Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
Q&A on UDAs
The public hearing on urban development areas is Tuesday night. Since last summer, the planning department has held community meetings, board work sessions and field trips on UDAs. But for some Spotsylvania residents, questions remain. You can click here for the planning department’s presentation at last month’s board meeting. And here’s a Q&A with Planning Director Wanda Parrish:
- How would a UDA affect assessments and taxes of property inside the area?
There will be no direct impact from the UDA designation on property owners within that area. UDAs and Future Land Uses are designated in the Comprehensive Plan. Comprehensive Plans do not in themselves affect assessments. Future assessments are based on sales of property that take place in the area. While assessments would not change simply because property is located within the UDA, the assessments could be impacted over time if demand for this land increases and surrounding comparable properties are selling for higher amounts. It is important to note that this could occur anyways since the UDAs are proposed within the growth boundary of the county and future demand may increase regardless of UDA designation.
- How would the UDAs affect property rights? Would landowners lose any rights?
The UDAs would result in no changes to the property rights that the landowners hold presently. They would not be obligated to develop their property and could continue to utilize it in the same way that they presently do. They can sell their land and they can divide it or develop it in under their current zoning.
- Would the UDAs make it easier or harder to sell land inside the areas?
If the intended use is the same as the existing use, the UDA designation should have no impact on a landowner’s ability to sell the land (i.e. selling a single family home to a new owner). The UDA designation would make the land more attractive to potential purchasers who want to develop in the traditional neighborhood development pattern that the County is encouraging within these areas.
- What sort of response have you received from county residents?
Generally there has been a positive response from the residents that have attended the County’s input and informational meetings. Over the course of the seven meetings that were held, about 100 individuals participated, some in multiple meetings. Many residents expressed appreciation that they were able to be involved in the planning process and that the County was being proactive in its planning. Others who may have opposed aspects of the proposal were happy with measures that were taken to reduce adverse impacts on neighboring properties. At the last public information meeting in particular, there were residents who expressed concerns about the potential impacts of the UDAs on property rights.
- Would developers be interested in these traditional neighborhood designs?
We are seeing developments of this nature already being proposed and constructed within the County. The Courthouse Village being developed and built by the W. J. Vakos Company has many of the important elements that would be expected of development proposals within the UDAs. Similarly, the Ni Village rezoning project proposed by the Luck Development Company also embraces a traditional neighborhood design and a mix of residential, commercial and office uses. In the past, Tricord has also proposed developments with these central tenets.
- Is this an effort to make Spotsylvania look just like northern Virginia?
It is important to realize that a large part of the motivation of this legislation is to ensure that Spotsylvania does not become like Northern Virginia as the UDAs are intended to channel growth into them so that the rural character of Spotsylvania County that lies outside of the Primary Development Boundary (water & sewer service area) can be preserved and not carved up into subdivisions through sprawl development. The UDAs themselves may well look like neighborhoods from Northern Virginia, which would represent the desired neighborhood for those residents as it is important to remember that the UDAs will be market driven. The County will not be constructing the UDAs, but rather will allow developers react to the market and propose developments that they can sell.
- Will UDAs add students to the schools?
No, the UDAs will not add any students to the school system over what we would expect to have without the UDAs. The UDAs deal with projected growth for the County rather than any ‘additional’ growth. The UDAs simply look to concentrate this growth within a smaller area of the County.
- Are there any benefits to the county for having UDAs?
The first benefit is the County’s conformity with the State Code that requires the adoption of UDAs for localities meeting certain criteria, including Spotsylvania. In the long run, UDAs can be expected to help reduce the cost of the provision of basic infrastructure and services. The greater population density means that fewer lane miles of road should be needed, emergency response times can be shorter, school bus rides and fuel costs can be reduced, among other benefits. These benefits will take time to realize, however, in the long run they can result in significant savings for the County as well as improved Levels of Service.