With just a few weeks to go before a new state law threatens to tip the fragile fiscal balance of Loudoun’s development policies, the county government has rolled out a plan to limit its impact.
The county’s goal is to continue with business as usual as much as possible. That involves carrying forward with its sophisticated proffer formula aimed at assuring new development helps pay for the government services that will be needed by the residents and businesses who will move in. It’s a policy that has evolved over decades and has worked well, with both the public and private sector finding success.
The proffer system came under fire from down-state homebuilders who claimed their local government leaders often make unreasonable demands, stretching reach of conditional zoning beyond its intended limits. Loudoun’s government and business representatives argued, correctly, that our community was getting caught in the crossfire from far off battles.
To repair that damage, the Loudoun board now is looking to do some stretching of its own.
In the final version of the bill, state leaders agreed to exempt development along the Metro corridor from the new proffer restrictions, demonstrating a commitment to helping maximize the enormous investment being made to extend rail service deeper into Northern Virginia. Few legislators could have expected that exemption to be extended to all of eastern Loudoun; the bill surely would have been worded differently if that were their intent.
But that is the county’s new plan.
It may be a bold quick fix. Or it may be a temporary measure that will last only until the first developer with property not so near a Metro station asks a Circuit Court judge to take a closer look. If Loudoun is found to be pushing for a proffer grab beyond the limits established by the General Assembly, county leaders will have an even tougher road in seeking a reversal of the state’s original overreach.
County supervisors must carefully weigh that risk. Their lack of credibility with state legislators contributed to this problem; giving credence to the claims of critics won’t solve it.