by Timothy Dwyer, The Washington Post

7 June 2007, p. T1

“One by one, they lined up to speak. Contractors, builders, members of the clergy, Chamber of Commerce representatives, a bank vice president, and they all had the same message for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors: Don’t raise the proffer rate for residential, business and church construction. It would increase the price of homes, drive small and large businesses away and make the cost of building churches prohibitive.

” ‘Simply put,’ said Mark Granville-Smith, president of the Prince William chapter of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, ‘now is not the time to raise proffers again. Why is that? We are in such a serious market correction, and the market simply cannot bear another increase at this time.’

“The county charges proffers on new construction to help pay for public services. After hearing the objections, the board voted unanimously Tuesday to deny the increase for commercial and church construction and to defer indefinitely a vote on increasing proffers for residential construction.

“Last week, Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R) said that the board would implement a two-part gradual increase in the fees, but he voted with other members of the board to keep the rates as they are.

“The proposal called for a 36 percent increase in the amount developers would pay for single-family housing — to $51,113 for each house, up from $37,719 — and an increase from $1.91 to $3.80 per square foot for commercial and church construction.

“Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) suggested that the board vote separately on commercial and church rates and on residential rates. The supervisors voted unanimously to follow his lead.

” ‘And then I would propose that we not close the county down to business and deny the increase in commercial proffers,’ he said.

“Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) shot his hand in the air and was the first to speak on the issue, even before Covington had made his motion.

“I’d be happy to discuss this new tax,” he said in a booming voice. “This is nothing but a new tax on the people who can least afford it, our policemen, our firefighters and our teachers.”

“He said the increase would add $300 a month to the cost of a 30-year mortgage for the average price of new housing in the county. “You see how much additional tax you will impose?’ Jenkins said.

“Stewart and Supervisor Michael C. May (R-Occoquan) disagreed with Jenkins, saying it was not a tax but a cost builders and developers must pay to compensate the county for the cost of roads, firehouses, police stations, schools and libraries.

” ‘I do not believe that this is a tax passed on to the home buyer,’ Stewart said. ‘You can only sell a house for what the market will bear. If you spend a million dollars to build a house, you might not be able to sell it for a million dollars if the market won’t support it.’

“The board could not agree on how long to defer the vote on whether to raise residential proffers. Jenkins suggested waiting until at least the end of this year and noted that all members of the board may be motivated on this issue by it being election season. (Everyone on the board is up for re-election.)

“In the end, the board decided to take up the matter again after the county staff has had a chance to answer questions about the impact of the proposal.” [passage omitted on debate on county policy toward illegal immigrants]