County sets the cash proffer amount at current level

The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors (BOS) left  the cash proffer at its current $18,966 per new dwelling unit that will be built this year.  

That could change as early as July if the county’s Budget and Management Department is able to revise the current county policy.

The Chesterfield County budget staff annually calculates the impact of development of each residential dwelling unit on select capital facilities (roads, schools, parks, libraries and public safety) and evaluates the Board’s cash proffer policy for possible amendments.

After public wrangling through developer’s and business-group forums focused on eliminating or reducing the cash proffer, BOS first discussed the notion of adjusting the cash proffer policy and then adopted the current rate for this year. The Budget and Management Department was asked to come back in July with a plan.

Chesterfield’s Robert Olsen said, “That’s typical, they’ll do what they want while everyone’s on vacation and most people won’t know the difference.”

According to Chesterfield’s Budget and Management Department, the BOS can change their cash proffer policy each year and revise its maximum per-dwelling unit cash proffer amount that can be accepted from applicants seeking to rezone property.

Allen Carmody, director of the Budget and Management Department, said the actual cost, based on a complicated formula, of the impact of a new home or multi-family home for the fiscal year starting in July, is $19,743, which is 16.9 percent lower than last year’s calculated cost of $23,747. The change in the impact is a result of a reduction in the road component of the calculation.

The Board had the option to establish a maximum cash proffer amount up to the calculated cost of $19,743.

The BOS discussed alternatives to the cash proffer, as well as, how to replace the loss of revenue if the proffer was eliminated before voting.

Carmody said the Board had a number of options to evaluate the cash proffer.

The applicant (developer) could offer improvements such as, off site road improvements; offer a better quality project design standard; limit the number of bedrooms, for instance in an apartment community; or improve the quality of a community in a revitalization area.

Differential proffers, a term that means different proffers for different types of developments and houses, was a theme that occupied the discussion.

“There’s no reason that we can’t modernize our system, not do away with it but, modernize it and see how it comes out,” said Dan Gecker, supervisor of the Midlothian District. “It seems to me that we can get much more refined in our approach to this. Instead of looking backward at this we should look a little more forward.”

Supervisor Gecker said that a formula that would allow multi-family developments, which typically don’t add that many students to the schools would to pay less cash proffer.
“One of the things we hear is, if I’m building a 5,000 square foot house I’m paying the same proffer as a 1,500 square foot home,” Gecker said. “If we have all this data, and a number of jurisdictions have done this, there’s no reason we can’t modernize the system.”

Areas that are relatively built out and have schools, fire stations and roads are less expensive to develop. In the rural areas, development would involve building roads, schools, fire stations and other infrastructure.

“Firm rules are a better way to do it than do it case by case,” Gecker said.

The conversation was not meant to conclude during Wednesday’s meeting although many thought it would. The proffer citizens committee charged with recommending a solution for the proffer debate worked toward a deadline that would bring the issue to a vote on May 22.

“The model that we use is the same as the one we used in 1992,” said Steve Elswick, who represents the Matoaca District.

Not in lockstep with Gecker, Supervisor Elswick said “When you establish firm rules you really don’t have a handle on the actual cost,which are always changing.”

Jim Holland, Dale District Supervisor, added that there is not a trade-off on design standards.

“I would agree with that except the‘quality issue’ because that is a long-term impact on our county,” Holland said.

Another issue in Chesterfield according Elswick, is that in Henrico a developer can go through the zoning process and be building on their land in six months. He said he had spoken to at least one developer who said it could take two-to-three years in Chesterfield, so there is no way they can estimate their cost.

Chairman Dorothy Jaeckle weighed in the design standards issue saying that there would be no way that a builder could pay the current cash proffer and offer the same low-maintenance home that a $500,000 house would have.

Gecker responded that with a sliding scale of proffers a builder of lower income homes could use his proffer savings to use better materials.

The BOS finally came to the conclusion that they should refrain from making any decision until the budget and management department could put together a formula that would reflect the discussion that the Board completed at last week’s meeting. Further discussion or a vote on the direction of cash proffers would wait until July. Zoning cases have been piling up at the planning commission level although the BOS did not discuss the issue.   

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