Just weeks before Virginia’s new proffer limitation law goes into effect, Loudoun leaders have entered another battle with the state’s homebuilder lobby in Richmond. This time, they say, it is not the fiscal health of local governments that is at stake, but the public’s safety—a core government function.
You’re not likely to hear many businesses, or even members of the public, come to the defense of their local Fire Marshal’s Office, but the work done there is important. And when the county’s top public safety administrators raise the alarm we should pay attention.
The last time local leaders squared off with state homebuilders they were pushing for construction material standards that would give first responders a fighting chance of extinguishing house fires before melting rafters brought the ceilings down. The homebuilders won that battle.
Earlier this year, Loudoun supervisors went all in to battle the homebuilders’ bid to limit the types of proffers developers can give to governments to approve their rezoning requests. They lost that battle. Then they asked for the governor’s veto and lost that, too. That law takes effect July 1. Local leaders—and many local developers—continue to predict it will have dire consequences, but the analysis commissioned by the county to document the damage has yet to be published.
It is remarkable that the county’s voice is so easily ignored in these debates. No other jurisdiction in the commonwealth deals with development on a scale close to Loudoun, yet it is the interests of those downstate who operate in entirely different building environments that control the debate—and, in fact, the legislative process.
That’s got to change—and not just for the good of Loudoun residents and property owners, but also to ensure the state’s chief economic engine is not strangled by long-distance regulatory tampering. The two sides must work to find more common ground—or at least a better understanding of the challenges each side faces. That division should not be allowed to grow; we know who will lose if it does.