Cash proffers hang in the balance: Committee reports

The committee  appointed to offer a recommendation on cash proffers were sitting side-by-side at the staff desk during last week’s Chesterfield Board of Supervisors’ meeting. Each of the committee members were questioned, in Senate hearing style, about how they voted to handle cash proffers going forward. The final vote among the five member committee was 3-2 in favor of a compromise policy.

The cash proffer helps offset the impact of a new home or dwelling unit, built in Chesterfield on schools, libraries, parks, fire stations and local road improvements. The proffer policy is also a tool that the county can use to regulate growth.

The current cash proffer is $18,866 per new home built, but the committee recommended reducing that amount by $7,000. On a 3-2 vote the committee offered a compromise, which was a reduction in the cash proffer by about 40 percent to $11,873.

Michael Jackson, who represented the Dale District, and offered the compromise was not physically at the meeting but could hear comments and speak through the PA. Jackson suggested that the cash proffer was not as important as it is made out to be.

“The percentage of the county budget that goes to capital improvements is only 1 percent of the [total budget],” Jackson said.  
While the committee was charged with analyzing the cash proffer system the group was conflicted about whether they were to offer revenue solutions. How would the county balance the loss of the cash proffer.

“I agree revenue replacement is a challenge,” said Bermuda Supervisor and Board Chairman Dorothy Jaeckle. “Back when my kids were in school [schools were] overcrowded, but now things have changed.”  Ms. Jaeckle said that school enrollment had leveled out or were losing students.

“We as a group are not telling you how to replace the revenue,” said Terri Cofer Beirne, who represented the Midlothian District. “I thought we should have [offered that solution.]
Each cash proffer committee member had a slightly or considerably different take depending on if they were in the majority on the committee or the minority.

Ms. Cofer Beirne added, “The state says proffers should be voluntary. Well, what’s voluntary about this proffer policy.” Cofer Beirne was questioning why the county’s planning staff will recommend denial of a zoning case if the developer doesn’t offer full cash proffers.

“You have the ability in your policy now to eliminate or lower or eliminate a cash proffer on any zoning case now,” said Paul Grasewicz, the former planning director for Powhatan County who represented the Clover Hill District on the panel. “The county could have a plan that could regulate growth, but the comprehensive plan has changed that.”

Dave Anderson, who represented the Bermuda District but does not live there, was one of the two minority votes. “There was a point, back in the Brandermill days [before cash proffers] when things [development] work well,” he said. “But as long as we have this tether [cash proffers] there will always be a dumbing down of the process.”

Lew Lassiter, who facilitated the cash proffer committee meeting asked the Supervisors to continued the conversation among themselves at their May 22 meeting.

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