Fairfax County developers with site plans pending for projects containing private roads may have to wait until July to get approval to begin construction.
Developers may watch the spring building season come and go while they wait for approval of their projects while Fairfax officials figure out how they will handle new state regulations on bonding of public facilities.
Meanwhile, developers are complaining that they are being told by county staff that it could be as long as July before plans that were filed long ago will be approved by the Department of Environmental Management which is responsible for issuing all building permits and preliminary and final site plan approvals.
Claude Cooper, director of the department said, that all site plans with private roads are facing delays but he said those delays are more likely to be closer to 30 days. But developers say July is the time frame they are being given.
The reason for the delay is apparently a decision made by Cooper in an early February memorandum to send site plans with private roads to the board of supervisors for final approval. His action came before the Virginia general aassembly enacted new legislation on bonding.
"The authority to build private streets is discretionary not automatic. Builders and developers do not automatically have the right to build private streets," Cooper said.
Cooper said his office "is catching" plans with private street as they come up for action and sending them to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
Sources said it was doubtful the board would take action on site plans before July because of its crowded agenda.
There seems to be major confusion between DEM staff members and developers. Cooper said those builders willing to post bonds guaranteeing construction of private roads could get final plans approved but several builders said that procedure would not work because the county will not prepare the bonding documents needed to get the bond money until final site plans are approved.
Before the current fury over lobbying for legislation relating to private roads by the Northern Virginia Builders Association, developers were able to begin installation of sewer and water facilities before final permits were issued and bonds posted.
Currently, builders are waiting to hear what the new county policy on that old procedure will be.
"We are looking to see if they can get utility permits. We are trying to work out the best solution," Cooper said.
Cooper suggested taht builders could solve that problem by "partially bonding the section" where they want to work now. But that would be impossible according to several developers who said such a procedure owuld not work under existing laws.
There is also confusion over what the county is now considering preliminary plans and what are final plans. Some plans devlelopers say they filed six months ago and were depending on being ready for site work this spring are being considered preliminary plans, several developers said.
Sam Finz, chief executive officer of the builders group, said the association has had complaints from members "who now have preliminary plats going back to the board."
Such action takes time, Finz said. "Time is money. Delays cost money," Finz said. Any delays that result in increased building cost are certain to be passed on to the person who buys the finished house, Finz explained.
"The county needs a set of procedures to follow now," he said. In the long run, the new bonding regulations will "redude defaults," Finz predicted. The new legislation will allow countites to force builders to post bonds covering private road construction but the legislation does not go into effect until July 1.
County officials are strong proponents of bonding private roads and other facilities and generally take pride in reporting a relatively low number of costly builder defaults which would leave unfinished public facilities to be paid for out of county coffers.