The measure, which critics say was quietly slipped into a transportation bill on behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell during the General Assembly's recently completed session, would require local governments to include the state's major transportation initiatives in their own development plans, even if the state's initiatives conflict with local priorities.
Localities that fail to adopt the state's initiatives would risk losing millions in state transportation funding, officials said.
The new rule would mean that Fairfax and Arlington counties would lose desperately needed transportation funding if they didn't go along with the state's desire to pare down development in the Tysons Corner area or agree to the widening of Interstate 66, critics said.
"What this in effect does is let Richmond tell Northern Virginia how they're going to develop," said Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee. "It's backward thinking. Government that is most effective is closest to the people."
The Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties are opposing the measure, urging lawmakers and McDonnell to alter the policy before it takes affect.
"It's putting major transportation and land use decisions at the local level in the hands of unelected officials that are appointed by the governor to serve on the Commonwealth Transportation Board," said Joe Lerch, director of environmental policy for the Virginia Municipal League, who agreed with critics who call the new rule an "unprecedented overreach."
But others said the state needs more power to plan for major roads without interference from local boards.
"We need road improvements, and we cannot allow the whim of any one particular jurisdiction to stop those road improvements, especially when they're important to the economic health of the entire region," said Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, a Republican.
Stewart pointed to the plans to build a road connecting Prince William County with Washington Dulles International Airport before a Loudoun County board delayed it.
The governor has yet to sign new rule into law, and state lawmakers may still carve out exceptions to the rule in the state's budget.