David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington has been on top of a story out of Virginia about a Virginia Tea Party group and its bizarre and seemingly anti-free market opposition to a state law forcing local governments to make room for dense growth.
The law – which was passed a few years ago by Republicans, as David notes – included a few provisions, but the one in question, which a longtime Northern Virginia Republican is seeking to overturn, required each locality to designate an “urban development area” in which it would allow medium density development. It appears that the original plan was to have an urban growth boundary too, outside of which development would be much harder, but I’m not sure that was included in the version that passed.
But whatever the rest of the law contained, Del. Robert G. Marshall and Virginia’s Campaign for Liberty are only opposing the provision that forces localities to provide upzoned land “sufficient to meet projected residential and commercial growth” for the next decade or two. I’ve read the bill (it’s relatively short), and the provision in question doesn’t even put a floor on density in the zoning area or cap the amount of parking allowed – all it does is force local governments to allow developers to build at higher densities. Here is, as far as I can tell, the strictest condition on the UDAs, which also have to allow mixed uses and smaller lot set-backs:
The comprehensive plan of a locality having a population of 130,000 or more persons shall provide for urban development areas that are appropriate for development at a density on the developable acreage of at least eight single-family residences, 12 townhouses, or 24 apartments, condominium units, or cooperative units per acre, and an authorized floor area ratio of at least 0.8 per acre for commercial development, or any proportional combination thereof.
The Tea Party and Del. Marshall want to make the program voluntary, essentially killing it. Despite what appears to me to be a move against liberty, the Tea Party affiliate is using the language of the free market to argue against state enforcement of the UDAs:
Speaker Howell is siding with big corporate developers and eco-extremists to rob you of the right to own and control the use of your private property.
He is blocking a critical piece of legislation that is vital to preserving the property rights of every Virginian.
If he has his way, you’ll be forced to forfeit your land in the suburbs for the development of high-density ‘urban development areas’ also called ’smart growth’.
This is a gross violation of property rights. The inalienable right to own and control the use of private property is perhaps the single most important principle responsible for the growth and prosperity of Virginia.
Thanks again to Greater Greater Washington for staying on top of this story. David’s blog and Washington City Paper‘s Lydia DePillis have been running laps around the Washington Post on land use/transpo coverage. I’m not old enough to remember a time when newspapers weren’t struggling, but I doubt that even in their heyday they were doing half as much reporting on these issues as David & Co. and Lydia do today.