November 2010

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Reasons to Support HB92 and Oppose the UDA Mandate

1) Proponents of "sustainable development" are taking advantage of the UDA mandate to implement very strict land use regulations to achieve a political agenda that goes far beyond what the legislature intended.

2) In 1993, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order #12852 which created the President's Council for Sustainable Development. Their purpose was to translate the recommendations set forth in the 1992 United Nations' Agenda 21 into public policy administered by the federal government. Among the objectives of the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) were: 

  • To implement new policies for America as described in "Sustainable America - A New Consensus".
  • To use land use planning to control populations.
  • To establish "sustainable communities", also called smart growth, calling for high-density mixed use transit villages to handle future growth in localities across the nation.
  • To forever preserve rural areas and establish "wildlands" for more than 50% of the nations landscape with roadless areas that would be off limits to humans.
  • To create buffer zones for another 30% of the land between areas of high density and the wildlands.
  • To establish government funding to seek and acquire private land. They have stated in their documents that public ownership of land should be used to exercise urban and rural land reform.
  • To use incentives and disincentives to achieve the goals as set forth in Agenda 21. It was determined by members of the council that 67% of the recommendations could be implemented administratively using rule making authority at the local level.

3) The process used to develop the plans to meet the UDA mandate is of great concern. The decisions for the community are made by unelected facilitators of "stakeholder consensus councils" often called "steering committees". These facilitators are generally professional organizers of non-government organizations with a specific political agenda. They are paid $1 million or more by each locality for "visioning and planning projects" at taxpayer expense. The plans they present are merely a template for social engineering that is presented as the goal for every locality in our Commonwealth and across the nation.

The facilitators of these "steering committees" are the ones doing the steering and the plans are never voted on by the members. The outcome is pre-determined by the facilitator. Though their meetings are open to the public, they are void of any public input thus the questions and concerns of the true stakeholders in the community are never even heard. Any questions or expressed concerns by other members of these committees are marginalized and left unanswered.

The end result is the "vision" for the community in a "new comprehensive plan" that is presented to Boards of Supervisors and City Councils as the "consensus of the community" where they are rubber stamped to meet the mandate.

4) Low-income areas are generally being targeted for the establishment of the UDAs. High density development increases housing costs, thus taxes, which will displace many of the elderly and low-income families. Though subidies are offered for low income housing in the UDAs, other states claim it has never been enough to make housing affordable for low-income families and the cost to make homes more affordable for some are transferred to the cost of homes for others at an average of $100,000 per home.

5) All the funding, subsidies, and tax incentives for UDAs adds to the national debt at the expense of taxpayers.

6) There is a correlation between restrictive land use regulations and foreclosure rates. According to the leading housing data firm, Realty Trac, Virginia ranked 16th worst among all states in terms of its foreclosure rate in 2009.

Ronald Utt, Senior Research Fellow for The Heritage Foundation, recently did a study of foreclosure patterns and concluded that "the state's foreclosure problems stem from the state's exceptionally high home prices in comparison to the incomes of its residents, and these high home prices are due to land shortages caused by abusive zoning. "Housing is considered "affordable" if median home prices in an area are no more than three times the median household income in that area. This ratio is called the "median multiple"." What is considered affordable is a median multiple of 3.

California was one of the first states to adopt "sustainable community" polices more than two decades ago, commonly referred to as smart growth, imposing strict land use regulations to discourage building and growth. As a consequence, in 2006 and 2007, the median multiple in California soared to more than 10.

Such regulations spread rapidly to many other states and communities during the 1990s and 2000s. Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond warmly embraced them with similar consequences. In Northern Virginia the median multiple hit 5.6, Hampton Roads went to 4.7, and Richmond hit 4.1. As we continue to implement "smart growth" policies, this number is expected to rise.

7) The UDA mandate in a soft market forces localities to prohibit development outside the UDAs in order to meet the mandate.

8) There are many UDAs already established across the state that have been empty for a year or more.

9) UDAs should be driven by a free market. If UDAs have to be mandated, one can only conclude that:

  • There is no market for UDAs.
  • The community doesn't want it and doesn't feel it's appropriate for their locality.

10) The UDA mandate by the state usurps the power of local government and the citizens of the communities to make their own decisions for the community.

By Delegate Athey's own admission on December 2, 2010, the UDA mandate was imposed at the request of the Home Builders Association. Home Builders naturally benefit because low-income areas are the ones being targeted to establish UDAs. For every acre they purchase in areas where land is of a lesser value, they can build up to twelve homes. In addition, they receive huge tax incentives for the "new urbanism" designs, highly energy efficient homes, and green building practices that they would not otherwise receive.

11) In 2009, Realty Trac reported there were 16,687 homes in foreclosure in Virginia. In 2010, 1 in every 948 homes received a foreclosure filing with a sharp increase in December of 2010 when every 1 in 501 homes received foreclosure filing. At this rate of foreclosure and with so many homes already on the market, mandating UDAs will only add to inventory of unoccupied homes at a great risk to the economy. While it may be putting builders to work, we must also consider the burden to the taxpayer for the money that is funding this development through grants, subsidies, and tax incentives. Then there's the loans to finance construction to build more homes that there is no market for. Who will pay the construction loans if the homes don't sell and what will that mean to the economy in the long run? 

12) Making UDAs optional will allow localities to decide if the market will bear more development in those localities.

13) Mandating how and where we live erodes private property rights.

Combating Agenda 21 in Your Community

Now that you understand what Agenda 21 looks like on a global scale, I’m sure you are wondering if things you have been seeing and reading about in your community are somehow involved. Chances are, if you have questioned it, the groundwork has been laid and the process has begun.

Where do I start?

Why Virginia should repeal its income tax

I was recently asked why Virginians should support repealing the state income tax if we want our government to be able to fight back against the encroachments of the federal government.

I believe the question itself is based on two flawed premises: One, that government at the state level is inherently better than government at the federal level when, in fact, it is not any better (yet), it is only closer. And two, that our state government would be somehow unable to perform its essential functions even with significantly less revenue than it collects today.

The truth is that governments, both state and federal, will spend every dime we allow them to take from us and then some. It is up to us to determine how many dimes they may take and what we expect to get in return.

My response was as follows:

"As of this year there are currently nine states, including Tennessee and
Texas, which do not collect individual or corporate income taxes. One
could hardly say those states are failing to provide essential functions
of government. In fact, Texas has one of the lowest unemployment rates and
one of the highest economic growth rates in the country.

Income taxes are by no means the only method by which a state can collect
the funds necessary to perform its essential functions, but they are among
the most punitive taxes a state can levy against its citizens. Ask
yourself why we, as Virginians, would wish to punish those who earn money
or create jobs in Virginia?

It is true that citizens in Tennessee and Texas have complaints about the
levels of property and sales taxes that they pay, but those are taxes on
consumption, rather than production, which do not discourage the creation
of wealth in the way an income tax does.

Finally, I would point out that a 10th Amendment Revolution does us
precious little good if we win back our state's sovereignty only to find
out that the politicians in Richmond are as bad as or worse than those in
D.C. Sadly, in many respects that is the case.

By eliminating the income tax we accomplish two key objectives. We make
our state's business climate far more attractive to the sort of
entrepreneurs whose help we desperately need to create jobs and grow the
economy here in Virginia, and we shrink the pool of money that the
politicians in Richmond have to play with, forcing them to behave more
responsibly with our tax dollars than they do today.

We do not need Governor McDonnell handing out tax incentives to
politically-favored businesses, particularly multi-billion dollar global
corporations like Microsoft. Rather, he and his administration should be
working to remove the barrier to economic growth and job creation that the
income tax imposes, allowing Virginians and their hard-earned dollars to
decide what businesses will thrive here in our state."

In a state that spends nearly $14,000 per student per year on public education, only to watch more than 25% fail to finish high school, the question should never be whether the government has enough money, but rather just what exactly are they doing with it all?