The Albemarle Planning Commission has recommended denial of a developer’s request to pay a lower cash proffer than that required by a previous rezoning in 2014.
“In my seven years on the planning commission, we have never been asked to make an evaluation on a cash proffer,” said Commissioner Russell “Mac” Lafferty.
The commission’s unanimous decision Tuesday was made amid uncertainty about the future of the Albemarle’s cash-proffer policy due to pending state legislation and a trend toward by-right development in the county’s designated growth area.
Spring Hill Village is planned for 12.63 acres between Avon Street Extended and Route 20.
The Board of Supervisors agreed in 2014 to rezone the property from R-1 to “neighborhood model district.” That allows up to 100 new attached and de-tached homes, as well as up to 60,000 square feet for non-residential uses.
By the terms of the October 2007 cash proffer policy, developer Vito Cetta had to pay Albe-marle a cash proffer of $20,460 for each attached unit and $13,913 for each townhome unit.
The proffer amounts are based on a formula that factors in the county’s capital improvement budget and capital needs assessments. A 2013 state law restricts that calculation to only include new infrastructure, rather than maintenance projects.
Last year, the county’s Fiscal Impact Advisory Committee recommended supervisors lower the amount to reflect the new law, but the board has not taken action. The planning commission has twice discussed the changes, but it has requested more information on the policy before it makes a recommendation.
In the meantime, Cetta asked to pay the lower amounts of $4,918 for each single-family unit and $3,845 for each townhome. He sought no other changes to the rezoning.
Several developments in the county have chosen to go by-right rather than pay proffers including Lochlyn Hill, Dunlora Forest and Foothills Crossing. That means Albemarle is not building at the residential density levels called for in the Comprehensive Plan.
“The dilemma we have is that we’re competing with by-right projects or projects that were approved with old cash proffers of $3,000,” Cetta said. “There’s just no way I can sell a house and add [nearly] $21,000 for a single-family home where a guy down the street doesn’t have to pay anything.”
Staff had recommended proceeding with the rezoning, but commissioners were concerned about changing a policy that was created to help mitigate the impacts of new development.
“I realize the new state law says it has to be capacity-building, but we’re indebted now and we’ll continue to go in debt if we pursue this policy,” Lafferty said.
Deputy County Attorney Greg Kamptner pointed out that the proffer policy was never intended to cover all costs associated with development.
“The cash proffer policy didn’t capture all of the impacts, but based on the modeling available and the political consideration, it was an attempt to address them,” Kamptner said.
Many commissioners wanted to ask if the development’s impacts on the community could be reconsidered.
“One of the issues we’ve been woefully behind in our area are basic pedestrian infrastructure,” said Commissioner Pam Reilly, adding that Cetta might be persuaded to build a sidewalk to Cale Elementary School.
Valerie Long of Williams Mullen represents Cetta and pointed out the development would already add sidewalks to both Route 20 and Avon Street Extended.
“Obviously that doesn’t solve the whole problem but it’s a step in the right direction,” Long said. “We’re obviously sympathetic to the needs the county is facing in terms of infrastructure.”
Some commissioners said they understood Cetta’s position, but they felt they needed to wait until they have a full discussion on the proffer policy.
“I think some reduction is probably necessary, but we don’t have an analysis to tell us by how much,” said Commissioner Bruce Dotson. “We’ve not had the additional information that we have requested.”
The rezoning will move on to the Board of Supervisors, but no date has been set.
Meanwhile, legislation is pending before the General Assembly that could force localities across Virginia to rewrite their cash-proffer policies.
HB770 and SB549 would restrict proffers further by only allowing proffers to be collected to mitigate the effect of the specific development and not the county as a whole. The House of Delegates approved the Senate version of the bill Tuesday on a 72-to-26 margin, with two ab-stentions. The House version is awaiting action by the Local Government committee.
However, the Senate version of the bill would only affect rezonings submitted after July 1, 2016.