Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Future of Chesterfield County: Our Transportation Paradigm

I know many of you are engaged in the current Presidential race and paying serious attention to national matters, whether the economy or our current financial crisis brought about by mismanagement and oversight on the part of officials in the Federal Government, but I want to draw your attention back to our responsibility as good citizens to maintain our own oversight of our local officials.

As many of you know, recently the Board of Supervisors voted to shelve "impact fees" for immediate future. Mind you, projected revenues from such impact fees were used in financial projections for funding the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

One reason provided for not taking action on the establishment of "impact fees" on properties not subject to the cash proffer policy was to allow for time for the Regional Transportation Authority to be examined.


I find it striking that many of the same members on the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors who voted to delay the vote on "impact fees" are the same folks behind the push for the Regional Transportation Authority. This authority appear to be fronted by the likes of the Richmond Area Metro Planning Organization (MPO), whose mebership includes our Board members from Chesterfield and other localities as well as the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission (RRPDC)

Many will remember that the RRPDC announced partnering with the Greater Richmond Chamber as well as working in alignment with the Capital Region Collaborative, which is chaired by City of Richmond mayoral candidate Robert J. Grey Jr.

I cannot help but feel that these agendas are the seeds of Regionalism, which many in Chesterfield oppose. Much of what these organizations major premise of regionalism was born out of last years controversial Crupi Report.

Chesterield County has seen like measures before, especially in the debate over the Commercial Development Authority (CDA) for the Charter Woods Powhite Parkway extension involving such roadways as Otterdale Road and Woolridge Road all the way from Charter Woods to swift Creek Reservoir (4 miles). The cost was deemed to be about 8 million for improvements to this four mile stretch. The County maintains Woolridge over the Swift Creek because it does not conform to VDOT standards and will aslo incur an estimated 4 million in mitigating and permitting fees in addition to the actual work required. The extension of Powhite Parkway is slated at an estimated 300 million for the extension of Powhite Parkway from Charter Colony all the way west to Grange Hall Elementary on Route 360. The CDA was recommended to place a tax on all residential/commercial properties in lower Magnolia Green plat for up to thirty years. I believe if you review the current County tax rates, this tax rate is 1.12 on said properties. Originally, a desired 25 cent tax was recommended on top of the current tax rate for all properties in the plat, but since it would only generate roughly 44 million over time as homes came on line the CDA was preferred.

Now the current Board wants us to accept a Regional Transportation Authority that will:

1. raise vehicle inspections $10 from curent levels and set aside the increase for the Authority

2. raise the gas tax 2% with the increase set aside for the Authority

3. raise vehicle registration/decal in some areas fees with increase set aside for Authority

4. increase sales tax on auto service/repairs by 5% with increase set aside for Authority

5. add a 2% tax on all auto rental contracts with tax going to Authority

6. add a 1% value of new vehicle registrations ( $100 per 10,000 in value of auto)

7. create a .04% tax on all real estate sales for regional congestion fee to Authority

This is a pure tax and fee structure. How does this fit in with your yearly budget and expenses. Does Jiffy Lube count as "auto servicing"?Ummm.

If you are interested in looking at just want roadways were identified as requiring attention, see here:


Given that many of our Board are working in collaboration with those formulating this plan for a Regional Transportation Authority, is there any real question as to whether these leaders will be supporting this mechanism and ultimately raising the costs of living upon the region under its umbrella.

I fully understand the rationale given the very limited and now reduced funding from the State, but why is it the first assertion to tax and fee for these measures over looking at a pragmatic cost-cutting and spending freeze within County government.

Given the current potential for a deep recession, does it make much sense to be telling County citizens you are going to raise every aspect related to owning an automobile in the current economic climate? Or is this yet another stealth measure to wean folks off autos in the first place? Look at the tenets of the new community developments and how they are requiring the design. It seems there is a mission underway to limit uses of autos and in effect would that not also reduce over time the revenues such an Authority would generate?

The RRPDC will be taking another look at the proposal of the Regional Transportation Authority next month at the November meeting and it will be interesting to see what transpires.

I for one will do all in my power; phone banking and canvassing, to bring to attention as many Chesterfield residents as possible the plan to introduce such an Authority and also the apparent goal of moving Chesterfield into a "regionalistic" plan for the future. This smacks of big government with even less transparency.

In fact, by the proposals on accounts the Regional Transportation Authority estimates that 60% of revenues garnered from citizens would be used for transportation issues and 40% would be for administrative expenses. 40%!

Is this really the direction that Chesterfield wants to go? Does Chesterfield know that it could soon be put under the boot of such an Authority?

I can tell you right now, should this Authority be implemented by the current Board it will be the biggest campaign issue of the 2011 cycle. The vote on this is crucial by the Board and so is the citizens responsibility when the public hearing arises.


John said...

Are the elected officials from the juristictions within the Planning District Commission required to sit as a member of the Commission and are these members paid for such seats in addtion to the pay they receive by the County?

Does this demonstrate that officials are fast joining the movement towards "regional" cooperation in Metro Richmond, even given all the problems and issues facing the City of Richmond? Is not much of what is behind this movement more about a "bailout" of the City by the surrounding Counties who have seen a dramatic increase in both growth and revenues from sales tax and property taxes the last twenty years. I would much rather see us concentrate on the realtionship with Petersburg/Colonial Heights in the context of Ft. Lee's expansion along with Prince George County and Dinwidee than working with the City on anything.

Anonymous said...

The proposal for the RTA notes that Commissioners on the Authority will be paid a per diem, similar to the State's Commonwealth Transportation Board.

I believe members will be selected or appointed by local elected officials as well and most likely will be the officials themselves in most instances.

This is not unusual given the number of Boards and Commissions found within the region. In fact, Supervisors Holland, Warren and Gecker from Chesterfield sit on the Capital Region Airport Commission (CRAC) and are paid 3,000 a year for doing so. CRAC acts as adminsitrative authority for the RIC. All four Richmond area localities are represented on the Commission.

As for the Richmond Regional Planning District I am not sure whether these memebers are compensated or not for their involvement.

J.D. (Bon Air) said...

Given the rising costs associated with road infrastructure the area will be hard pressed to find any other solution but an Authority. The creation may have some hurdles in the General Assembly, especially with House Republicans. The Hampton Roads authority came under fire in the Assembly and there are those who question not only the legality but the consitutionality of such authorities given the organization. There were issues with Auhtorities having "taxing power" without accountability directly to the people, but it appears as though supporters are attempting to side step this criticism by appointing elected officials from each area to act as "commissioners" of the Authority. How this tact will sit with the Assembly remains to be seen.
The issue of per diem and payment of officials appears problematic though it has become highly acceptable within those "in the know" in government. I take issue with the transportation issue however, given these leaders are working on behalf of the areas they represent and trying to provide solutions to transportation needs within the area, which is partly what they were elected to do, it appears as though there is some "double dipping" of sorts regarding issues. Should not these leaders be working on this agenda as "officials" whom are paid from County budgets and then not supplemented again from a per diem doing the same work? Just where do the funds come from that would pay for these per diems? Tax payers. Citizens will be compensating these leaders twice; once in normal taxes taken into the general fund and paid out in County salaries and then again by paying these taxes and fees brought on by the Authority.

Sounds to me like some people may have "some splaining" to do come election time if someone really goes after what appears to be a situation while acceptable in some quarters smells funny to the masses, especially after what we have seen go on in Washington thus far this Fall.

Lucks Lane said...

Here we go with another ponzi scheme to fund roads. You are going to experince abbout a 30% admin cost to collect these fees and payn these Authority costs such as audit costs, payroll, rent, gen adm, lobbying, etc.

If we really need the money (?)raising the gas tax a few cents will cost next to nothing in adm costs and be borne proportionally by drivers. Plus you will snag out of state drivers gassing up.

Anonymous said...

Lucks; the basic problem with the gas tax premise is you have a liberal agenda pushing for higher epa standards, electric car requirements and a progressive growth view of establishing developments which would promote less necessity on cars. Thats fine and all, but if you plan to tie paying for transportation requirements with a tax on something that you intend to reduce (the gas use) than the vision appears baseless in the long term.

If you are conivined that the Authority is indeed a ponzi scheme then do you part and make sure that everyone of your neighbors is informed of the potential of such an Authority. If citizens do not rally to defeat this it will certainly pass. The insiders Lucks Lane want this Authority because they do not want to have to use general funds to address the needs of roads because they would have to reduce spending elsewhere in the budget.

You have to realize that the developers needed to support to CDA in order in reality to get the go ahead for the developments they wanted to build. This in know way means that the entire County must be subjected to a regional Authority to offset expenses for infrastructure they do not use.

Not sure if Luck Lane is Matoaca or Midlothian but either way both Supervisors appear to be endorsing the Authority.

It makes little sense that we continue down this path of approving the likes of Magnolia Green, Roseland and the like and currently do not have the secondary roads fit to support those endeavors and yet they continue on zoning for up to 15,000 new homes over the next 20 years thus far that could be built out without a real plan or even clue as to how to adequetly support that growth. Sure inside the area of the developments may be fine, but do we really think these new homeowners will stay within the development and not access our current road system around the County that are already overflowing with traffic.

And an even bigger question is why go out of our way to support a road system like extending the Powhite to encourage even more landbanking out as far west as the Chesterfield/Amelia line and build more homes out there without support of fire/ems response teams to serve those residents. The whole idea of an extension of Powhite promotes the City of Richmond and encourages regionalism whereby new jobs could go to the City or beyond over Chesterfield since the road way could ne used as a marketing tool. Why not encourage the business growth here in Chesterfield by promoting our workforce and ideal environment for business growth.

Lucks Lane said...

We are in Matoaca.

I think the regional thing is totally doomed for one reason: the RMA. Most folks in Chesterfield are tired of getting screwed by the lack of fair representation on the RMA. Watch this new thing fall like the leaves of autumn.

John said...

I disagree with Lucks lane Alter. All you have to do is look at the membership of the RRPDC who will be carrying the water for the Authority. Its a whose who list in current politics on the local scene from all the major localities involved. They are spending alot of time and effort on this matter, including lobbying of sorts to those in the Assembly. They want the impact fee legislation proposed by Rep. Senator Watkins to die a fast death so they can be the logical alternative to impact fees. They will use the shortfalls of the RMA as a rationale for why we need ti improve our own road systems offering residents greater options. Ask yourself how much has RT 288 been penetrated by growth realistically. That road system is way before its needs and based on the return on investment thus far, independent of the new Watkins Center which is not online yet, what has been the real return to residents? The arguement back then was one also against the RMA and tolls. I expect that rhetorci to return again now that tolls have been raised recently.

Anonymous said...

So the Regional Auhtority will act in the same manner as CRAC does for the Richmond Airport, but with strcit guidelines as to transportation infrastructure resourcing? I think CRAC has been a successful instrument in updating the Airport and bringing in additional carriers. I think that its been a success and if some of the same people are planning to take control of upgrading our transporation system than I do not see how that is a bad thing.

Republicans cry foul everytime a proposal arises that would raise taxes but without such all get is the status quo. In this case thats poor roads. We should all contribute to the pie that should be used to facilitate upgrading our roads. It has to do with safety if nothing else. I just do not undertand why conservatives don't get that. We all use the roads and we should all have to pay for them to be maintained and upgraded.

Settlers Landing said...

There is a better chance that such a proposal will get General Assembly approval given the current budget shortfall overall and the leaders will be faced with little options. I fear they will assume that we all by now are used to hearing about "bailouts" and will just accept it as a neccessary evil. Though this proposal does not appear to be a "bailout" per say, it does challenge the convention wisdom regarding fudiciary responsibility.

The excuse being passed around everytime we talk about roads is the price tag. Yet, everything is costing more in the budget. Leaders would have us believe that we were given a "tax break" last year, but if you look at the budget one can see that the County is taking in more revenue through property taxes even given the dramatic slowdown in home sales. Bait and switch. Lower rate, higher assessments.

The link seems to show a balance of sorts between existing or established road needs in developed areas and new road requirements to "pave" the way for more growth on the horizon.

The question is what citizen is more valuable? The one living here now or the one they hope to bring here in the future?

My issue with the County is it appears to have been for far too long the latter. The current Board has done nothing as of yet to break from that trend.

If the extension is going to cost an estimated 300 million, then how much upgraded infrastrcuture could that amount be brought to bear on existing areas? Its a question of value. Not such much in terms of revenue but in whether or not the value our older areas and those residents.

Results of poor "value" considerations can be seen in commercial sprawl all down Midlothian Tnpk and Eastern 360. Increased sprawl will be the direct result from the extension being created, both residential and commercial in the eastern portion of the County. I thought that the Board wanted to address such sprawl and criticized former Republican members for creating such results through its growth policies?

Anonymous said...

I am curious as to why it is we do not here more about these commissions and the work that they do. I did not realize that our officials were being compensated for sitting on such commisions as CRAC either. I understand the rationale, but it seems like their would be a conflict of issue at times regarding policy and why measures were enacted and who they were really for. I understand the push for GRTC across the region, but do we really know what the real demand is in Chesterfield and beyond before we continue down the road toward funding more in this area. Most are unaware of the district tax placed on those in the Charter Woods area and fear this will be the direction the Board moves in further down the road. It would be rather easy for them to divide the County up into virtually 12 or so different districts based on road needs and tax the homeowners on property values to provide the funding for maintenance. While Charter Colony may cover near Midlothian there is still other fast growing areas like Chester Village that may require secondary road work as well. I had thought that 288 was a really good idea years back and still think that the route is neccessary for Chesterfield, but the road system has also contributed in alot of sales tax revenue being lost to Henrico County. The County has placed a huge bet that watkins can offset that but based on leasing data I just do not see that Center offering what Short Pump does not. It should have been new retail, but we lost the chance for a Bass Pro Shops and such to hanover as well as a proposed high end Outlet Mall.

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