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ArlingtonPoliticsSenator: Governor needs to keep hands off local land-use powers

Senator: Governor needs to keep hands off local land-use powers

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She may not be entirely enraptured with the Arlington County Board’s Missing Middle proposal as currently conceived – more on that down below – but a prominent member of the Arlington legislative delegation believes the Youngkin administration needs to allow localities to find their own way in addressing housing needs.

Land use “is clearly a local issue,” state Sen. Barbara Favola said at the Dec. 15 meeting of the Kiwanis Club of South Arlington, where she was speaker.

Her comments came in response to a question about whether the governor’s plans to address housing in the upcoming 2023 General Assembly session dovetail with the proposal by Arlington leaders to effectively eliminate single-family zoning, an effort known as Missing Middle.

There has been some indication that Gov. Youngkin is amenable to relaxation of single-family zoning regulations, which would put him in league with County Board thinking. (Republican Glenn Youngkin on the same side of an issue as the Democratic Arlington County Board? Politics indeed makes for strange bedfellows.)


Favola said she had yet to study the governor’s proposals for addressing housing-affordability statewide. While welcoming some of the ideas that were being floated, she said that if they infringed on local authority, they’d be dead on arrival in the General Assembly.

“There is absolutely no way [Democrats] are going to trample on the authority of localities. It’s not going to happen,” said Favola, who was first elected to the legislature in 2011 after 14 years on the County Board.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the state Senate, usually enough to stop legislation the party does not like from reaching the governor’s desk.

Virginia is a so-called Dillon Rule state – where power is concentrated at the state level and localities have only the powers that are specifically delegated to them. But zoning is one area where the commonwealth’s local governments are able to wield a degree of autonomy.

Asked specifically about the Missing Middle proposal, Favola noted ultimately it is a County Board decision. But she also said the proposal, now slated for consideration early in the new year, probably deserved more time for scrutiny and revision, and voiced concern that countywide implementation could be a sledgehammer where a scalpel was needed.

“Where you do it, how you do it, probably deserves more consideration,” she said. “The goal is noble . . . but you’ve got to be a little careful.”

The 2023 General Assembly session, slated to run 46 days, will open in mid-January. But all eyes will also be looking ahead to next November, when all 100 House of Delegates seats and 40 state Senate seats statewide will be on the ballot and both parties will be looking to win control of the body they do not currently control.

Favola said she hoped progress would continue on funding housing initiatives in the coming session.

“There’s no place in the commonwealth that’s not hurting” when it comes to housing affordability, she said.

Favola has not announced whether she will seek re-election in 2023, but is expected to do so. An announcement could come at the January meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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