The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

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, March 10, 2006

Land-use reform plan dies in ruling; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

RICHMOND — A last-minute effort to resuscitate a key part of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s transportation and land-use reform package, an idea supported by a number of localities in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, came up short on Thursday.

During the campaign and in his first months in office, Kaine, a Democrat, put his support behind legislation that would have allowed local governments to stop rezonings that, while otherwise allowable, would have overburdened an area’s transportation system.

But a parliamentary ruling on Thursday by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, stating that the substitute was not germane to the bill it was replacing, killed the measure for the year.

Virginia’s constitution and General Assembly rules allow for bills to only encompass one subject.

Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, introduced a bill that would have accomplished much the same, but a House committee killed it earlier in the session before it could come to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, tried to resurrect the measure this week in the form of a change to an existing bill dealing with proffers and road construction, House Bill 1192.

Hanger sought to ease concerns that the bill might start the commonwealth down the road toward sanctioning adequate public facilities ordinances.

Such local laws allow for a government to stop developments that would otherwise be allowed if there isn’t enough capacity in local schools, roads or other public infrastructure to handle them.

Hanger contended that even though his changes to the bill did give locals more power, it was a far cry from an adequate public facilities law.

A true APF ordinance would allow “by-right” development, or development that doesn’t require rezoning, to be stopped, he said, while his bill only stops rezonings.

It was also key to fixing the state’s transportation problems — such “cost controls” have to go hand in hand with new transportation funding.

Shenandoah County could have made good use of a local veto power, be it part of an APF ordinance or not, said District 6 Supervisor Conrad Helsley, who represents Strasburg and its surroundings.

Counties the size of Shenandoah that are dealing with growth issues need tools like the one proposed by Kaine to help keep development moving without having it take over, Helsley said.

“I think it would have been just another tool,” he said.

Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rich-ard Traczyk said he was disappointed that the bill died, but wasn’t surprised.

“Places like Front Royal are not at the critical state yet” for traffic problems, he said. But it would have been much easier to keep that from happening had the authority become law.

“That’s another critical piece [of authority] that could let the localities control that process,” he said.

Others, including Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, have argued that allowing local governments to veto projects that would have otherwise been allowed can only drive up the cost of housing, which is already out of reach for many young families.

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the year on Saturday.