Letter to the Editor: Warren County beware: Development costs


It is a well-known fact, backed up by studies in Loudoun and Clarke counties, that development costs money. Warren County should be prepared for this when making land-use decisions that affect residents who have to pay forward for infrastructure and services that development requires.

It’s a fact that when infrastructure and maintenance of development costs are factored in, the county often comes up short, and raising taxes is the obvious way to bridge the gap. Studies have found that for every dollar paid in property tax, it costs the county $1.20 to provide services to each household. Agricultural land costs the county 23 cents per dollar paid in for taxes, a net revenue gain of 77 percent! Farmland requires minimal services: “cows don’t ride school buses.”

The financial expectations of increased county income from development will not equal enough income to take the burden off residents who are in the direct firing line of tax hikes to cover losses incurred by additional infrastructure, i.e. schools, roads, water, sewer, police, fire, trash and garbage, and increased need for a larger government with salaries and office space needed to oversee it. Once this expanding infrastructure is in place, it requires maintenance — more salaries, bigger loan repayments, building and plant maintenance.

As for the composite index, the state provides additional funding for county school systems based on a formula in which certain counties are subsidized with proportionally more state funds. One of the factors in this formula is the net worth of land. It’s obvious that an increase in commercial and industrial land, which sells by the square foot rather than by the acre, boosts the total land value of the county. So every acre of a county that’s commercially or industrially developed, or even rezoned for such use, elevates that county’s net land value into the realm of higher net worth, which means less state school funding.

Several counties surrounding Warren, i.e. Fauquier, Rappahannock and Clarke, have been aware of these facts and have factored them into their long range planning. So, Warren County, be careful what you wish [and vote] for!

Wingate Mackay-Smith, Clarke County