2007-10-31 / News

County board sets public hearing on impact fees

By Greg Pearson

Despite recommendations from a study committee and the planning commission, the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors seems to be leaning toward imposing some form of impact fees that could raise about $50 million to improve roads. The board set a public hearing date for Nov. 28.

Clover Hill Supervisor Art Warren seemed to speak for many on the board when he pointed out that impact fees have been a requested item on the board's legislative agenda for years. The General Assembly authorized that source of funding for roads earlier this year, and he wondered how the board couldn't use this tax authorization after lobbying for it.

"We've been looking for a way to level the playing field with proffers," said Warren. "The report [from the committee and commission] today is rather negative."

"We should use the tools the General Assembly gives us," added Board Chairman Kelly Miller.

Midlothian Supervisor Don Sowder pointed out the fee as recommended would be collected when applying for a building permit. "The fee is only collected when the property is divided," he said.

Supervisors Renny Humphrey and Dickie King agreed with the public hearing date. Since they are not running for re-election and their terms end this year, they are less vulnerable to criticism from the approximately 700 property owners that might be impacted.

There are a number of options that the board could adopt if it chooses to implement impact fees. The county staff's proposal would be levied against residential properties that were rezoned prior to the proffer system in 1992. The typical property owner would pay $5,820 to offset the cost of the roads. The board could raise another $100 million over 20 years by having those residential lots that have not yet been built on pay the difference between the proffer they've already agreed to pay and $8,942, the current road proffer amount. That option was not recommended by county staff.

Matoaca resident Brenda Stewart asked the board to consider holding citizen meetings before the supervisors vote on Nov. 28, calling the staff proposal "inadequate." Andrea Epps, who chaired the Chesterfield County Impact Fee Advisory Committee, also endorsed holding community meetings.

The staff plan would apply to land owned by nonprofit homebuilders, but would not affect commercial properties. If it did, retail sites that permit drive-thru restaurants and banks would dramatically increase the amount of impact fees that could be collected because they generate high traffic counts, which would be the basis of the fee.

At the November 2006 Transportation Summit, county staff presented nine options to raise $300-$500 million, but so far, the county has only signed an agreement with the Magnolia Green community to use $35 million from a Commercial Development Authority to improve Otterdale and Woolridge roads.

The county is also trying to interest roadbuilders in extending the Powhite Parkway as a toll road from its current end at Old Hundred Road to Route 360 near Grange Hall Elementary. To reconstruct a two-lane road costs $8 million per mile. To widen a two-lane road to four lanes costs $10 million while widening a four-lane road to six lanes costs $13 million.

At the commission's public hearing on impact fees on Oct. 16, the county meeting room was packed with affected landowners. Eighteen speakers uniformly called the fees "an unfair tax," particularly after paying taxes on the undeveloped land for years.

The committee report said such fees were not "equitable" or "administratively feasible." The committee also recommended establishing a task force to develop a "comprehensive plan for transportation," including the study of financing roads by a sales tax, gas tax or meals tax. It suggested that current savings from business taxes and a portion of real estate taxes could be earmarked for roads.

According to Assistant County Attorney Jeff Mincks, the county has approved residential zoning cases totaling about $300 million in proffers but only about $50 million has been collected in the building process. Proffers are paid when a building permit is applied for.

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