Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
More on the Growth Story
For background on this post, read this story. A lot of Supervisor Gary Jackson’s answers to my questions about that story were cut for length. I had a hard time deciding what not to use, so the editors took the knife to the story.
This is where this blog comes to benefit you all. I am including Mr. Jackson’s full answers to my questions, sent via e-mail.
1.Do you think that growth rate is continuing this year or dropping further amid the economic downturn?
I expect that Spotsylvania’s residential growth rate will continue to slow this year.
2. Is it a result of policy changes or just a reflection of the real-estate market?
Spotsylvania’s residential growth management policies have been very effective in reducing the rate of residential growth since 2002. I believe that problems within the U.S. financial system and the resulting slowdown in overall economic activity will have a much greater influence in terms of slowing the rate of residential growth in Spotsylvania for the foreseeable future.
3. Can you discuss some of the 2 percent growth policy changes supervisors enacted?
Spotsylvania’s 2% residential growth target was one of the most important features of the 2002 comprehensive plan and associated ordinance revisions. After years and years of unrestrained and costly residential growth, a new majority on the BOS resolved to heed overwhelming citizen demands to manage county’s rate of residential growth. Citizens were fed up with seeing their community in a constant state of transformation that was producing a diminished quality of life, loss of community character, strained natural and cultural resources, and rising taxes. There was also widespread frustration with the lack of basic infrastructure and the inability of our local government to provide services at a rate that corresponded to the growth in population. The 2% residential growth rate target was adopted because it was viewed as both responsible and sustainable. At the 2% level, it was determined that government services and infrastructure could keep pace with new growth and that unmet infrastructure needs could also be addressed.
4. What is the impact of these policy changes? Has the county been able to catch up with the slower growth. Can you talk about the pros and cons if any?
Spotsylvania s chief growth management policies include the 2% residential growth target, the requirement that growth pay its own way, and the 70/30 residential/commercial growth target.The Board has been fairly disciplined in the application of these policies and significant progress has been achieved. The rate of residential growth has gradually declined from around 6% to the targeted 2% level. The Board has adopted comprehensive proffer guidelines that have resulted in the collection of millions of dollars that help offset the capital costs associated with certain new developments. In addition, the 70/30 residential/commercial growth target is also trending in the right direction and has now increased to approximately the 82/18 level. The steady reduction in residential growth and associated service demands has allowed the Board to reallocate scarce resources to enhance services to existing residents. The significant growth in commercial and retail revenues has also allowed the Board to maintain relatively stable tax rates while steadily increasing spending on essential services such as public safety and education.
5. Finally, developers criticize the changes. They say this is why the county is having such serious budget problems now. There was a letter to the editor the other day about this. Do you agree with that or do you have a countering argument to the development community who say these policies have slowed revenues.
I disagree with the assertion that Spotsylvania s residential growth management policies have somehow caused its current budget problems. It is common knowledge that residential growth does not pay its own way. The costs of providing services to the typical residential dwelling far exceeds the revenues that may emanate from it. In addition, Spotsylvania is not alone in facing budget problems at this time. In fact, the Commonwealth of Virginia and nearly all of its local governments are facing similar budget challenges due to the turmoil in our financial system. If anything, I submit that Spotsylvania;s fiscally prudent growth management policies have helped to strengthen the county s financial position relative to its peers.