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Strange Bedfellows: The New Virginia Politics of Growth

Outside the General Assembly building in Richmond this morning, more than 140 slow growth advocates, mostly from the outer ring of Washington suburbs, gathered to press for more local control over development. Egging them on and pledging support were the governor of Virginia and a collection of legislators who ordinarily do not appear on the same stage.

The woman standing next to me in the crowd, a slow-growth activist from Loudoun County, nudged her neighbor as Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) was introduced to the audience: "Is that the same Marshall who does all that anti-abortion stuff?" Oh, yes, came the answer. "Wow," said the Loudoun woman. "That's pretty strange."

Indeed, Marshall, one of Virginia's most avid and outspoken hardliners on abortion and other social issues, took an equally strong stand on curbing growth and making developers pay fees to cover the impact of their real estate ventures on surrounding communities.

And immediately after Marshall spoke, along came his ideological opposite, Delegate Brian Moran, the Alexandria Democrat, who noted the irony of the moment: "Moran and Marshall together--this is a historic occasion."

Will the legislature really give counties and communities new power to make developers pay for the impact of their building projects? Will Republicans shift gears and cede authority to local governments, something they have long resisted, despite their party's theoretical commitment to devolving power to the lowest possible level of government? All of that remains to be seen, and so far, the House is showing little interest in changing its stripes.

But Gov. Tim Kaine has the upper hand at the moment, and his appearance at today's rally was both conciliatory and confident. He's launching another round of the successful Town Hall shows that he put together after his election in November, and he'll use the sessions to put additional pressure on the legislature to move forward on transportation and land use in the next few weeks. This governor is moving quickly and decisively to come out of Mark Warner's shadow and establish himself as a credible force in the eyes of both Virginia residents and the Republican-dominated legislature.

By Marc Fisher |  February 7, 2006; 11:48 AM ET
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Some of the slow growth advocates seem to be saying that now that I built my McMansion on what used to be a farm, I don't want anybody else moving out here clogging up *my* roads.

The slow growth folks have been around here since the beginning of, well, growth. They didn't stop it then, but they sure as heck stopped the roads. They ain't gonna stop it now, but they will stop the roads.

Making life miserable for all the people by blocking the improvement of roads didn't stop the growth like they said it would 10 years ago. It just drains the economy of productivity and hurts the family when the parents can't get home to be with their kids.

Hey, Virginia. You need to fix the roads. Get a crowbar in your wallet and fix the roads. It's not about growth, it's about the people who live here now.

Posted by: Truth B Told | February 7, 2006 6:12 PM

Good Morning Marc:

For awhile yesterday I stood between you and Chris Jenkins as you each jotted notes and chatted with people in the crowd. It was a beautiful day for an unusual confluence of interests in Northern Virginia.

Usually, rallies like this address social issues that divide Democrats and Republicans. But the issue of managing growth before we spend more time in traffic than we do with our loved ones is a concern that almost uniquely crosses party lines. Mark Herring's decisive vicotory (62%) in a district where Republican's have held the senate seat for untold year, is very telling.

What is ironic, however, is that this is also a social issue after all -- it is about how we live in our communities with our neighbors, and about how we share the cost of preserving our quality of life and unite against those who come into our communities just to make a quick profit, leaving us with inadeaquate schools, parks, roads, sewers, and all the other services that our taxes support.

To "Truth B Told" I invite you to take a look at, where all the "strange bedfellows" are working together to make sure that our twin crises of growth and transportation are addressed in tandem.

Posted by: Deborah Reyher | February 8, 2006 8:58 AM

"slow growth" = snob zoning

The choice for the region is this: slow growth or affordable housing. Which one will it be?

Posted by: Jacknut | February 8, 2006 4:19 PM

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