Legislation that would restrict what local governments in Virginia can ask of home builders moved a step closer to becoming law Tuesday, despite heated opposition from officials in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties.
In a 72-26 vote, the state House of Delegates approved a version of the reforms to the state’s so-called proffer system that had already passed the Senate.
A companion bill that had been approved in the House is making its way toward a full vote in the Senate, leaving the General Assembly a step away from sending the legislation to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to be signed into law.
The changes would reform a system that has helped shape many neighborhoods in Northern Virginia.
Proffers were initially meant to get developers to pay for new streets or sewers as a way to offset extra traffic and demands for more service that come from adding more homes to a community.
The system has since evolved to include proffers for new athletic fields, school computers and cash that can be used for affordable housing or other community needs.
The legislation advancing through the General Assembly bans those types of negotiations in most areas, except high-density neighborhoods, areas near Metrorail stations and neighborhoods that have been targeted for revitalization. Under the legislation, acceptable proffers would have to have a direct link to new developments.
“We believe this system is being abused and it has gotten out of balance and this bill is just to bring it back in balance,” Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who sponsored the House version of the bill, told his colleagues on the floor before Tuesday’s vote.
Local officials in Northern Virginia argue that the reforms will cut out community input for new development projects and could lead to fewer new homes being approved.
In rapidly growing areas like Loudoun County, officials may be forced to pass on the cost of adding extra amenities to taxpayers, said Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-Loudoun). “Those moneys will still be spent, and now everyone in the county will have to pay that burden,” Greason said before the vote.