Kaine Plan On Traffic Unleashes Swift Blitz

To limit congestion, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine wants to let local jurisdictions deny rezonings if roads are inadequate.
To limit congestion, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine wants to let local jurisdictions deny rezonings if roads are inadequate. (By Steve Helber -- Associated Press)
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

RICHMOND, Jan. 17 -- Developers on Tuesday launched a rapid-response campaign to undermine Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) just hours after Virginia's new chief executive called for broader controls on growth to reduce traffic.

Members of a suit-and-tie posse gathered in the morning a few blocks from the Capitol, ate doughnuts, sipped coffee and were deputized as lobbyists for a day in what developers see as a must-win battle with Kaine over his proposals to let localities deny rezonings if roads are inadequate.

"We've already learned that we can have a handshake and be smiled at and have exactly the opposite happen," warned Anthony Clatterbuck, president of the Home Builders Association of Virginia, as the group set out to meet with Virginia's lawmakers. "We can't be naive."

The hastily assembled crowd of more than 100 home builders, real estate agents and civil engineers marched to the nearby legislative office building, where they hoped to persuade lawmakers to oppose Kaine's proposals

If they succeed, they will hand the governor a major blow on what so far is the centerpiece of his plan to reduce congestion on the state's roads, bridges and rails. If they fail, Kaine, who has been governor for only four days, will become the first state leader in recent years to push through growth controls.

"What the governor has done is really thrown a big political hand grenade into this session," said Sean T. Connaughton (R), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. "The question is whether they will watch it explode or throw it back."

During his campaign, Kaine promised to link land-use and transportation planning. In one campaign ad that ran heavily in the outer suburbs, he promised to seek more power for local governments to stop some development. During his speech to lawmakers Monday night, he made good on that promise.

"This important and necessary step is not anti-development, but it recognizes that new thinking about development is needed," Kaine said to the General Assembly.

That's not the way the home builders and real estate agents see it. They swarmed through the halls of the assembly building, wearing red and white stickers that said, "Say Yes to Housing." They carried with them a lobbying packet titled "Housing Blitz" with talking points as well as the room number and committee assignment of every delegate and senator.

In each office, they argued that giving local governments new tools to reject housing applications would drive up the cost of homes and push development farther from urban cores. That would create longer commutes and worsen traffic, they said.

It "would in fact result in a complete moratorium in the construction of new housing in Northern Virginia," Fairfax County home builder W. Craig Havenner told a skeptical Del. Michele B. McQuigg (R-Prince William), who told him that she supports Kaine's idea.

Havenner refused to give up: "We don't believe that the right approach is to shut down the economy while we catch up from 20-plus years of a complete lack of funding, particularly in the transportation area."

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