“Eco-extremists” might lead to Virginia towns looking like this. Photo of Fredericksburg by richmanwisco on Flickr.

Claiming that “eco-extremists” want to force people to move into “feudalistic transit villages,” a Virginia tea party leader is attacking Virginia’s conservative House speaker for supporting a policy that loosens government regulation over development in some areas of the state.

The policy, known as “Urban Development Areas,” was pioneered by Republicans in the legislature. It requires each county to create a section in its comprehensive plan to accommodate growth in a smaller area, with fewer rules limiting property owners.

UDAs on their own don’t prohibit any development elsewhere. However, property owners would get more flexibility inside UDAs, such as looser stormwater requirements, less restrictive setback rules, and permission to build more housing units per acre. Roads laid out by local governments would better resemble traditional Virginia towns, and reduce the need for government to spend high amounts on power, water, sewer and road infrastructure. 

A bill in the Virginia legislature would let counties opt out of designating these areas. Speaker Bill Howell (R-Fredericksburg) has been opposing this bill. Donna Holt, leader of Virginia’s Campaign for Liberty, sent an email to Virginia tea party members making some astounding statements about the effects of UDAs:

If [Speaker Howell] has his way, you’ll be forced to forfeit your land in the suburbs for the development of high-density ‘urban development areas’ also called ‘smart growth’.

This is a gross violation of property rights. The inalienable right to own and control the use of private property is perhaps the single most important principle responsible for the growth and prosperity of Virginia. ...

You see the corporate developers stand to gain high profits from the construction of up to twelve homes on a single acre of land. They also get huge tax breaks for their green building practices in the “new urbanism design”.

Eco-extremists are heavily funded for their lobby efforts to grab and preserve up to 90% of all the land that would be off limits to humans and move you into high-density feudalistic transit villages.

They use global warming and environmental disaster to scare the citizens and politicians into abolishing private property ownership.

If they have their way, single family homes will be a thing of the past. We’d become mere lease holders of the homes we live in.

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.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.