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Paying for safety
Stafford reduces impact fees

Date published: 9/21/2012

LOCAL GOVERNMENT officials have a tricky job figuring out how to pay for growth. The Stafford County Board of Supervisors has been walking that tightrope now for quite a while, specifically in the area of roads.

Over the last three decades, growth in the county has ballooned the number of housing developments, the residents of which traverse winding roads better suited for wagons going 3 mph than SUVs traveling 45. In the last few years, the board imposed impact fees on developers who operate in two areas of the county--the George Washington and Hartwood districts--to try to raise revenues to fix some of those roads--or at least avoid piling more traffic onto them.

Last Tuesday, the board removed the impact fees in the George Washington District, retained them in Hartwood, and continued a discussion on a possible countywide fee. Why? Because road-impact fees assessed against development can act as a downward pressure on business growth and can therefore depress business tax revenue. This places more of a burden on homeowners to fill county coffers.

The board sees the potential for commercial growth in the GW district, while Hartwood remains largely rural. So the decision to abandon one fee and keep the other was logical.

That still leaves the problem, however, of the county's roads. Traveling roads like Poplar, Stefaniga, Mount Olive, and Mountain View is dicey at best; toss in bad weather and/or young drivers and they become stages on which tragedy is sure to play.

And that's just what has happened. Over the weekend, two young people were killed when a car driven by an 18-year-old ran off State Route 610 on a sharp curve. In 2004, Colonial Forge students Nerissa Hackman and Keith Lynch were killed while driving to school in an icy rain. Emily Dudenhefer, 17, also of Colonial Forge, died that same awful year.

Age-graduated driving laws--which in 2001 this newspaper vigorously and successfully advocated in the face of both bureaucratic and legislative resistance--have helped reduce teen driving deaths during the last decade. But there's more that adults can do to help. One is to straighten and widen those serpentine country roads.

But that takes money, and money is raised through taxes and fees. Figuring out just whose pocket to tap is a tough job, but it's one that can't be shirked.