Local Control Of Va. Growth Gains Steam

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 28, 2006

RICHMOND, Jan. 27 -- Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates on Friday joined Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and other lawmakers who have proposed giving local governments more flexibility in controlling development.

The measures backed by the Republicans are not as aggressive as those offered by Kaine and some other lawmakers. But the GOP effort suggests that support for some expansion of local powers is now widespread in state government.

Any such change would be significant in a state that has long been hesitant to expand local governments' authority over development.

The Republicans' bills would allow more local governments to receive payments from developers to ease the impact of building. Localities would be required to review the potential cost of new roads in their long-range planning. Lawmakers said that would lay the foundation for increasing the amount of money local governments could expect from developers.

GOP leaders echoed some of the arguments on the need for better planning that helped Kaine win votes in Northern Virginia's outer suburbs in last year's election.

"Too many people have assumed that the only answer to crowded highways . . . is the construction of new roads with no real way to include local governments in the decisions," said House Speaker William J. Howell, who represents parts of fast-growing Stafford County.

Though Howell and other Republicans pointed out that they had supported such efforts in the past, some delegates said that they heard from voters last year that the issue now was critical.

"Elections are always signs of things," said Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick, a Republican who won reelection last fall in Prince William, another fast-growing county.

He is sponsoring legislation that would require local officials to submit their growth and traffic impact projections to the Virginia Department of Transportation for review.

"When I first ran in 2003, growth was an issue, but it wasn't the issue. In 2005 . . . it wasn't just an issue anymore, it was the issue," he said. "The things that I saw and the things that other members saw when they were running for reelection have now crystallized to the fact that we have got to do something about this issue."

Kaine has proposed giving local governments more power to slow growth, require traffic studies and coordinate their long-term plans with state transportation planners.

Democrats said they also were aware of suburban voters' support for new controls and greater flexibility in reviewing development plans.

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