Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine proposed Monday to expand the power of local governments in Virginia by giving them the authority to restrict development that would overwhelm nearby roads.
The proposal, which would allow jurisdictions to reject rezoning requests based on their traffic impact, is outlined in radio and television ads that aired in Northern Virginia on Monday afternoon and evening.
Kaine's plan to control growth counters the transportation plan outlined by his Republican opponent, Jerry W. Kilgore, who would allow regions to raise their own money for road and rail projects if their voters approve tax increases in referendums.
In one new ad, the announcer says, "As you inch your way home in traffic, ask yourself, 'Is the problem that you don't pay enough taxes, or is it runaway development?' "
Then the candidate says: "We can't tax and pave our way out of traffic. I'm Tim Kaine. . . . I'll give your community more power to stop out-of-control development that increases traffic."
Kaine's new proposal adds to a transportation platform that includes a promise not to approve new transportation revenue without first ensuring that the state's transportation trust fund will not be used to finance other services. Many advocates of transportation improvements, a top issue in congested Northern Virginia, were lukewarm to his original ideas.
Last week, the political arm of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce endorsed Kilgore, citing the former attorney general's proposal to give regions the authority to tax themselves.
Delacey Skinner, Kaine's press secretary, said the new proposal and the ads have been in the works for weeks and were not a reaction to the chamber endorsement or any recent criticism of his plan. She said the campaign decided to announce the proposal through the ads so that Kaine could take his case straight to the public.
Several local officials in Northern Virginia said that although attempts to give localities more control over development have failed in the General Assembly, Kaine's proposal is an important one.
"As a local official, any tool that can be given to help effectively manage development is welcome," said Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette (D).
Kilgore aides connected Kaine's proposal to a theme that they will try to hammer home with voters during the rest of the campaign.
"This is a big government position from a big government liberal," said J. Tucker Martin, a Kilgore spokesman. "It's Tim Kaine's plan for better living through excessive government regulation."
A representative of the Home Builders Association of Virginia said such a plan would hurt the state's economy.
"We would vehemently oppose that legislative initiative, and it would be a silver bullet to the heart of the housing industry," said Mike Toalson, executive vice president of the association. Now, he said, local governments cannot simply reject rezoning because of potential road congestion, but in many cases, developers work with localities to reduce the their projects' impact on communities.
"If you give them the ability to just say no based on that single component, it's just going to encourage the very sprawl he and most Virginians are against," he said.
Skinner said it is obvious that negotiations between localities and developers are not effective enough in curbing the sprawl that has gridlocked much of the Washington suburbs. More local authority is needed, she said.
"Anybody who has sat in traffic created by a new development that has been put in an area where there is not a sufficient road to support that development knows that the real problem is development being done without the support of a road being widened or a road being added," she said.