While the Northern Virginia Builders Association is celebrating passage of statewide legislation modifying the rights of local governments to require builders to bond certain subdivision elements, Fairfax County officials are evaluating the impact of the changes on county policy.
The builders association lobbied heavily in support of controversial H.B. 1033 and generated strong reactions from the county Board of Supervisors, which adamantly oppose the legislation.
Last week, the board deferred action on zoning changes which included private roads in part to demonstrate its anger at the association's lobbying effort.
However, an amended version of the bill passed the House and Senate with little fanfare and the builders group expects Gov. Robb to sign it.
"We're looking forward to meeting with Fairfax officials to discuss implications of the legislation," said Tony Ahuja, director of technical services for the builders' group.
Mike Long of the Fairfax county attorney's office said some changes will have to be made. "We are going to have to think about what we do," Long said. He referred questions on specific matters to Denton Kent, head of the office of comprehensive planning. Kent could not be reached for comment.
Samuel Finz, chief executive officer of the builders' association, this week mailed a letter to the more than 800 members of the association informing them about passage of the bill. Finz told them to report any problems they may have with local governments enforcing the new legislation.
"Over the course of the next few weeks, the association will be meeting with local elected officials to discuss rapid implementation of the new codes," Finz said. "While many government officials have gone on record as not being in favor of H.B. 1033, it will soon be signed into law."
Ahuja said the first meeting with local government officials will probably be with Fairfax County but no meeting dates have yet been scheduled.
Last week, supervisor Joe Alexander said he would "be the first to hold out the olive branch" to the builders. Several supervisors said they don't find the amended version of the bill is as objectionable as the original.
The new law will give developers the flexibility to bond improvements in a development section by section rather than having to bond all the public facilities in an entire project before starting construction on the first phase.
In addition, developers will not have to post bonds to guarantee construction of tot lots, swimming pools, tennis courts or other projects that are generally considered to be public property. In the past, Fairfax has often required bonds to guarantee construction of tot lots and pools.
The amended bill will allow local governments to require bonds to guarantee preservation of steep slopes, storm water management facilities and private roads. However, there is confusion among members of the board of supervisors and the builders association as to the extent of bonding that can be required for streets.
Ahuja said Fairfax contends bonding for the entire private street system may be still required. "This is one question that has to be clarified," said one county staff member.
According to one local builder, it could take months for county officials and builders to come to grips with the implications of the new law.
The builders' group has hailed passage of the bill as "a major source of frustration removed! Bonding reform bill passes . . . developers do away with the bureaucratic holdup of bonds."
According to the association, the new law standardizes the basis for calculating bond amounts and gives developers flexibility.
The legislation will allow local governments to hold up to a maximum of 20 percent of the bond posted until all work is completed. Local governments also will be required to respond in writing to requests from developers for a release of a bond within 30 days after the request is made.