As Albemarle officials seek ways to pay for the county’s growing infrastructure demands, the Board of Supervisors has been told that the amount that can be raised through cash proffers will be reduced.
Localities in Virginia have the ability to charge developers a fee for each residential unit that is allowed because of a rezoning. Albemarle adopted a policy in 2007 that currently requires developers to pay $20,987 per single-family dwelling, $14,271 for each townhome and $14,871 for each unit in an apartment complex.
“Currently, the cash proffer policy is based on the impact of new residential development on schools, transportation, parks, libraries and public safety,” said Bill Fritz, chief of special projects in the county’s community development department.
Some developers have claimed they have forgone rezonings in favor of by-right development because the fees are too high. That has resulted in developments that have lower residential densities than called for in the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
In September, supervisors directed the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee to review the cash proffer policy to determine if it is an effective means of generating revenue to pay for the cost of additional infrastructure required to support population growth.
Over the course of the group’s 18 meetings, county staffers realized that a 2013 law passed by the General Assembly has changed how Albemarle can calculate proffer amounts.
“The change in the statute is that the only thing that can be considered now are projects that expand capacity,” Fritz said. “Building a school or expanding a school expands capacity. Replacing a school’s roof does not necessarily expand capacity.”
Applying the legal mandate to county policy would mean Albemarle could only charge $4,918 for each single-family unit, $3,845 for townhomes and $5,262 for each apartment unit.
“The state law is tying our hands,” Fritz said.
The amounts are lower in part because the majority of projects in the county’s capital improvement program are for maintenance.
Fritz said if supervisors increased the number of new infrastructure projects in the capital program, the proffer amounts would increase.
One of the committee’s recommendations is to revise the proffer formula.
“Impacts on jails, solid waste facilities and other government facilities are not included in the [formula],” Fritz said. “By expanding the number of categories, we could expand the numbers.”
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Albemarle’s population at 103,000 in 2013. That number is expected to rise to 154,814 by 2040, according to projections from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia.
Steve Allshouse, the county’s economic analyst, said the committee did not attempt to calculate the costs of growth on a per-unit basis, but that is further work he can do. One supervisor said she wants to see those numbers.
“I get a lot of questions about growth paying for growth, so it would be nice to be able to give some good estimate of what’s really happening,” said Supervisor Liz Palmer.
Proffers are usually earmarked to specific capital projects. For instance, supervisors on Wednesday appropriated $61,261 collected through cash proffers to pay for a portion of two sidewalk projects in Crozet and on Pantops Mountain.
The committee’s recommendations will go before the Planning Commission in September before returning to supervisors for action.
The Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee’s work ended just as the work of the Citizen Resource Advisory Committee got underway.
“Our [new] committee that we appointed this summer is looking at various revenue vehicles in part to see how we can make our capital improvement program more robust,” said Supervisor Jane Dittmar.
That group will look at the possibility of a bond referendum in 2016 to pay for specific projects, tax districts to pay for urban infrastructure and other ways of enhancing revenue.