Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Kaine Proposes Local Controls

Gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine yesterday rolled out the idea of letting localities restrict development if it would overwhelm local roads, says the Washington Post. The proposal is being outlined in radio and TV ads in Northern Virginia.

In one new ad, the announcer says, "As you inch your way home in traffic, ask yourself, 'Is the problem that you don't pay enough taxes, or is it runaway development?' Then the candidate says: "We can't tax and pave our way out of traffic. I'm Tim Kaine. . . . I'll give your community more power to stop out-of-control development that increases traffic."

The Kilgore camp calls the idea more big gubmint. The homebuilders association doesn't like it either.
"We would vehemently oppose that legislative initiative, and it would be a silver bullet to the heart of the housing industry," said Mike Toalson, executive vice president of the association. Now, he said, local governments cannot simply reject rezoning because of potential road congestion, but in many cases, developers work with localities to reduce the their projects' impact on communities.

"If you give them the ability to just say no based on that single component, it's just going to encourage the very sprawl he and most Virginians are against," he said.


At 7:33 AM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

Ah, an adequate public facilities law. And if Kaine will support one based on roads, he will follow with an adequate public facilities law based on schools, fire stations, parks and libraries. Toalson is right -- the net effect of that can be that the counties say no and the homes are built in the next county even further out creating even longer commutes, and the homes that remain become even less affordable for working class families -- creating even longer commutes. I'm sure here on the PEC's sponosored blogspace it will prove a popular idea, but the economics are far more complicated.

It is however an interesting political move that could shake some things up in the high growth environs. Jim Bacon? You are exactly the kind of normally R voter Kaine is playing to -- are you buying?

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

Tim Kaine has gone astray. He's taken a populist, NIMBY-like position here. The problem in Virginia isn't "out of control" growth, and the solution isn't giving local governments the power to nix proposed developments that will generate negative traffic impacts. Kaine's proposal would simply give local governments power to block projects without enouraging them to make the kinds of positive changes they need to make.

I have to agree with Toalson here: Development will occur somewhere. If it's blocked by one locality, it will skip out to the next county on the metropolitan periphery -- creating even longer commutes and making transportation arteries even more congested.

I am very, very disappointed with Kaine's proposal here. I thought that Kaine understood the nature of the problem, but apparently he doesn't. The problem isn't growth. It's the pattern of growth. Development that is well designed and placed in favorable locations -- as opposed to the scattered, disconnected, low-density growth that takes place today -- will create a much smaller traffic footprint. The right kind of growth can reduce the number of auto trips that people take, reduce the length of those trips, and take those trips off the regional transportation grid.

Unfortunately, Kaine's proposal doesn't address the pattern of growth. Kaine offers no vision for a better way of doing things. His proposal will make housing more inaccessible, but it will do nothing to unclog our transportation arteries. While blocking a project in one location may prevent congestion from getting worse in that location, displacing growth to more distant locations will make the regional transportation system even more dysfunctional.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

How, exactly, can you possibly control the pattern of growth without blocking development in some locations and encouraging it in others?

And, if you do that, how will you compensate those people that are arbitrarily dismissed from the opportunities growth offers in favor of what someone else thinks is desirable?

If there is one thing history shows us, it is that attempts at market control lead to higher prices and inefficiency.

Kaine is completely off the map, here.

We know we are going to have 2 millon more residents. Allowing each jurisdiction say, "Not Here", does nothing to solve the problem. At present, more than 12,000 jurisdictions have some form of growth control, yet growth isw going to happen.

The Potomac News reports that a number of areas are planning new town centers, one of them will be located at the old Seven Corners location. Their plan is to build the infrastructure first, including two parks, to anchor the development.

What a concept.

But even here, a good portion of existing infrastructure is going to have to be entirely re-built. Two million more people are going to mean more infrastructure and more traffic. Get over it.

I still don't buy the idea that well designed development, necessarily results in a smaller traffic footprint. It is a seductive idea, but most recent studies dismiss the idea, saying the real driver on driving is more closely related to economic status.

In one case the travel patterns of the entire working populuation of one large company was studied for a number of years. In this study the growth in travel was related entirely to the growth in employment, and living locations were chosen based on a number of other factors, schools, public amenities, housing choices, location of spouses job. It is true, however, that rising gas prices will eventually cause people to consider their options more carefully.

If you put more people in one place or more jobs in one place, you will have more traffic in one place, usually we call that congestion. We know what a waste of time and resources that is, so now we have to figure out what other resources we are willing to trade in order to prevent that.

If we are going to have an adequate public facilities law, we will need a law requiring adequate facilities.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Mainly smoke and mirrors. Virginia law already permits all localities to include adequate public facilities (APF) requirements for all rezoning requests in their comprehensive plans. This power applies to schools, roads, etc. This legal authority has been confirmed in an attorney general's opinion.

However, as far as I have been able to discover, only the City of Chesapeake has included this requirement in its comprehensive plan. A tool has value only when used. The bottom line is that local government has considerable power to address APF today on rezoning requests, but prefers to blame the late Judge Dillon and the General Assembly for public infrastructure issues.

While nothing here addresses so-called development by right, most of the bigger developments in NoVA require some form of rezoning. If local elected officials were serious about the relationship between growth and infrastructure, they could act today. Moreover, if they all adopted and enforced APF requirements, there would be no "next county" for the added development. No developer that I'm aware of seems interested in limiting new construction to what can already be built under existing zoning.

It's time to stop the unfair slander of Judge Dillon by local Virginia officials. They are making positive decisions to permit development in locations with inadequate public facilities and simply trying to fool their constituents.

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