Local governments in Prince William and Loudoun counties are making their 1983 legislative wish lists and checking them twice nowadays, with the state legislature about to get under way next month.
High on their lists are laws that both counties, which are the Washington metropolitan area's fastest growing jurisdictions, hope will enable them to curb the threat of rampant development at home.
Both are asking for new wording in the state code that will make it clear to state courts that local governments can deny development if proposed subdivisions and building complexes do not fit in with growth plans they have mapped out.
Prince William also wants a law allowing local governments to require develooers to pay part of the costs of road development if traffic from their building projects creates a need to widen or improve roads. Furthermore, county officials want the authority to deny new building permits to developers who have failed to make county-required improvements on other project sites, according to Kathleen Sobrio, the liaison between the county and the state legislature.
Both Prince William and Loudoun counties, which in the 1970s had the largest percentage increases in population in the area, maintain that this type of legislation is desperately needed.
But area representatives to the State House of Delegates say parts of the counties' legislative wish lists may be just wishful thinking.
Legislators said they are optimistic about a change in the state statutes allowing local governments to turn down development proposals in high-growth areas. But they say Prince William will have an uphill battle to get its other growth control legislation passed.
"All I knew is that, in the seven years I've been in Richmond, it has been next to impossible to get legislation through that would curtail development or force developers to pay for the things necessary to serve the increases in population they create," said Democratic state Del. Floyd C. Bagley, was represents the 52nd District in Prince William County.
Bills have been submitted in years past requiring developers to pay part of school, fire protection and road costs for the communities they build, but these bills have failed time and again, Bagley said.
"Developers have a strong lobby and the argument goes that the developer will pass these costs on to the new home owner," he said. "It will be extremely difficult to get [the proposed legislation] through" the legislature.
There are other items on the counties' wish lists. Prince William also wants a law requiring all motor bikes and mopeds to have mufflers, said Sobrio, who thinks that one has a good chance of passing.
The Loudoun County government wants a law making voluntary annexation between municipalities legally binding, said Memory Porter, legislative liaison for the county.
That request has arisen because Loudoun is in the process of turning over seven acres to the town of Leesburg. But Porter said it is unclear whether the agreements made in the land swap are legally binding.
For example, in return for the annexed land, the Leesburg has agreed not to become a city for 25 years, said Porter. The problem is that this may not be binding on the next governing body to be elected to office, she said.
"We would just like it clearer legally since there are several different opinions," she said.
Loudoun also wants local governments to be able to tax cigarettes without state permission, but Republican state Del. Robert T. Andrews, who represents the area's 33rd District, said he was skeptical that such a law could be passed. Some jurisdictions now levy a local cigarette tax, but they must get approval from the state to do so.
"Tobacco is the number one cash crop in the state," he said. "It remains to be seen, but I have my doubts. I think there is more hope of passing some sort of statute that would allow certain communities to curtail development -- not all over the state, but in the high-growth communities such as Loudoun and Prince William."