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Stafford proffers get new look

A two-year process of re-evaluating proffers in Stafford may soon end with some of those proffers increasing, largely because of transportation costs.

Proffers are voluntary cash or in-kind payments that developers give the county to offset a development’s impacts to county services. The county sets guidelines for developers to consider when they apply for rezoning.

The Finance, Audit and Budget Committee recently endorsed changes to the proffer guidelines, sending the matter to the Board of Supervisors for their July 1 meeting.

The committee recommended $55,540 in proffers for single-family residential units, which represents an increase from the current $46,925 amount. The recommended amount for multi-family units of $27,688 would also increase the current $25,935 amount. If adopted, the changes would decrease the townhouse proffer guidelines from $40,338 to $29,577.

The Planning Commission had recommended much lower proffer amounts than those approved by the committee. But the commission’s recommendation did not incorporate transportation into the proffer amounts, which the committee threw back in.

The $55,540 proffer for single-family units, for example, incorporates a $15,814 proffer for transportation.

“The Planning Commission wanted to remove that [transportation category] because of the adoption of the impact fee by the county. The Finance, Audit and Budget Committee wanted to see it back in,” Erica Ehly, with Stafford’s Planning and Zoning Department, said.

All new residential structures in the county will still have to pay a $2,999 per unit transportation impact fee that was passed by supervisors last year to help pay for road work in the county.

If the proffer changes pass, an amount equal to the transportation impact fee would be deducted from the proffer for units that are covered by both.

Schools make up the largest share of the proffer amounts for each of the three types of dwelling units. School proffers are based on estimated costs to construct and equip elementary, middle and high schools, according to a staff report.

A variable in determining the school proffer is how many students each type of unit produces, which can be calculated in several ways. The amounts in the recommended proffers are based on student populations in new neighborhoods. Staff had previously offered two other alternatives to help determine the rate. Both of those alternatives factored in development throughout the county, rather than just new neighborhoods.

Supervisor Paul Milde has supported lowering the proffers as a way to reduce sprawl. He said there is currently pressure on by-right development in the county.

“Finding the balance is important,” Milde said.

County administration directed staff to reexamine the proffers in 2012. At that point, it was recommended that the proffers be revised primarily because the state directs that cash proffers can now only be applied toward capital improvement projects within the current capital improvement plan. The county had collected proffers based on future projects and project costs identified in the Comprehensive Plan, but weren’t necessarily included in the CIP.

The public will still have a chance to weigh in on the revisions.

At the finance committee meeting last Tuesday, Supervisor Cord Sterling said that he wanted some type of public input, whether that be through a public comment period or a public hearing. He said he will leave it to county staff to determine the best method for getting the public’s opinion.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975