Bill to control developers needs support

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 1, 2004

Two items in the news this week last week were intrinsically connected. Readers should take note.

Elsewhere on this page today, Suffolk Mayor E. Dana Dickens III makes a coherent, logical, well-reasoned plea for the General Assembly to support legislation empowering localities to delay residential development until the infrastructure is in place to serve it.

The Virginian-Pilot’s Pat Lackey on Thursday wrote a similarly piece, eloquently stating the Suffolk case, one that I wish I had written.

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The need for the legislation is easily apparent. Take a look at Suffolk. To deal with the rising public school student population that has resulted from the 1,300-plus new homes going up in our city each year, taxpayers last year dedicated a $10 million middle school. In a few short months, we’ll be dedicating a $50 million high school.

Faster than you can say Unified Development Ordinance, the new King’s Fork middle and high schools will reach critical mass. New schools will have to be built, by which time the price tags will have risen to $20 million and $75 million respectively.

That’s a lot of money, money that will not be available to provide the basic services that our citizens must have – marinas, championship golf courses and luxury hotels.

Seriously, it doesn’t take a Mars Rover scientist to figure out that without this legislation, somebody is going to have to come up with a big pile of money to pay the bills, and that somebody is you.

But, as Lackey noted on Thursday, this bill will never see the light of the day. The reason for this is the only point in Lackey’s column with which I disagree. He cites the conservatism of the General Assembly. I don’t think that’s it. First off, our General Assembly is not conservative by any stretch of the imagination. Conservatism is a common sense, relatively simple philosophy of government that calls for low taxes, reduced spending and little meddling in the lives of the citizenry.

The prevailing philosophy in Richmond and Washington these days calls for reduced taxes, increased spending, lavishing pork on special interests and the most intrusive meddling possible in the most intimate details of people’s lives. Conservatism, that is not. I don’t know what you call it but I know what it is – a recipe for disaster.

The reason the General Assembly won’t pass Suffolk’s bill is because of the second item that was in the news last week that I mentioned at the beginning – The Virginia Public Access Project’s release of gifts received by legislators and the sources of their campaign funding.

A quick scan of the list of the more than 100 lawmakers listed at shows that real estate/developers give more money to lawmakers than any other special interest outside of health care. Those folks oppose Suffolk’s bill and their bought-and-paid-for General Assembly will go to any lengths to protect their interests.

That’s an oversimplification and an unfair statement. Sen. Fred Quayle is introducing Suffolk’s bill on Tuesday and he is deserving of praise for putting the people’s interests ahead of those of the special interests. Others should follow his example.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or