Hanover supervisors weigh policy to address development impacts
When the Board of Supervisors eliminated Hanover’s cash proffer policy in November, there was an expectation that developers would still pay some of the costs associated with growth.
The question is how.
Staff developed a revised approach for addressing new development impacts to transportation and presented a policy proposal at the board’s Feb. 27 meeting.
The policy aims “to establish a consistent course of action in support of overall capacity, safety, and operation of the county’s road system,” Public Works Director Mike Flagg told supervisors.
The proposed policy outlines a methodology for calculating financial contributions from developers, which would be negotiated during the zoning process.
The policy assumes an annual 1 percent population growth rate from fiscal years 2013 to 2017, and 1.5 percent for the following 10 years.
It also factors in financial contributions from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, VDOT revenue sharing, and Hanover’s own general fund.
There are $61.4 million worth of transportation improvement projects anticipated over the next 15 years. These include widening Atlee Station Road, various improvements near the Interstate 95 and Route 54 interchange, and more.
To get toward that $61.4 million, the MPO would contribute $25 million, VDOT revenue sharing, $18.2 million, and Hanover County, $3.75 million, leaving $14.45 million for new development to cover over this 15-year period.
As a starting point for negotiations, new residential subdivisions with fewer than 50 lots would be asked to contribute $2,306 per lot.
Larger subdivisions would be negotiated based on individual proposals, traffic studies, and expected transportation impacts.
Flagg provided an example:
A 160-lot subdivision near the I-95/Route 54 interchange might be asked to pay $4,563 per lot, based on the anticipated increase in average daily vehicle trips and the development’s share of road improvements scheduled in the area.
The plan also calls for stronger accounting of how the money is spent.
“We would account and make sure the public is clear on where those dollars are distributed so that we can demonstrate very plainly that there has been an intended distribution of those dollars,” Flagg said.
Discussion on the proposal lasted over an hour. South Anna Supervisor Wayne Hazzard had several questions.
Hazzard noted that the current proposal was based on residential growth. He asked if staff took into account traffic impacts from commercial development.
Planning Director David Maloney said those impacts are taken into consideration at the time of zoning. A traffic study is typically performed for larger projects. Based on anticipated traffic generation, staff would negotiate transportation improvements as part of the project.
“Whether we’re dealing with residential development through a negotiated transportation improvement or a cash contribution to be used for a future project or a business and industrial development, in all cases, we are working to capture the traffic impacts arising from that project,” Maloney said.
Hazzard expressed his concerns about the $2,306 figure for the smaller developments.
“No two pieces of property are the same. I don’t care if they’re side-by-side, and that’s the reason you’re getting a little pushback from me on coming up with a one-size-fits-all type of mentality,” he said.
Flagg explained that that figure is only “a starting point.”
“It’s not an absolute,” Flagg said. “I think there is an expectation largely that it’s a fair contribution, but certainly other situations that arise particular to the developments would not be excluded from the negotiating principle for those smaller developments, and certainly for the larger developments.
“One of the things we’ve heard emphatically in many instances from the development [community] is they would like to know what the target is, so this provides a level of certainty and expectation, but it’s not absolute.”
Henry District Supervisor Sean Davis chairs the board’s community development committee, where this proposal was initially discussed.
“The previous [cash proffers] policy was broken beyond repair, and we needed an exit strategy for the current levied cash proffers to bring those in and eliminate where we could or reduce where we could while still honoring the roads commitments that we have,” Davis explained.
“This process is kind of what we envisioned in some, and some didn’t. But I think we’ve come up with somewhat of a common-sense collaborative guideline. This is not perfect, in my mind, and not exactly what I had envisioned,” he continued.
Hazzard still wasn’t sold on the new policy.
“I cannot see the need to have a cash proffer policy when we just finished saying we were going to evaluate each one [project] individually,” he said.
Davis said, “We tried to define some baselines. … Does every new something, whether it’s a house or anything, have some type of impact? And the answer around the table was yes. We recognize some of them are certainly not measurable, and we were trying to figure out, well, where do you measure them? And then what happens?”
Davis said it’s clear an 80-lot subdivision has an impact, but what do they do with 10 eight-lot subdivisions?
“I recognize that and I recognize the frustration from the development community for us to figure something out and pull the trigger so they can get back to work,” he added.
Davis said he didn’t like the inclusion of the $2,306 number either, saying, “It bothers me immensely.”
However, the ability to negotiate is “a key component” of the plan, he said.
County Attorney Sterling Rives explained that having a set policy and methodology is “virtually essential” to defending proffer collections in court.
“Powhatan, early on in the days of cash proffers, had a rezoning decision that the board had made rejected by the courts because they did not have a methodology,” Rives said.
On the other hand, Chesterfield County’s cash proffer methodology was challenged twice in court unsuccessfully.
“They prevailed because they had a good policy and a good methodology that demonstrated how the impact of individual developments was calculated, how that was assessed and how that translated into the proffer that was asked of the developer.
“And that’s what the staff is seeking to do with this proposed policy is establish that methodology, make it clear for all of us to see,” Rives said, adding that a policy makes sure all applicants are treated fairly and equitably.
Referring to the $2,306 figure, Rives said, “It’s important to note that we don’t have a set number. This is not an impact fee. But the methodology does produce a number. That number may be varied. The policy states that expressly—depending upon the individual circumstances of the development.”
For example, developers of an age-restricted community could potentially negotiate that figure down.
Board chairman Canova Peterson commented, “I agree with Mr. Hazzard that setting a specific policy number versus looking at each project on its own merits bothers me a little bit.”
Peterson said he would have fewer problems supporting the proposed policy if it was directed only at dealing with the outstanding cash proffers in approved-but-undeveloped projects.
“I have a real problem reinstituting it as a long-term cash proffer policy, which we all determined is not an appropriate way of raising taxes in our community,” Peterson said.
Chickahominy Supervisor Angela Kelly-Wiecek defended the policy.
“I see this partially as a way to assist our staff and to offer them some measure of understanding and to some extent, some protection,” she said.
“Staff likes rules. They like guidelines. They like us to be clear and they like us to articulate to them what our policy is and then execute, and I simply see this as a method of establishing that starting point,” Kelly-Wiecek added.
Peterson noted that all residents use the roads. “We all ought to cover the cost, not just the new people,” he said.
The board decided to continue this discussion at its next meeting, March 13, which begins at 2 p.m.
The board will first hear several presentations related to the budget and resume the transportation discussion at the end of the afternoon’s agenda.