Editorial: New policy puts Hanover citizens over developers

Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Hanover supervisors last week put citizens’ needs and public safety ahead of developers’ interests.

The board voted 4-3 to implement a policy that charges residential developers a fee to offset transportation costs to accommodate the growth they create.

We had previously urged the board to back this policy and now applaud the action of the four supervisors who helped it see the light of day.

The new policy charges a base fee of $2,306 per residential lot in developments with 50 lots or fewer. Fees for larger projects would be negotiated based on a methodology that takes into account their impact on Hanover’s road infrastructure.

This policy is much wiser than the county’s previous cash proffers guidelines, which charged residential developers who go through the rezoning process $19,503 per lot. The rate was the highest in the metro-Richmond area and the board voted 4-2 last November to repeal it. Developers with projects in the hopper have since been coming out of the woodworks to take advantage of the proffer lapse through zoning amendments.

We opposed the full repeal of the policy on the grounds that costs of growth would inevitably be passed down to Hanover citizens while developers profit. That reality came to light during comments from several supervisors who voted against the policy last week. Supervisor Wayne Hazzard preferred increasing the personal property tax rate by 10 cents for all Hanover citizens to charging developers for road improvements. We had previously criticized Hazzard’s undisclosed ties to the development community and still believe he is too close to the matter at hand.

Board Chairman W. Canova Peterson IV, an architect, prefers re-implementing the $10 car decal fee, one of the revenue options that came from the proffer committee that the board later shot down. While the decal fee option makes slightly more sense, all Hanover citizens with a vehicle are still being asked to pay for growth created by developers with profit margins in mind.

Peterson argued that proffers are passed on to citizens from developers in the form of markups on home prices. We don’t challenge this point. But at the end of the day, those homes are the ones straining the infrastructure.

Supervisor Ed Via, the third vote against the new transportation policy, believes we should all suffer equally during tough economic times instead of singling out developers. But not asking developers to pay their share can hardly be considered suffering equally.

Fortunately, no one really suffers under the new policy. The proffers paid for most lots drop by more than $17,000. What else does the development community need?

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