Virginia Tea Party: GOP Development Policies = Eco-Extremism

A Virginia policy that loosens restrictions on development, allowing for more walkable conditions, is under attack by representatives of the state’s Tea Party movement.

Ironically, “Urban Development Areas” were pioneered by state Republicans to lift regulations such as minimum setbacks and maximum units per acre under certain circumstances. The state requires every county to establish an Urban Redevelopment Area, within which zoning restrictions on density may be relaxed. The areas do not impose any hard-and-fast mandates in the other direction, such as minimum density or maximum parking requirements.

According to state Tea Party leaders, this rather benign landscape is an example of the type of development "eco-extremists" like Republican legislators want to impose on Virginians. Photo: Greater Greater Washington

Nevertheless, the policy has inflamed the state’s Tea Party officials, who have characterized it as a plot by “eco-extremists” to establish “feudalistic transit villages.” Tea Party leaders are pushing hard for HB 1721, which would allow counties to opt out of the policy.

In an appeal for HB 1721, Donna Holt of Virginia’s Campaign for Liberty called the state’s policy “gross violation of property rights,” saying “if they have their way, single-family homes will be a thing of the past.”

David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington pushes back:

The claim that any of this would take anyone out of any homes is so ridiculous as to be laughable, except for the fact that the Tea Party groups have acquired significant influence over national and state legislators.

More ironic is the way Holt argues that property rights are “the single most important principle” in Virginia, but almost immediately then castigates “corporate developers” for wanting to maximize their own property rights.

It’d be fascinating to see what would happen if a property owner next door to Holt’s single-family home requested permission to have the right to put 12 homes on his or her one-acre property. I’m sure Holt would quickly insist that while property rights may be inalienable, the right to prevent any development denser than her own within viewing distance is even more inalienable than that.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space reports that grocer Winn Dixie is reorienting its produce displays toward the street, much like small grocers in New York City. Bike Delaware illustrates how the state’s commitment to cycling can be measured by the way it plows snow on the street. And Straight Outta Suburbia, drawing inspiration from Jane Jacobs, says the goal of cities should be auto-attrition, not auto elimination.