A lot happened in Richmond during the 59-day session of the Virginia General Assembly, which wrapped up March 11. While most legislation impacts all of us as residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia, here are some highlights of local note.
- 3,286 bills and resolutions were introduced.
- 1,920 bills were reviewed by county staff.
- 220 bills on which the Board of Supervisors provided formal positions.
- $100 billion biennium (two-year) statewide budget was approved.
Following much effort countywide to promote more state funding for schools, the new state budget that was passed includes a projected $21 million in anticipated additional state funding for Fairfax County Public Schools in the upcoming fiscal year 2017 (includes anticipated sales tax revenue). This includes partial restoration of state funding for FCPS support staff of more than $5 million each year of the budget, and FCPS’s share of the distribution of $194 million in lottery proceeds over two years to school districts.
For the past 40 years, using its broad authority to accept voluntary commitments from developers called proffered conditions, the county has been able to make sure that new residential development avoids negative impacts on the surrounding existing neighborhoods. These proffered commitments benefitted the neighborhoods surrounding the new residential development as their concerns were addressed in the zoning review process. Indeed, proffers have for many years been a successful and important tool in allowing for economic growth and development in our county. However, a new state law passed by the Virginia General Assembly provides that developers will now be precluded in certain circumstances from making certain types of voluntary commitments (and the county will be prohibited from accepting such commitments). Fairfax County leaders are working to understand the full impact of this new law, which takes effect for zoning applications filed on or after July 1, 2016.
Funding was approved for a plan to reduce congestion on I-66 inside the Beltway by widening a four mile stretch from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston, improving transit and adding new options for single drivers. Construction work will start in 2017 and the new lane will be open to traffic in 2019.
Proposed legislation was introduced governing short-term rentals in residential areas (such as Airbnb) that would have diminished local land use authority. After significant negotiation and effort, the legislation includes a study of the issue and a requirement that any related legislation be enacted by the General Assembly next year.
A bill was passed that removes the requirement for a public hearing (before a planning commission) on the location of telecommunications (cell) towers where they are already permitted by the local zoning regulations. The county had sought to maintain an exemption that would allow public input on these towers, but it was eliminated.