Prince William County has become the most recent jurisdiction to join an increasingly influential slow-growth lobbying group in an effort to wrench more tools from state lawmakers to curb development.
With virtually no debate, the Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to join the Virginia Coalition of High-Growth Communities, a day after Fairfax County did the same.
"One of the problems we continually face is that Richmond believes it can control the destinies of communities like Prince William from its mighty perch along the James River," said board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R-At Large), who raised the idea of joining the group. "One of the primary focuses of the coalition is to get the authority we need to deal with our growing pains."
Prince William is the 27th member of the four-year-old organization, which lobbies state lawmakers for more local tools to fight development. Members include places where growth pressures have been the most powerful -- Loudoun, Stafford, Fauquier and Spotsylvania counties -- as well as many jurisdictions around Richmond and in Hampton Roads.
The group is fighting for passage of an adequate public facilities measure and for the right to impose fees on developers to help pay for services precipitated by new residents. Supporters say those tools would give counties the ability to make development pay for itself and to slow residential construction until roads and other infrastructure are built.
Under state law, localities can adopt such measures only with permission from the state. Previous efforts by the coalition and other slow-growth advocates were futile.
Officials in Prince William and Fairfax said they also wanted to join the group because it has been courted by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and other influential lawmakers following the defeat of a proposal to raise the sales tax in Northern Virginia. Most lawmakers interpreted the defeat of the sales tax plan as a vote against more unchecked growth, vastly increasing the influence of the coalition and other slow-growth advocates.
"I'm glad that both have joined," said Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large), chairman and founder of the coalition. "I believe it gives us a little bit more power down there. The more jurisdictions that participate gives the organization a little more weight when dealing with folks down in Richmond."
Prince William's membership in the group does not necessarily signal its willingness to go along with its main issues. Last month, for instance, county supervisors voted against adding an adequate public facilities measure to their list of legislative priorities.
York said all views are welcome in the coalition. "What works for one jurisdiction doesn't necessarily work with another jurisdiction," he said.