by Supervisor Wally Covington, Bull Run Observer

15 December 2006, p. 19

“Rezonings are by nature a legislative act, one to which the courts have allowed localities ‘wide discretion’ in reviewing these requests.  This 12-month deferral is pro-active.  During that same time period, the Comprehensive Plan, by which we and the courts weigh decisions pertaining to infrastructure — like adequate transportation — will be under review.  The press seems to have missed this second phase of the resolution.”I wish to publicly thank my six colleagues on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors for the unanimous vote to support the Infrastructure Accountability resolution, which I introduced two weeks ago.

“This vote signifies that Prince William County, to the maximum extent possible under Virginia law, will manage the pace of growth in order to ensure that the demands of growth do not outpace the capacity to provide the necessary services and infrastructure.

“Three triggers set this wheel in motion and prompted me to introduce this legislation two weeks ago:  1.)  81.9% of voters backed a $300 million bond referendum to build roads, 2.) by 2013 our bond funding capacity will press against our debt limit capacity, jeopardizing our fiscal plan and AAA+ bond rating.  3.) The Board of Supervisors began the 2008 Comprehensive Plan review process.
“Northern Virginia has enjoyed the regional debate this resolution has stirred up.  The discussion highlights the inequities of the state’s 1927 funding formula for Northern Virginia roads.  We just don’t get our fair share.

“The 2008 Comprehensive Plan review presents a new opportunity for Prince William County.  While I believe that we do not already have a comprehensive adequate public facilities law in Virginia, Prince William does have a chance to refine our 2008 Comprehensive Plan to better express existing law.  (Section 15.2-2232, Code of Virginia)   A 2002 Attorney General’s opinion stated that ‘a Virginia locality may adopt as part of its comprehensive plan a proffer policy that considers an adequate public facilities requirement before applications for rezoning may be approved.’  (AG 00-060, April 29, 2002)

“The current Board of Prince William County Supervisors has, in some cases, already utilized these triggers by requiring that developers proffer road improvements ‘up front,’ and by requiring that roads must be completed before houses are occupied.  But we haven’t consistently tied them into Level of Service (LOS) measures, a key enabling component of adequate public facilities legislation.  In the next Comprehensive Plan review cycle, I believe we can set a standard level of service for roads that all new rezonings must meet before they are approved.  Clearly, proffers were never intended to be the sole income stream for public facilities like roads.  But we recognize that they are an important part of the overall solution.

“This 12-month deferral of new rezonings, coupled with the 2008 Comprehensive Plan review, simply indicates to Richmond that there is a limit as to how far the county can go without help from the state.

“Prince William County also recognizes that debt capacity further limits a locality’s ability to address adequate public facilities like roads, mass transit and overcrowded schools.  Our citizens understand that they have already paid for these roads twice — once in taxes to Richmond and again through upcoming debt service/bonds.

“The public has [a] small window of time — 45-60 days, with one Senator who has requested that it be brought down to 30 days — to lobby Richmond during the next legislative session.

“The Prince William County Board of Supervisors will likely be working all year to refine our 2008 Comprehensive Plan.  We encourage citizens to call, email, or go down to Richmond to express your frustration to your legislators and Governor.

“The General Assembly must respond to this patently obvious need that the gridlocked public expects action from their Governor and legislators in 2007.

“I look forward to continued debate in coming months and to hearing from the public as we work together during the coming year.”