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Albemarle planning commission defers recommendation on lower cash proffers
Albemarle County Planning Commission, January 26, 2016
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Sean Tubbs | Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 9:49 p.m.

The Albemarle Planning Commission will wait at least until after the General Assembly session to make a recommendation on whether to lower the county’s cash proffer expectations from developers.

“We really should be looking at best practices across the commonwealth,” said Planning Commissioner Pam Riley. “I don’t personally feel in a position to make any decision tonight.”

The Board of Supervisors adopted a policy in October 2007 that established a specific amount that developers must pay for each residential unit that is allowed through a land rezoning.

Prior to that decision, cash proffer amounts were established on a case-by-case basis. The funds are collected to mitigate the impact of new housing and to build community infrastructure.

“The intent of the policy is that cash proffers address impacts to identified public facilities generated by new residential development,” said Bill Fritz, the county’s chief of special projects in the Department of Community Development.

Since then, the amount of the proffer has been calculated based on the county’s capital improvement program and the capital needs assessment.

However, Virginia law has since been changed to restrict the proffer calculations to only include new projects and not maintenance.

“The county may now only consider those projects that expand capacity,” Fritz said.

Under the new formula the cash proffer amounts would be drastically reduced.

The cash proffer for a single-family unit would drop from the 2014 figure of $20,987 to $4,918. The amount for an attached unit or townhome would go from $14,271 to $3,845. Developers of multifamily units pay $5,262 per unit, reduced from $14,871.

“The county has really been a maintenance-only CIP so there haven’t been a lot of projects to factor in,” Fritz said.

The commission held a work session on the matter last fall and a public hearing Tuesday.

The county’s Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee has been studying the issue for the past two years. One of its members was not happy with the lower figures.

“The proffer numbers we came up with are so bad because they don’t represent the impact to the community and they in no way pay back the community for the added burden,” said David van Roijen.

He suggested reverting to the former policy when the county considered each rezoning individually to better address the impacts of specific proposals.

Neil Williamson of the pro-business Free Enterprise Forum wore a red sticker that read “make proffers fair” and called on the commission to move forward.

“In order to move forward with your Comprehensive Plan, cash proffers should be eliminated,” Williamson said. “New homebuyers shouldn’t foot the bill for all that the community wants.”

Williamson also noted that legislation that would further change the ability of localities to enact proffer policies is currently pending before the General Assembly.

House Bill 770 was introduced by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, and is before the Counties, Cities and Towns Committee.

“The legislation would turn everything that we have in place now upside down,” said Greg Kamptner, the deputy county attorney.

Valerie Long, a land-use attorney with Williams Mullen, said developers can’t afford the higher amounts.

“It has become economically unfeasible for property owners to rezone their property and so they end up developing by-right at much less expense, and the community does not get what it wants,” Long said, referring to pedestrian connections, school land dedications and other amenities that can be proffered during rezonings.

Morgan Butler, of the Southern Environmental Law Center, also called for more information.

“We think it would be wise to factor in some relevant scenarios,” Butler said, adding that the commission might wait until a new capital improvement program is adopted and a new capital needs assessment is conducted to see if the amounts would increase.

The commission deferred a decision and will hold a joint work session with the Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee.

“If there’s going to be a decision from the state legislature, I’m wondering why we’re dealing with this now,” said Commissioner Daphne Spain.

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