Va. Panel Rejects Kaine's Bid For Local Controls on Growth
Thursday, February 9, 2006
RICHMOND, Feb. 8 -- Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's push to reduce traffic congestion by enacting measures that could slow development suffered a serious setback in a House of Delegates panel Wednesday.
The centerpiece of Kaine's effort -- a bill to give local governments more authority to slow growth if nearby roads are inadequate -- was rejected, 9-2, in a subcommittee of the Counties, Cities and Towns Committee.
Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer said Kaine will continue to press for legislation to ease the state's traffic problems through improved planning by local and state agencies.
"Obviously, we are disappointed at the outcome for the rezoning authority," Homer said after the vote. "The issue about local land use authority is discussed and debated every year. That is going to continue throughout this session."
Another measure proposed by the Democratic governor fared better. The same committee gave its approval to a bill that would require the Virginia Department of Transportation to perform a traffic impact analysis on development proposals.
That bill, sponsored by Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick (R-Prince William), passed with only one delegate opposed. It must still be heard by the full committee and win House and Senate approval before Kaine will get an opportunity to sign it.
Kaine campaigned for governor with promises of a comprehensive solution to the state's traffic congestion problems. Part of that solution, he said in a key campaign ad, was to give local governments the right to say no to development more often.
"I'll give your community more power to stop out-of-control development that increases traffic," Kaine said in a 30-second television ad that aired extensively during the campaign in Northern Virginia's outer suburbs.
But that promise has run head-first into legislative reality in Richmond, where property rights are highly valued and where the building and development lobby is wealthy and influential.
That influence was on display Wednesday, when the bill granting more rezoning authority to localities was killed in the House.
The idea could still come back to life in this legislative session, scheduled to end March 11. Lobbyists said they expect the governor to submit a Senate version of the same measure this week. But even if it passes in the Senate, that bill still would need to be heard by the same House committee that rejected the House version Wednesday.
Advocates on both sides gathered at 7:30 a.m. in the Richmond committee room, braced for a bruising clash over development, growth and property rights.