By. Neil Williamson, President
As a part of the Free Enterprise Forum mission to inform the public, we posed five questions to the eight candidates for Albemarle Board of Supervisors. Other than minor formatting, the candidate answers are reprinted exactly as they responded. One question will be answered by each of the candidates each day this week.
- Economic Development Monday
- Transportation Tuesday
- Development Area Expansion Wednesday
- Environmental Mandates Thursday
- Proffer Policy Friday
5. Albemarle County has an aggressive cash proffer policy on top of an inclusionary affordable housing mandate that requires 15% of any new development be “affordable” What is your opinion of these “voluntary” proffers?
Cindi Burket – I think proffers are too high. We should at the very least go back and crunch the numbers that determine the cost of proffers, but should analyze the effect that proffers have on the cost of affordable housing and perhaps the unintended consequences of builders skipping the rezoning process because of the proffer fees. I think we should look at the entire process
Jane Dittmar: Cash proffers pass through to homeowners or leases of commercial space. When we began using them here in Albemarle County, they were $3,500 per housing unit and now hover around $17,500. For perspective, Fairfax County now charges $35,000. The question that I ask is should all property owners subsidize the cost of growth or should individual projects help defray some of it? We need to study this carefully.
Some have suggested that cash proffers may result in less density than we want in certain projects and others suggest that they may be impacting affordable housing in a negative way. I know of many police, fire, nurses and teachers who can’t afford a home in the County they serve. I will be study this issue if elected to arrive at the most beneficial formula for the county.
Samuel Miller District
Duane Snow: I would hardly call them voluntary. The more proffers required, has the adverse effect of making the house less affordable. However, I do understand the necessity of those that are doing the development and those that are moving here to share in the responsibility to fund the infrastructure that is required.
I believe that we should review the proffer requirements periodically with public input.
Liz Palmer: I’m certainly open to suggestions for changes to the proffer policies and system. However, my history at the Service Authority shows that I favor having “growth pay for growth.” The fiscal impact analysis is easier to do on additions to a water and sewer system than on the entire spectrum of county responsibilities, I realize. But a similar policy of shared responsibility for the fiscal impact of new development should direct the proffer system.
Generally, I favor tax or fee systems that are fair and that are uniformly applied so that every developer, for example, knows the rules about affordable housing before he/she considers a development and is certain that every other developer faces the same requirement. Requirements should be clear and predictable.
Brad Sheffield: The requirement of affordability has been constantly debated nationally at all levels of court. I am not sure how effective the County’s requirement has been, so I would want to first assess the impacts. Given the down turn of home construction in 2008 and the shift in types of desired developments, I believe we need to take a short term look at the impacts and possibly revise our policy on those findings.
As for “cash proffers,” I can understand both sides of the discussion. I do believe we need to have a serious discussion of proffers. I have worked on many projects related to all types of development fees. There are a lot of other options we could explore. I believe the market for developing homes has shifted significantly. We need to adjust our policies accordingly.
Rodney Thomas: I personally feel that 15% designated to the affordable housing is fair. By doing this, add more density for the developer.
Jack Jouett District
Diantha McKeel: Proffers have unintended consequences and I do not believe growth pays entirely for growth, especially in the shorter term. We must support reasonable and smart economic development and take the pressure off property taxes.
We have a need in our community for workforce housing and it is conceivable that creative public private partnerships (proffers) offer a solution. This is an area that is ripe for additional research and study that would include an analysis of best practices in Virginia and around the country.
This is an important public policy area where a broad diversity of expertise can lead to solutions that solve and not create problems. One approach I strongly favor is to utilize my Common Ground Council, which includes business and community representatives, to discuss how we can best address the need for affordable housing and how public private partnerships can be constructed to meet this vital community need.
Does it adjust to overall economic changes?
Where does this work best? Why used for certain projects and not others?
Can we legally defend using for one but not another? Does it prevent needed economic growth?
The candidates have done their work – now it is up to you the voters. Please vote on November 5th.
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non partisan public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credits : Candidate Websites, Facebook, Newsplex