The Northern Virginia Builders Association has said it is prepared to do battle on multiple fronts, if necessary, if Fairfax County fails to abide by new state regulations governing municipal bonding requirements for public improvements.
Samuel A. Finz, chief executive officer of the NVBA, said this week that the builders group is "waiting to see if the county is modifying its policies" to comply with the law. If not, NVBA will take its case to "the attorney general. That's his job. We can go to the courts vis-a-vis the lawsuit process. Then there is the General Assembly. Through an action by the builders, we could go back to the General Assembly to clarify where there are differences," he said.
Fairfax is the only local jurisdiction that is balking at some of the changes in state law, which apparently mandate an overhaul of existing Fairfax policies.
Gov. Charles Robb last week signed House Bill 1033, which was designed to clarify what local governments may require developers to bond. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors had harshly criticized the local builders group for its lobbying effort on behalf of the legislation.
The new rules, which go into effect July 1, revamp some local policies so that builders may be required to bond only portions of a project rather than an entire development. Fairfax generally has required builders to bond a complete project before starting construction.
The association has prepared an analysis of H.B. 1033 that it is sending to builders in the Northern Virginia area.
"Law changes go into big black books on lawyers' shelves," Finz said. "We need to get the word out to the grass-roots builders telling them this is what they should expect from local jurisdictions in every area covered by the changes in the law," Finz said.
"Our association looks forward to new practices at the local government level which are mandated under the law. We stand ready to work with all jurisdictions to assure smooth and rapid implementation of the law," said F. Gary Garczynski, president of the NVBA and president of Signature Communities, a major metropolitan-area development company.
There is some confusion over what the new law will require of developers who choose to build private roads within commercial and residential projects. Fairfax officials have said they think the changes will allow them to continue to require builders to post bonds covering all private roads. Several builders agreed.
While most Fairfax builders may be willing to post private road bonds, Finz said there is a question about the extent to which municipalities can go. He said he thinks the changes only require builders to post bonds guaranteeing construction of roads that link their projects to public roads.
Several major town-house developers contacted said they were accustomed to posting road bonds and doubted they would change their procedures. A majority of town-house projects and many commercial projects in Fairfax are served by private roads.
Fairfax officials, led by Claude Cooper, chief of the Department of Environmental Management, are studying their own regulations to see what changes may need to be made as a result of H.B. 1033. The DEM is responsible for preliminary and final site plan review, building permits and ongoing and final inspections.
Meanwhile, some builders in Fairfax are facing delays of as long as three or four months to get final site plans approved. All plans including private roads are being flagged as they come up for final approval and sent to the board of supervisors for action before developers are given the go-ahead to build. The board may not be able to consider many of those projects until July because of a jammed agenda.
The state changes standardize the basis for calculating bond amounts and require governments to release portions of bonds as construction proceeds. "The bonding law assures that final release of a bond is based on the performance of the builder in completing subdivision work," according to the NVBA.
Garczynski said Robb's endorsement of the bonding bill "caps two years of efforts" on the part of the local builders group and the Home Builders Association of Virginia to get bond reform legislation approved on the state level.