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Is tide turning for smart growth? Feb. 9, 2006

It appears the tide on smart growth might be turning in Suffolk’s direction.

For the year’s the city has lobbied the General Assembly for the ability to impose impact fees on developers of subdivisions to help pay for infrastructure improvements needed to support the population increase.

Every new subdivision adds to stress on the roads, schools, public works, etc. Until now, Suffolk taxpayers have had to just suck it up and pay for the improvements.

The proposal never got anywhere in the General Assembly because real estate developers and builders opposed the bill and they are about the biggest contributors to state political campaigns. Any delegate or senator who actively supported such a proposal knows he could wind up not getting that big check for his next campaign.

I was at the General Assembly last year or the year before (I can’t recall, it’s tough getting old), when Sen. Fred Quayle introduced the measure to his committee, as he is required to. You could tell it pained him to propose it. It died quickly.

Anyway, whether it was Gov. Kaine coming out in support of smart growth measures during his campaign, or the realization that we are in for massive tax increases to fund necessary transportation improvements, those who have historically opposed such measures, are now not so fervent in their opposition.

As a result, this year’s proposal that would allow Suffolk to impose impact fees on developers for transportation needs actually got out of committee earlier this week and will come to the full Senate.

That’s the farthest the bill has every gotten. While I think the chances are still slim of it being enacted, city officials are optimistic that it will be, “You have to be in this business,” Assistant City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn told me this morning.

Everyone in Suffolk should hope her optimism is well placed. The measure would benefit us all.