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A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, July 29, 2005

GOP candidate says growth is ‘local issue’; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Local governments can expect help dealing with growth from a Jerry Kilgore administration in the form of transportation improvements and some school construction funding.

But new powers like impact fees, an adequate public facilities ordinance or other local levies are off the table, the Republican gubernatorial candidate and former attorney general said Thursday in an exclusive interview with the Daily.

“It’s a local issue,” Kilgore said of the explosive growth in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Local governments have repeatedly called on Richmond to authorize more powers to help deal with growth.

Laws like an adequate facilities ordinance, which would let governments turn down rezonings if they don’t have the roads and schools in place to support them, or impact fees, which would require developers to pay directly for the costs of building infrastructure as a condition of rezoning, have often been cited as good ways to handle the influx of new people and homes in the area.

But city, county and town governments can’t implement those measures on their own, due in large part to the Dillon Rule, a legal precept that limits local governments only to those powers specifically allotted to them by the General Assembly.

“I’m a strong supporter of the Dillon Rule, because it brings uniformity to Virginia law,” he said. “When we’re engaged in economic development, we can say to companies that want to locate or expand in Virginia, ‘Here are the rules that apply,’” he said.

Kilgore also said that the current toolbox of zoning rules, comprehensive plans and proffers is adequate for the task at hand in the valley.

“I believe that localities have the tools they need to guide the growth,” he said. “I believe localities can work with developers and look for that balance.”

“The General Assembly rightly controls the localities through the Dillon Rule,” he said. But “localities are free to come to the General Assembly if they have a need and get an exception.”

New restrictions on housing will only make a very tight market that much more inaccessible for those trying to own their own home, Kilgore said.

“We have to make sure in the future that we support affordable housing, that we look for ways to make sure that people can actually live and work in our communities,” he said. “I’m fearful that we’re moving in the opposite direction” and that “because of some local governments, ‘affordable’ and ‘housing’ are words that will never go together.”

At the end of the day, the state will help improve transportation and will come through with some money to help build new schools in fast-growing communities, he said.

But “we have to make sure that localities understand that we’re not going to come in as the state and mandate growth requirements. It’s a local issue.”

Kilgore also responded to criticism of his plan to cap property tax reassessments at a maximum of 5 percent every year.

Local officials all over the Northern Shenandoah Valley have said Richmond has no business being involved in local taxes.

His proposed changes won’t stop anyone from raising revenue, Kilgore said. Instead, they keep politicians from claiming they’re cutting taxes while people pay more money into government coffers.

“It doesn’t tie the hands of local government officials,” he said. “It requires them to deal honestly with their voters by setting a fair property tax rate.”

The GOP candidate spoke on the subject one day after netting an important housing-related endorsement from the Virginia Association of Realtors’ Political Action Committee.

The endorsement includes the entire Republican ticket of Kilgore, lieutenant governor candidate and state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, and Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, the party’s nominee for attorney general.

In 2001, the PAC gave both verbal and financial support to Democrats at the top of the ticket, endorsing Gov. Mark R. Warner over Mark Earley. It also gave him a check for $30,000. RPAC gave $7,500 to Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine during his 2001 run for his current office.

In 1997, the committee split $30,000 between Republican nominee Jim Gilmore and Democratic nominee Don Beyer