General Assembly Passes Proffers Bill

The General Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill that would limit localities’ ability to negotiate and accept proffers, an important tool in the Loudoun County’s ability to keep up with its explosive growth.

Loudoun supervisors and staff members are still grappling with the implications of the bill, but county leaders have been unanimous and strident in their objections. Several have spent time in Richmond meeting with legislators to try to amend what they see as some of the most damaging parts of the bill.

Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-32) has fought the bill as it progressed through the House. He said the county needs flexibility in the proffer system to keep up with growth.

“The citizens are still going to demand all of those amenities or improvements,” Greason said. “We’re simply going to have to pay for them across all of the community through higher taxes, and that’s just not something I think is good. The existing homeowners will have to pay for the improvements associated with the new development.”

Proffers are agreements struck between developers and the county to offset the impact of new developments on the county’s services, amenities, and infrastructure. In Loudoun, they are routinely a part of the rezoning requests developers make to allow them to build at higher densities than permitted under their property’s current zoning.

The first draft of the bill was written by the Homebuilders Association of Virginia. HBAV Vice President Ryan Flogale argued that proffers, which are calculated as dollar figures on a per-unit basis, drive up the bottom line to developers and the price to consumers. But Greason and others have said, if proffers are putting pressure on developers, it doesn’t seem to be slowing down development in Loudoun.

Legislators and supervisors have also pointed out that under the bill’s rules, the county is forbidden from accepting any proffer arrangement that isn’t specifically exempted in the text of the bill—even if developers raise the idea first.

“They’re trying to sell homes,” Greason said. “So they want to add additional improvements and additional amenities, and things that might attract the next buyer into the community.”

Loudoun Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) has used every opportunity to speak out against the bill. Buona said at a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce event this morning that the bill might mean the Board of Supervisors approves very few rezonings in the future.

“Not that we necessarily think that’s in the best interests of the county,” Buona said. “But these bills have unintended consequences, and it may backfire what they were trying to accomplish if we have to sit here and say no to everything. I don’t want want to do that, but if we can’t accept everything, and we can’t afford to build everything, we may be backed into a corner.”

The bill is now awaiting a signature by the governor.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors has directed the county staff to draw up a study on the fiscal impact of the bill to Loudoun County to send to the governor and the Loudoun delegation to the General Assembly.

[Read more about the board’s work to put a dollar figure on the proffers bill.]

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