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Stafford planners endorse lower proffers

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New proffer guidelines that lower the amount of money developers would pay Stafford County are on their way to the Board of Supervisors for review.

The county Planning Commission approved the revised guidelines last Wednesday. The action by the planners is a recommendation, and supervisors have the final word.

Proffers are voluntary cash or in-kind payments that developers give the county in exchange for rezoning property. They are designed to help a locality offset the cost of building new schools and expanding county services to meet the needs of the new residents a development brings.

The Planning Commission met on the guidelines on Feb. 26 but deferred action to Wednesday’s meeting in order for the commission and the Fredericksburg Area Builders Association to hash out the details about how the proffers are calculated and other technical issues. The new guidelines also clear up some mathematical errors in the Feb. 26 proposal.

During the two-week deferral, the two groups discovered errors and had to recalculate and reduce the maximum proposed proffer cash guidelines.

The proposed changes per housing unit are:

Single-family home: Currently $46,925, reduced to $29,974.78;

Townhouse: Currently $40,338, reduced to $16,182.26;

Apartments or other multifamily dwellings: Currently $25,935, reduced to $15,101.54.

The decreased rates reflect the removal of transportation costs from the formula—the result of the county now being able to levy separate transportation impact fees—and what officials say is a more accurate method of calculating the number of schoolchildren likely to result from different types of developments.

The goal of the new guidelines is to “encourage zoning changes that are consistent with the future land use map in the Comprehensive Plan,” Jeff Harvey, director of planning and zoning, wrote in a memo to the commission.

In the winter of 2012, County Administrator Anthony Romanello asked county staff to look at the current proffers to see if they coincide with Stafford’s needs.

After a lengthy process, the Planning Commission and planning staff developed the new decreased proffers as well as a more clearly stated administrative process for rezoning applicants.

To determine how much money should be required from each dwelling type, the county looks at the population of a proposed development and the impact on services, such as schools and fire and rescue. Developers usually pass on most of the costs to the homebuyer or renter.

The transportation category is being removed from the proffer guidelines because supervisors last May adopted a transportation impact fee.

Beginning this May 20, residential developers will be charged $2,999 per dwelling to mitigate the costs of expanding existing roads or building new ones to handle the increased traffic their project brings.

Jessica Koers: 540/374-5444

jkoers@freelancestar.com

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