The Commonwealth of Virginia's Ultimate Blog

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Kaine announces support for slowing growth

I knew from the rhetoric on the campaign trail that Kaine was considering this, but his speech on Monday makes it clear that the Kaine administration will be supporting strong curbs on new development:
"In a 37-minute speech to the General Assembly, Kaine (D) proposed giving local governments more power to slow growth, require traffic studies and coordinate with transportation planners. Reprising a popular line from his 2005 campaign speeches, he said money alone would not clear roads."
As one who grew up in Northern Virginia, and will be returning there soon, I have to admit I'm of two minds about allowing localities to limit growth, which I'll try and lay out below:
Traffic in Northern Virginia (and recently, Richmond and Norfolk) is a mess. New housing fast outpaces road construction, and barring the miraculous construction of mass-transit, a curb on new development is necessary until the road system can catch up with at least current development. To the extent that counties like Arlington and Alexandria, which are somewhat effectively served by Metro, wish to allow more dense housing close-in, that's fine. But when one lives 15 miles outside DC (Reston, Great Falls, McLean, Springfield, Vienna) and the commute can stretch over an hour, something has to be done.
Idealogically, I'm not thrilled with the idea of government telling business what it can and can't do as property owners. More realistically, I'm worried that a cap on new housing is going to exacerbate the problem of too little affordable housing. No matter what they say, localities are always going to welcome in high-cost housing, because the increased tax base more than supports the costs of additional schools, etc. as well as drives up median income figures, supports businesses, and the like. But those same counties are much more likely to disallow higher density housing, which would create more traffic on less land, and might be a net drain on county financial resources. People are commuting into DC and NoVa from West Virginia already -- can we afford to make it any worse?


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