RA, Other Groups Ask for Changes to Proffer Bills

Virginia State Capitol, RichmondSeveral Reston-area organizations are appealing to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to veto or amend bills that recently passed the Virginia House and Senate that limits the amount of proffers localities can for from developers.

The final versions of the bills are expected to go to the governor to be signed into law as soon as this week.

Limiting local government’s ability to ask for proffers could have a big impact in Reston, which is undergoing a period of multifamily housing growth in the areas around Metro stations at Wiehle-Reston East and Reston Town Center.

However, according to the Senate bill, restrictions would not increase in areas in direct proximity to Metro, where much of Reston’s future development will occur.

Proffers are concessions local governments ask for from developers in exchange for development. Proffers can be anything from road improvements to traffic mitigation to money for a new recreation center or school.

Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) voted in favor of the House version of the bill. He said on Monday that House members were previously assured that the deal would not have an effect on Fairfax County’s interests.

“Since then time, the story seems to have changed,” said Plum. “What I trust is going to happen is when the bills cross between the House and the Senate, there will be accommodations. I trust we can get it done.”

Plum says the bills’ intent was primarily aimed at fast-growing counties near Richmond, where developers have been demanding cash proffers, which is driving up the cost of housing. In Fairfax, cash proffers are not allowed.

Reston Association Board President Ellen Graves sent a letter to McAuliffe last week saying the association “opposes the Proffer Reform Legislation (Senate Bill No. 549 and House Bill No. 770) as it is currently written because it adversely affects the ability of Reston Association, the county and a developer to mitigate impacts of residential development on Reston Association’s budget, facilities and programs.”

Reston Association would like the restricted area expanded to allow an exemption from the new rules within one mile (rather that one-quarter mile of a Metro station.

“Since Reston Association’s facilities, services and programs are technically not deemed ‘public’ facilities under the statute, any mitigation could unfortunately be deemed an unreasonable proffer,” wrote Graves. “We ask that [the legislation] be amended to provide that this legislation shall not apply to mixed use development or a plan that allows additional residential density, within one mile (rather than one-quarter mile) of an existing or planned Metrorail Station.”

Earlier, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors wrote to the Fairfax County General Assembly Delegation, asking them to “Please oppose HB 770/SB 549, or seek amendments to safeguard Fairfax County’s proffer authority.”

Wrote Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova:

“Virtually all development in the county is infill development. In these types of cases, proffers are critical in meeting infrastructure and compatibility needs of surrounding areas. If enacted, these bills may require us to rewrite entire sections of our Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance.”

Bulova says the proffer system provides an opportunity for developers to work with the county to address community concerns related to the increased density of such development.

Advocacy group Reston 2020 has also written to McAuliffe, saying “the draft legislation, as it stands, would severely impact the quality of life, even safety, throughout the entirety of our community well beyond the boundaries of our Metro stations.”

Reston 2020 says it understands there needs to be some controls over proffers due to “serious overreach” in other counties.

“However, this is not the case in Fairfax County,” Reston 2020 said. “Indeed, we believe Fairfax County should seek greater proffers or other similar arrangements with developers to offset the impact of their for-profit private development in our community given its expected intense development.”

Photo: Virginia Statehouse in Richmond/file photo

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