October 2010 – Part 2

SSC October Minutes- Part II

Dear Friends,

I want to apologize to you, and to our wonderful October speakers from the Board of Supervisors, for the lengthy delay in getting these minutes to you.  Not only have I been overwhelmed with a myriad of other responsibilities, but I found that trying to organize my many pages of notes into some sort of coherent form was a substantial task.  Thank you to our wonderful speakers for their informative presentation and for their patience in explaining the issues to those of us not familiar with all the intricacies of county planning!

On another note, I’ve received a number of thank you’s for the November minutes and I realized that when I sent them out, I had failed to include a note mentioning that we had a guest scribe this month.  She wishes to remain nameless (I suspect she fears that her punctuality will “win” her the post of permanent scribe) but I do wish to thank her for filling in for me.

The one plus of my very untimely mailing of the minutes is that I am perfectly on time to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!!

Warmly,
Andrea

SSC October 10th Minutes
Part Two

“The Future of Fauquier County”

Featuring guest speakers from the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors:
Terry Nyhous, Peter Schwartz and Holder Trumbo

Ike Broaddus opened this discussion by introducing the speakers and by thanking them for their support of the work he is doing at Vint Hill.  Ike also stressed that we owe all of the BOS a debt of gratitude for their hard work in trying to find good solutions for complex problems.

Background
§        There are 5 members of the BOS in Fauquier County representing the five magisterial districts: Lee, Cedar Run, Marshall, Center and Scott.
§        According to Holder, “Each plays a different instrument and all work to make them harmonize.”
§        Economic development is important but we must also recognize the significant economic input of agricultural businesses.
§        Fauquier County has a “comprehensive plan” for the county as a whole as well as for each individual service district.
§        As the plans are re-evaluated, for example in the new Marshall comprehensive plan, the goal is to see more density within the development areas; this not only creates more walkable communities but also allows greater efficiency in providing services (water, sewer, etc).
§        There are currently 24 projects (approximately 3600 homes) in the pipeline in Fauquier, 16 have already been approved and are waiting for financing.  The bulk of the homes are in a few bigger projects.

*Scribe’s note- Although each of the supervisors spoke separately as well as together, there was so much interplay and discussion between the speakers and the audience that with the exception of the introductory remarks,  I will not attempt to attribute directly to one member.

Growth- Terry Nyhous
§        Fauquier County has had 40-50 years of sound land use controls.
§        Population in Virginia is growing at app. 1.7% a year.
§        Currently we have 24,000 houses in the county.  If we grow 2% a year, in ten years we will have an additional 4,000 houses.  3,000 plus homes have already been approved by prior Boards.
§        With each additional house built, the county incurs life time expenses: roads, schools, sheriffs etc.

History- Holder Trumbo
§        Once upon a time we thought growth was a good thing.  It was thought that more residents contributed to lower taxes, but now we understand that more farmland contributes to lower taxes as farmland does not require services.
§        Fauquier County tried to push growth into service districts but the districts were too big.  We’ve not shrunk them back.
§        Zoning rules were established decades ago.  Developers are now approaching the BOS wanting to get zoning approval for large projects.
§        Virginia is a “property rights” state- once you give zoning to someone it is very hard to take it away.
§        Down zoning-  A county cannot unilaterally down zone one piece of property without a very good reason.

What do we care about? – Peter Schwartz
§        Ten years from now, Fauquier County will have 4,000-5,000 more houses and 15,000 more people.  We need to look at where we want the growth to be and how we want it to look.
§        How do we accommodate this growth while still preserving the agricultural heritage, rural community and the pace of life that brought most of us here?
§        Growth is coming- we cannot put our heads in the sand and pretend that it isn’t.
§        We must make accommodations but be careful how and where those are made.
§        Fauquier has done a fairly good job of keeping lots of areas rural- there has been some development along major arteries but behind the development, much open land remains.
§        We need to do a better job planning/managing growth within our towns.

Terminology- The speakers kindly took the time to define terminology for those of us not familiar with “growth speak.”
§        “By right”- land uses which are automatically allowed within existing zoning
§        “By legislation”- requires negotiation
§        Proffer System- proffers are things developers offer in order to get what they want.  For example- “I have this piece of property that I can ‘by right’ do ‘X’ with, but if you will let me do ‘Y’ (usually more roof tops), I’ll give you something you want.”
§        Dillon Rule- Virginia is governed by the Dillon rule which states that “municipal governments only have the powers that are expressly granted to them by the state legislature.”  Lobbyists love the Dillon rule because they only need to lobby in one place, the GA.

§        Transfer of Development Right System, or “TDR”- If a property has development rights, you can extinguish the rights by placing an easement on the property.
§        “LEEDS” certification- “green building” certification that encourages sustainable green building and development practices through a rating system that recognizes projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performances.

Discussion

The problem with proffers-
§        Developers do not always follow through as economic costs are often steeper than originally anticipated.
§        Enforceability of proffers is an issue as the current BOS cannot bind a future BOS to uphold their decisions.
§        It may be possible to resolve the enforceability issue by making the proffer commitment into a recordable covenant.  The covenant would stay with the land even if the developer sold the property or the BOS changes.
§        Traditionally localities were naïve about proffers. Now some counties are pushing for impact fees* on new development to cover the costs to the county. Because Virginia is a Dillon rule state, Fauquier cannot impose impact fees unless approved by the General Assembly (GA).

* The supervisors stressed that we desperately need impact fees to compensate communities for the real costs of development.  Due to the lobbying power of the homebuilders, we have not been able to get legislation through the GA which would allow the counties to collect impact fees, though a couple of years ago we were able to defeat legislation proposed by the homebuilders which, while allowing for impact fees, set the rates ridiculously low.

Future Water Shortages
§        We’ll run out of water in this county before we run out of oil- we need to come up with a solution.
§        Any development of more than six homes needs a water system.
§        Counties have, in the past, used various mechanisms to control growth based upon water needs/usage but these have been taken away from us by the GA.  Decisions are now regulated by the State Water Commission.
§        The state has said that Fauquier cannot reject development requiring alternative sewer/septic systems in spite of our county problems with soil type.  Alternative systems have a high failure rate and in the past, Fauquier has only approved them by special exception.
§        This decision by the GA could open up huge swaths of rural land for easier and cheaper development.
§        Green building technology could help to mitigate future water problems.

Water and Sewer Systems
§        Marshall is getting a water system/ New Baltimore is getting sewer.
§        There are proposals for getting Catlett a sewer system, the problem is that all proposals for utility infrastructure for Catlett, Calverton and Midland are for the entire 28 corridor, not for individual towns.  If approved, this would inevitably lead to sprawl.
§        New technologies have been developed which could potentially provide for plants for individual villages.

“Green” Building- energy and water efficient
§        A proposal, written by Ken Alm, which will require that any new county buildings be built to LEEDS certification, has been approved by the Planning Commission and will be going before the BOS
§        The high school renovation will be aiming for the gold standard of LEEDS certification.  This will cost 2-5% more upfront but should recoup the extra money spent within 10 years.
§        Some new businesses are also building to LEEDS standards- for example, the new Fauquier Bank.
§        In Bealeton, the White Marsh development was pressed to ask for LEEDS certification.  LEEDS offers many benefits to the builder and to the consumer.
§        One has to be careful because sometimes individual projects are LEEDS certified but, from a location standpoint, they are the opposite of “green.”

What can we do?

Stay informed and involved about what is happening in the County.  Fauquier is represented in the General Assembly by three delegates (Mark Cole, Clay Athey and Scott Lingamfelter) and two senators (Jill Vogel and Richard Stuart).  While all have been supportive on our issues, Fauquier represents a very small part of their districts; therefore it is very important that we keep in touch with our representatives and encourage them to continue to push for legislation which addresses our concerns on local issues (for example, impact fees and alternative septic systems).

For legislators contact information visit:  http://legis.state.va.us/

Save the Dates

You won’t want to miss the meetings we have planned!

Dec. 12th- Dr. Steven Monfort, Director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Jan. 9th – Chief Thomas Billington of Fauquier County Fire and Rescue

Feb. – TBD

March 13th -  Warrenton Mayor George Fitch and City Council Member Yakir (“Yak”) Lubowsky

April 10th – Fauquier County Superintendent of Schools Jonathan Lewis