A Massive Denial Of Property Rights

The Board of Supervisors of Prince William County, Virginia, where I live, is threatening to put a halt to all new home construction in the county unless the State of Virginia gives it more money for transportation:

Prince William County supervisors, angry that the state government is not responding to residents tired of traffic congestion, say they will approve a radical plan Tuesday to halt construction of new homes in Virginia’s second-largest county.

In interviews, the seven board members said they will back a proposal by Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) to freeze residential development as a way to spur Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and the General Assembly to take action to improve Northern Virginia’s road network.

Whether Covington’s resolution can survive a possible legal challenge is uncertain. County attorneys and other officials have been working all week on the wording of the resolution in anticipation of legal action by the building industry or the legislature. Virginia law generally protects the right of landowners to develop their property.

“I am hearing a lot of support for this on the street,” Covington said. “This is not taking away anyone’s property rights. People are just fed up with not having any action on improving the transportation infrastructure, and they are hoping that the governor and the General Assembly listen to us.”

I’m sorry Supervisor Covington, but what you’re talking about doing is taking away property rights. You would be telling property owners that they couldn’t build on their land. And what you’re proposing would have a real impact not only on developers but on the citizens of Prince William County:

[Jim Williams, executive vice president of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association] said the freeze would not only hurt builders and developers would also have a profound impact on regional employment and the economy. “I think we are going to see a high rate of impact in secondary markets,” he said, including employees of small businesses who depend on construction to survive, such as plumbers, electricians, carpet installers, dry wallers and painters. “If you clamp down on construction and are not creating that demand out there, everybody is going to be out of work.”

Well, if nothing else, that should clear up the traffic on the roads.

  • http://www.kipesquire.com KipEsquire

    “Virginia law generally protects the right of landowners to develop their property.”

    Moreover, the general rule* is that states have plenary authority over their political subdivisions. Virginia could not only nullify any such plot by the county board, but could also simply dissolve the county outright and start over. So the notion of a county holding its state hostage is a bit laughable, even by Virginia standards.

    *There are exceptions based on state constitutions (e.g., Colorado). I don’t know whether Virginia has a “home rule” provision in its state constitution.

  • Pingback: Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » Slow Growth Taking Over In D.C. Metro Area()