David Alpert calls out Virginia Tea Party group as land use statists

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.

  • http://eozberk.tumblr.com/ Erkin

    I haven’t been following these tea party folks in VA on this but it sounds like they don’t have enough developer friends and are miffed no one invited them to the most recent land-use policy party. Although I do love the line: “you’ll be forced to forfeit your land in the suburbs for the development of high-density urban development areas”.

    Meanwhile, America’s property rights are rooted in agricultural production, which suburbia unequivocally destroys. Now American property is tied with consumption patterns that have an expiration date. What will the grandchildren of young Virginians be harvesting and manufacturing in their driveways and Best Buy parking lots?

  • Lydia

    Thanks Stephen :)

  • http://oldurbanist.blogspot.com/ Charlie

    There are clashing visions of what “liberty” involves here: a) the liberty of the individual property owner to do what he wants with his own property, or b) the liberty of the individual locality to determine its own land use regulations (which invariably come at the expense of individual property rights), rather than the state or Federal government.

    In my experience it is very common for otherwise conservative-leaning towns (typically bedroom communities on the fringes of metropolitan areas) to vociferously support b) — nominally for pro-local government reasons, but factually out of a NIMBY-like desire to “freeze” the development of the town so as to preserve those characteristics which drew the current residents to the area in the first place (and which they believe, erroneously or not, sustain their property values). There have been massive political and court battles over these very issues in states like Connecticut and New Jersey. The states, on the other hand, are not exactly property rights crusaders, but may be responding to pressing concerns of housing affordability and social justice. I don’t believe it all can easily be reduced to “statists” vs. “free marketers.”

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    I think you’re spot on here – except that few people would make the argument for local control while also spouting rhetoric about property rights as these VA Tea Partiers do.

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  • http://marketurbanism.com MarketUrbanism

    I felt compelled to categorize this post with “Free-market Impostors” http://marketurbanism.com/category/free-market-impostors/

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  • Arby

    You are missing the whole point. Have you not read about Agenda 21, the so called “sustainable living”. If you want to live without benefit of car in an area that government selects for you to live while giving up any and all property rights, more power to you. The tea parties want the United Nations out of our lives.

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