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Public to have say in proffer discussion in Stafford

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A recommendation to increase most of the suggested cash proffers in Stafford County will soon be in front of the public.

The Stafford Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday that the recommendation should go to a public hearing, a step that is not required.

Proffers are voluntary cash or in-kind contributions that developers give the county to offset a development’s impacts to county services. The county sets proffer guidelines for developers to consider when they apply for rezoning. Those guidelines, according to staff, are a starting point in the discussion.

Developers can donate land, construct public facilities or contribute cash as a proffer. The cash proffer amounts suggested by the county are based on the different types of dwelling units that each development would create. Developers usually pass on most of the costs to homebuyers or renters.

The Finance, Audit and Budget Committee recently endorsed increasing the cash proffer amounts for two of the three types of dwelling units. Those recommendations, which supervisors sent to a public hearing, call for $55,540 for single-family units, $29,577 for townhomes and $27,688 for multifamily units. The current guidelines recommend $46,925 for single-family units, $40,338 for townhomes and $25,935 for multifamily units.

Townhomes would be the only kind of unit that would see a reduction in the recommended proffer amount due to fewer people “coming out of those units,” Sterling said.

Schools make up the largest share of the recommended proffer amounts for each of the three types of dwelling units. The school’s share of the recommended $55,540 cash proffer for single-family units, for example, would be $34,339.

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.

Most supervisors agreed with Supervisor Cord Sterling that all stakeholders who are affected by the developments should have a chance to weigh in on the changes.

“This is the chance … to send this recommendation to the public. I think we are going to get lots of different views,” Sterling said.

Supervisors Paul Milde and Laura Sellers wanted to defer the public hearing for another couple of months. Sellers wanted to ask for more information on the methodology, while Milde feared that a public hearing would bring the increased proffers one step closer to adoption.

Milde said that most of the rezoned developments in recent years have not paid the full amount of the current proffers, which are lower than the recommended amount.

“My point is, I’m not so sure that this has been effective one way or another.

“It doesn’t work. It promotes sprawl. People aren’t going to pay that [higher amounts] in rezoning. And that’s why in the past 10 years, the developments have been gobbling up our 3-acre lots,” Milde said. “I wanted more time to convince the board.”

County administration directed staff to re-examine 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.

Since supervisors last adopted cash proffer guidelines in 2005, the cash proffer amounts had adjusted based on a index that measured building costs. But the board hadn’t changed the base cash proffer numbers since 2005.

With the recommendations, the proffers would be tied to the CIP, and would be updated annually to reflect changes in the CIP as well as the index for building costs.

In the two years that the county has taken a second look at their proffers, the recommendations for the monetary contributions have bounced from lower amounts to their current higher numbers.

The Planning Commission had recommended much lower proffer amounts than those approved by the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee. But the commission’s recommendation didn’t incorporate a transportation category into the proffer amounts, which the committee threw back in.

The commission didn’t believe that a transportation category should be factored into the recommended proffer contributions due to the transportation impact fee passed by the county last year. That $2,999 per-unit transportation fee applies to all new residential structures and is expected to help pay for roadwork in the county.

But the Finance, Audit and Budget Committee felt that it was important to look at the impact of rezoning on the entire transportation network, staff said.

For those units that proffers and the transportation impact fee would apply to, the recommendations say that the transportation impact fee amount would be deducted from the proffer amount that the developer would have to pay.

The committee’s recommended cash proffer numbers also included information from the county’s most recent CIP. The Planning Commission’s recommendations were based on a previous CIP.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975

vremmers@freelancestar.com

 

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