House Passes Proffer Limitations

Update Feb. 9: This article has been updated here.

The House of Delegates this morning passed a bill that Loudoun County supervisors and staff have fought since its introduction, and which would limit proffer agreements with developers.

Board members and county staff have made frequent trips to Richmond since this year’s session began to try to stop Woodstock Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-15)’s House Bill 770, which was written by the Homebuilders Association of Virginia.

The bill limits the scope of proffers that counties can ask or accept from developers hoping to rezone and build. Supervisors say it would put the kibosh on creative deals like having Brambleton developers build a library in exchange for higher housing density.

Seeing no hope of defeating the bill, county representatives have instead focused on pulling its teeth, creating exceptions in the bill that protect Loudoun’s highest priority interests, including an exception for the tax districts surrounding Metro stations. As the county that accepts the most proffers in the state, Loudoun is the most vulnerable to the bill’s impacts.

Read more about the bill here.

“Do they understand that we actually have current applications for proffers that would help fund a university campus here in Loudoun, willingly offered by the developer, that this would make illegal?” asked Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) in a board meeting before the General Assembly vote. “Do they realize that stopping a university campus on the Silver Line would fundamentally disrupt our competitiveness, not only in the region, but nationwide?”

Meyers referred to an application that would construct a campus of George Mason University near Broadlands on Mooreview Parkway.

Among local delegates, Dels. Kathleen Murphy (D-34), James M. LeMunyon (R-67), Jennifer B. Boysko (D-86), and John J. Bell (D-87) voted against the measure. Del. J. Randall Minchew (R-10) abstained, and Del. Thomas A “Tag” Greason (R-32) did not vote.

Only Del. Dave A. LaRock (R-33) voted aye. He said the bill had been adjusted to watch out for Loudoun’s interests and reached a balance.

“We don’t want to make it impossible to develop,” said LaRock, who owns custom homebuilder LaRock Builders. “I think proffers in some areas can go as high as $60,000 per lot, and it can really become prohibitive.”

Asking too much in proffers, he said, drives up home prices and hurts the local economy.

“Every time we cause a developer to add another $5,000 or whatever to get paid in proffers, then that’s $5,000 he’s going to add to the home,” LaRock said. “If you have affordable homes, you can draw the workforce to the area that you need to expand business.”

The bill’s senate counterpart has been engrossed, which usually means a vote on the bill on the next day the General Assembly convenes.