rather unwarrented in many respects by many of the challengers.

Another CDA is also Watkins Center which has issued bonds to provide the funding required to buildout access roads connecting to 288. These bonds will be paid a rate of return of 5.4% by the County to the institutional investors who have purchased the bonds. In the current economic conditions that appears to be a very attractive rate of return.

Another direction we may see the County go is by the way of Transportation Districts. Why? In my opinion I see no real other direction for them politically to go should they not implement impact fees which would bring in some 50 million or raise cash proffer requirements at the same time following a Board that has lowered property taxes. Of course, you will hear the arguement that the assessments rose so much that even with the reduction the County actually is still bringing in more revenue than before.

That said. I want to take a few momments and look to the north. Northern Virginia has experienced tremondous growth that began even before Chesterfield. For example in just the last five years Loudon County has grown from 169Kin 2000 to 270K residents by 2005. fairfax County has had a growth rate even greater than that.The property tax scenario is quite similar to Chesterfield where Loudon is now .96 and Fairfax is around .89 but the median price of a home is about 540K, much higher than Chesterfield. This results in considerable more revenue coupled with what they get from the State for their transportation needs. They get the lion share.

And yet given the growth, are property taxes and proffers on developers all they have in terms of the ability to increase revenues? Sadly the answer is no. In Chesterfield we seem content to stop there in an attempt to be a pro-growth, pro-business, and low-tax County and yet no one is communicating a vison as to how the County will remain those things in the current crisis. You see Loudon and Fairfax faced the same dilemma during the build out phases ot its growth cycles and were required to implement various means to provide the revenue to sustain services.

Examples of such initiatives are in the area of districts set aside with special taxes. The Rt. 28 Transportation Improvement District is one example where a special tax is levied against commercial industries at a rate of .20 per $100 assessed property value that are operating within the district which spans both Loudon and Fairfax. Various Community Center Districts have been established like Reston, which levies a special tax of .047 per $100 assessed value on both residential and commercial properties as well as McLean where residents get hit with .028 per $100 assessed value. These special taxes are in addition to the stated county property taxes paid by residents and business.

There are also other instruments like Watershed Districts like Lake Barcroft where residents pay an additonal .0925 per $100 assessed value for improving the watershed in which these homes are located. I liken this to what may be coming inthe future with regard to the Upper Swift Creek watershed area and future developing of waterside projects that may impact water quality. Furthermore, Loudon has additional taxes on certain Sewer Districts to offset the expenses of maintaining those systems.

Another issue is that of the Transportation Authorities. The NVTA was originally established in 2002 as a mechanism to help address the needs of the area in terms of transportation. However, the Authority now has been granted the ability to levy fees to raise revenues for regional transportation issues in large part due to the State Transportation Bill passed by the General Assembly. What does the NVTA plan to implement?

How about these little gems; tax of .40 per $100 assessed value on home sales, tax on car rentals booked, increaed hotel tax by 2%, annual $10 charge for transportation as part of annual inspection for auto, 1% increase in car registration dedicated to transportation, a 5% tax on all auto repairs paid to the NVTA, and an annual $10 Regional Transportation fee to all residents living in the defined area.

So, when we talk about impact fees not being the solution and we talk about not increasing cash proffers ,one of the only ways we will be able to adequately address the transportation crisis is through measures very similar to the model in which Northern Virginia has given us. The CDA model is great for the new developments as growth will pay for growth, but in order to offset the 6.4 million we get from the State for roads other measures will have to be taken. This will not be easy stuff for the public at large to reconcile but in the end it certainly may be coming.

The new Board should revisit the Transportation Summit of 2006 and hit the ground running on addressing the transportation crisis. Many of he new Supervisors may have been the facilitators of the rhetoricof change, but come 2008 they will be held accountable to communicating solutions that will stear Chesterfield for the next ten years. The learning curve for both the politicians and the community could be a painful one if one looks at other localities who failed to act and make the very difficult descisions.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate you raising the questions. I think the CDA model is a sound one and that appears to benefit both the developers and the community in partnership.
I thought it was rather disgraceful to hear individuals trying to tarnish leaders with developer contributions.
In fact at a forum I was handed a sheet that should just how much each candidate was getting from the developer community as if this was somehow indicative as to how an individual would view his/her office.
I did not hear anyone raise the issues you raise here other than to say they were for or against impact fees or a comment concerning proffers other than to say that there were issues with it. Nothing as you point our regarding solutions and nothing about how everything like CDAs or special distrcits would fit within the comprehensive plan for the county.

Anonymous said...

One may also want to consider why it is no one in the election meantioned the proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Plan with regard to the creation of Traditional Neighboorhood Development Mixed Use Zoning Districts (TND-MU).

Are these not in premise very similar to transportation districts. If the planners pass this on the the Board and it is approved by them will not this be a precursor to being able to levy future taxes in given areas given the fact they will have the ability to rezone areas within certain land use designations.

How hard would it be for the Board to make the leap to using such areas as a mean of increasing revenue by charging special fees for those areas?

Anonymous said...

$4, $5, or $6 a gallon gas will solve the demand problem before any more roads will have to be built...

The fundamental problem is that it has grown too expensive to maintain the built transportation system in an oil constrained era. There is no additional money for construction. So everyone's solution is to build more infrastructure?? Nice... way to think it through...

Folks, we are about to see how unsustainable the last 30-40 years of development in Chesterfield was when energy is no longer cheap...

In 10 years, they will wonder how we could afford one car per driver and only transport one occupant...

Let the giggles begin residents!!

Anonymous said...

Fact is people will pay for your $4, $5 and $6 buck gasoline. No one moved to Chesterfield or is raising there kids here for mass transit options.
It is promising that Roseland has areas set aside for the future if the State gets around to want to truly address mass transit with light rail options, until then you can forget use of the GRTA increasing.
Maybe we could afford everything we have developed adn the rpice of oil would fall if we were really determined to go the way of natural gas and biofuels for homes by providing incentives for people to retrofit the older homes in the county away from the standard oil.
Another point is when wise up at home in the US and tell the environmental lobby to stick it and start catching up with Cananda in terms of oil production of our own. We should stop leaving the Gulf Coast the responsibility on its own to provide oil here and drill where we know there is oil and use technology to limit the impacts.
Fact is we have enough, like billions worth, that we could replace our oil purchases from Saudi Arabia within 12 years.

We have to decide what we value for, the so-called environmental movement or or dependence on the Middle East. Its funny how the same people who oppose Iraq and our prescence in the Middle East here at home are the same ones whose efforts are why it is we have to stay there in the first place because they refuse to let us poltically make in roads toward drilling on our own soil.

James said...

J. Scott-
You forgot to mention the two Enterprise Zones we have in Chesterfield; Jefferson Davis(1994) and Wathall(1996). These zones are providing economic incentives for commercial development.
Theses zones have contibuted to roughly 6000 new jobs since 1999 to Chesterfield.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Some extended quotations from the document:

Energy Implications for Army Installations

The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close. Domestic natural gas production peaked in 1973. The proved domestic reserve lifetime for natural gas at current consumption rates is about 8.4 yrs. The proved world reserve lifetime for natural gas is about 40 years, but will follow a traditional rise to a peak and then a rapid decline. Domestic oil production peaked in 1970 and continues to decline. Proved domestic reserve lifetime for oil is about 3.4 yrs. World oil production is at or near its peak and current world demand exceeds the supply. Saudi Arabia is considered the bellwether nation for oil production and has not increased production since April 2003. After peak production, supply no longer meets demand, prices and competition increase. World proved reserve lifetime for oil is about 41 years, most of this at a declining availability. Our current throw-away nuclear cycle will consume the world reserve of low-cost uranium in about 20 years. Unless we dramatically change our consumption practices, the Earth’s finite resources of petroleum and natural gas will become depleted in this century. Coal supplies may last into the next century depending on technology and consumption trends as it starts to replace oil and natural gas.

We must act now to develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to transition to other energy sources. Policy changes, leap ahead technology breakthroughs, cultural changes, and significant investment is requisite for this new energy future. Time is essential to enact these changes. The process should begin now.

Our best options for meeting future energy requirements are energy efficiency and renewable sources. Energy efficiency is the least expensive, most readily available, and environmentally friendly way to stretch our current energy supplies. ... For efficiency and renewables, the intangible and hard to quantify benefits — such as reduced pollution and increased security — yield indisputable economic value.

Many of the issues in the energy arena are outside the control of the Army. Several actions are in the purview of the national government to foster the ability of all groups, including the Army, to optimize their natural resource management. The Army needs to present its perspective to higher authorities and be prepared to proceed regardless of the national measures that are taken.



Historically, no other energy source equals oil’s intrinsic qualities of extractability, transportability, versatility, and cost. The qualities that enabled oil to take over from coal as the front-line energy source for the industrialized world in the middle of the 20th century are as relevant today as they were then. Oil’s many advantages provide 1.3 to 2.45 times more economic value per MBtu than coal (Gever, Kaufman et al. 1991). Currently, there is no viable substitute for petroleum.

In summary, the outlook for petroleum is not good. This especially applies to conventional oil, which has been the lowest cost resource. Production peaks for non-OPEC conventional oil are at hand; many nations have already past their peak, or are now producing at peak capacity.


Conventional Oil Resources

In general, all nonrenewable resources follow a natural supply curve. Production increases rapidly, slows, reaches a peak, and then declines (at a rapid pace, similar to its initial increase). The major question for petroleum is not whether production will peak, but when. There are many estimates of recoverable petroleum reserves giving rise to many estimates of when peak oil will occur and how high the peak will be. A careful review of all the estimates leads to the conclusion that world oil production may peak within a few short years, after which it will decline (Campbell and Laherrere 1998; Deffeyes 2001; Laherrere 2003). Once peak oil occurs, then the historic patterns of world oil demand and price cycles will cease.

Anonymous said...

You should also read Virginia's Energy Plan by the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy.

Anonymous said...

Much of what has been addressed in the previous comments is accurate in the fact that it is based on "current" working areas and not the potential of what we have as a reserve base from the areas we have not been able to drill.

When people talk about the time frame of how long we have the ability to supply ourselves they are not taking into the fact the studies that show that Alaska, Hawaii and Florida offer opportunties that would eliminate our dependence on foriegn oil within two decades.

This coupled with the FDR like projects of building new nucluer power plants across the country, France generates 80% of the electricity in this method, and introducing renewable resources will move us faster towards energy indendence.

The question remains if we found oil beds 200 miles off the coast of Virginia and found that it could provide the same amount of oil as some of the countries in the Middle East would we have the will to drill for it?

People also forget that if, and that is if, the situation in Iraq improves the US will benefit from the fact that Iraq, with more in the ground than Saudi Arabia, will be giving the US legal access to 63 of the 80 Iraqi oil fields for the next thirty years. They do not talk about this much in Washington so the perception is not elevated that we went there for oil, but with those resources your $3 dollar oil will fall and the $100 crude oil will look more like $40. The impact of Iraqi oil is not currently being factored into the supply side of the equation yet, but certainly will come next year when production begins to come on line.
Exactly how many Iraqi refineries are currently under construction by US companies? Answer: 100's.

AlterofFreedom said...

Based on the previous comments:

It may be a little bit premature to have the discussion go the way of oil and such at this point.

But if your interested in some of the coal industry specs see "Coal: The Next Tobacco" posted here in October.

J. Scott

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to stop smoking whatever it is they are smoking in terms of the denial of crisis we will face in the area of traffci congestion.
Voters had better hope they got it right by electing new Supervisors. I fail to see how there is any plan right now that is going to address the incresed traffic counts along Woolridge Road alone that will bring to Rt360. Its as if these people think everyone will use 288. Okay, maybe to get to work in Henrico County they will.
If anyone has driven along this road you could count almost a dozen new or newer developments still going up that never get the press that the large zonings have. They may not be planned communities but they are putting up huge numbers of homes nonetheless which will increase the road counts rather quickly.
360 is already overly congested and these homes keep going up in the face of no solutions to the traffic question.
Its great that alot of these newer zonings like the one the Sowers have proposed for Roseland are taking such care for planning the interior of the community itself, but who is concerned with the impact once these new homeowners and residents leave the community and travel throughout the County.
The developers can certainly not be asked to plan for that impact, that is up to the County to be looking at that.

James said...

The issue of the Traditonal Neighboorhood Developments could use a little more explaining.

I think on Nov. 20 the Planning Commission takes that issue up for voting with public hearing before hand.

Anonymous said...

Nice full page focus on winners of election in todays (Sunday)Dispatch front page.
Again if you read critically, no solutions being pointed to as of yet, just the same campaign wish lists of rhetoric.
Durfee will either be a great asset or the biggest bust in County history. Holland and his background in accounting seems poised to impact spending accountability.

Andrea Epps said...

The draft TND-MU ordinance can be reviewed at the link below. It is a good ordinance that is represenative of a lot of energy and effort.

andrea epps said...

There is yet another point in the transportation funding debate that needs to be fully examined. In January, four new faces will attempt to solve a problem that I think is larger than some of them understand. Along with the discussion about light rail, mass transit, and access management must be a discussion about development density. Mass transit does not and can not work without the density to support it (7units per acre minimum, better with 15)
Now, while I understand the argument that there are too many subdivisions in Chesterfield, nary a one of them is even close to that density. Why?
Because people are hesitant to accept change and they don’t understand the devil is always in the design, not the density. There are places in Chesterfield that could really benefit from the density and the transportation options it affords. In addition, I am anxious to see if the new board will give due consideration to regional cooperation; the concept is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Epps:
Has the Magnolia Green real estate office opened yet to be able to take a look at the development and housing plans?

AlterofFreedom said...

I have to admit it had been awhile since I had the opportunity to drive around the Woolridge Road area.

I wanted to see if I could see how the new CDA parameters and road construction would impact the area in general. I spent some time also just taking a look at the area and trying to see how the coming increased traffic would be coming from and going to throughout the general area.

If you think about it logically, this plan makes alot of sense. Connnecting the roads and extending would creat eleviate some of the overly congested arteries at least in the short term until much of the buildout along that corridor is completed in the next fifteen years.

What I was not aware of where the countless smaller subdivisions that are going up in the area as well. There has to be about a half dozen fairly nice size projects going up that most of us would be unaware of until the new homes get listed for sale. You hear alot about Magnolia and Roseland of course, but when we talk about density we have to take a view looking at the the entire field in terms of the numbers that will need to be supported by the roads and other infrastructure.
I know Patty Carpenter who will be the new School Board Representative for Midlothian worked with the last Board to try and get a handle on the actual number of school-age children that would be estimated that all these new homes would bring to the system in this area.
It has been my view for some time that we as a County have been not truly realized an "real" number as of yet. I realize its a guessing game to be sure, but my position has always been that if you approve a development and the developer determines the number of homes it will build and sell each year in its plan we need to take that and add a buffer of some sort in case sales are greater than expected not plan on it being lower.
If the Board has approved the home starts than we need to begin to budget for the increasing school now and not wait for it, which is partly the reason we are in the position we are in now.

This has not been just this lasts Board issue. Its easy to look at it in terms of a "What have you done for me lately?" mentality but the fact is the County has been dealing with the same school issue for twenty plus years.

When addressing either BOard, I love throwing out the simple fact that I, thats right, I was educated in trailers at Robious Middle School in what seems like forever ago and now it seems my three children are destined to as well in the district of MIdlothian.

Whats changed? How after twenty five years are we still behind the curve?

To find that answer, simply take a Sunday afternoon drive around the county and you will see excactly why that is.

I am anxiously awaiting the see what the plan will be for Clover HIll High (the old one) once the new high school comes on line.

This will give us a pretty good indication as to the level of understanding both the new BOS and School Board have on the current state of affairs.

J. Scott

Andrea Epps said...

The sales office is scheduled to open in December and it is located at 6701 Otterdale Road (on-site) I don’t have the exact date yet but I will let you know as soon as I do.

Bob Olsen said...

Ms Epps. You make some valid points about density, The main problem is the ability to change peoples habits. We had commuter trains in Chesterfield until the mid fifties. It was dropped when people could afford cars.
I spoke with John Watkins many times years ago about placing a regional transportation hub in his project,since it is on the Norfolk/Southern line, you could have light rail, bus,commuter rail all in one location. He liked the idea, but in the final plan, no transportation hub.
We will not have real mass transit in the Metro area until two things change 1- fuel gets so expensive that people will finally look for alternatives (coming soon to you area) 2- Change the narrow minds in Chesterfield that equate bus routes with importing crime. As though a criminal will take a bus to his crime area before returning home in the evening.

Anonymous said...

Whats missing is a paradigm shift from the perception that permeates society today that buses are for the lower income.
Throughout much of the South that is the way it has always been perceived in large part because of the affordibility of the middle class to use other options like for example pay for public parking in the city rather cheaply when compared to the northern brethern.
When people move down here, they realize they no longer have to deal with transit systems because they can easily afford alternatives, whereas in places like New York city it can cost as much as 5,000 a month to have a place to park in the city if you drive to work. Thats what makes the system up North more universal for everyone.
Its not about the environment and even less about gas per say but the reality that they can move here and not have to live the same way they have been living in other areas. The quality of life has been elevated in this way where people who have been used to using transit systems now enjoy driving cars even more now that outside of gas prices it is so cost effective when compared to up North.

Mike Lanksky said...

There is going to be a huge outcry from the citizens in January.
Rumour has it that the new middle school redistricting will bring back the ugly concept of busing.
Students are going to be moved from middle schools close to their homes to be bused to Providence Middle school.

Anonymous said...

In case no one noticed, the only viable solutions mentioned here, and elsewhere, are increased funding for roads. Call it what you will, but if it walks like and tax and talks like a tax, it is a tax.

No one should be exempt from paying their share of the revneues needed to build out the roads we identify as necessary to handle the people who live and work here.
Everyone benefits from this public service in one form or another.

If it takes another dime added to the real estate tax to generate the funds needed to have the best transportation and school sytsems around, then lets do it before that cost doubles again.

Dickie King was quoted in the local paper as wondering how the new board was going to succeed with roads and schools without raising taxes. He didnt have the vision to realize that people will always complain about taxes no matter what. The secret is to show the taxpayers what they will get for their money well spent. The return will be less congestion on the roads and a higher level of educational experience. Instead of badmouthing taxes, the focus should be on the benefits to come and what those additional resources will bring. The old board was afraid to sell a vision of how good it could be.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, and thats is why every Board attempts first to throw it at the builders and developers so they will not have to make that sell to the people. Is politically expediate to blame those in which you are asking to fund projects rather than seeking it from tax revenues and that is why after twenty years we are in this position.

Anonymous said...

For anybody reading would you rate the quality of life in your part of Chesterfield County now as opposed to ten years ago? Based on what you see happening(or not happening) how do you think it will rate 10 years from now if nothing significant happens to change our course?

For myself in the Chester area, now its a B-, ten years ago it was a B+, ten years out a C.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough Anonymous.

Ten Years Ago the QL in Bon Air/Midlothian was an B+; geographically the area is close enough to everything in the city to take advantange of it, the property values were fair, taxes relatively low when compared to the city residents up the street, traffic had started to get modestly heavier along Forest Hill/Jahke gateways, schools were a bit overcrowded but no more compared to other areas but much was relieved with middle school and high school being built along Robious Road. Crime was relatively low as reported in Bon Air/Buford area.

Today, the QL has dipped a bit. The Gateways now have been re-done of course, Forest Hill has heavier congestion with new developments at Chippenham, the hospital at Jahke and Chippenham has expanded, Stony Point Fashion Park has brought more traffic along the Parkway and the congestion on Huguenot is increased five fold it feels since 1997. The roads themselves feel and look as if they have not really been resurfaced much over the last ten years, property values have increased but so have the annual tax bills even with a rate cut, the schools are overcrowed even more so out of redistricting, the number of trailers has climbed, crime has increased as reported as well. Much of the development as been along the Robious Road area heading west with new subdivisions resulting in the widening of the roads near Salisbury. The area of Bon Air seems to now be nestled between the aging sprawl of MIdlothian Tnpk and Forest Hill and the new development of Robious area with no more room to stretch.
QL now is about a B-/C+.
As for ten years from now I do not see the area changing much. Again its mostly built out. We have already experience much of the pains you in Chester are about to. It usually follows two to three years post build out. The one thing that will get worse is congestion through the gateways as Rt288 will alleviate on the western side but not much will closer to the City. Schools will not improve until new schools come on line with Roseland supporting that area and Charter Colony areas. Others will still be at the max. The area currently has large number of for sale inventory, though the forclosure numbers are lowest in County as a percentage of population currently but that could get worse inthe new areas built out three years ago.

Prediction: The QL will not be much better or about the same as now. The area will have aged ten more years and the next ten will not be as pleasant.