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Exchange on Sales Tax Enlivens Formerly Dull HOA Meeting

As president of Hallcrest Heights Associates (HHA), a homeowner association for a townhouse community with 158 residences in west McLean near the Dulles Toll Road, Clark Tyler was looking for a way to liven up the annual meeting.

“In the past, heavens, I’ve spent 12 years here dreading the thought of an annual meeting,” he said. “All they talked about was the audit and the budget, and they probably drew about 17 people. Who would go to a meeting like that?” he said.

Instead, Tyler looked for ways to make Hallcrest Heights’ annual meeting on Nov. 1 worth its residents’ time.

He prepared information about recent home sales and their effect on the average price of a home in Hallcrest Heights.

There was a list of home improvements that cost less than $500 that would benefit many of the residences in the townhouse community, which was built between 1969 and 1972.

“Most popular of all is the 10- to 12-page list of contractors and repair persons who have completed projects at Hallcrest,” said Tyler.

“Not to endorse anyone, but just [to list] people who have done work here that people were happy with. It is a clearinghouse for when you have termites, or a pinhole leak in your copper pipes,” he said.

Neighborhood directories were distributed, too.

WITH A VOTE ON THE HALF-CENT sales tax referendum scheduled just four days after the homeowners meeting, Tyler also invited Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Katherine K. Hanley (D) to answer questions about how such a tax would work.

She came, she spoke and she explained.

What neither Tyler nor Hanley expected was an unscheduled, unannounced and unexpected appearance by Virginia Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th), with an introduction by anti-tax activist Peter Ferrara, head of the Club for Growth.

Their exchange, although not completely welcomed, was civil, once Cuccinelli began to speak.

The issue of Rail to Dulles is deeply felt at Hallcrest, Tyler said.

“We sit at the confluence of two corridors [Dulles Toll Road and Route 123/Dolley Madison Boulevard] and two ‘bailout’ routes [Great Falls Street and Chain Bridge Road],” Tyler said.

“Those are our borders. When 123 and the Toll Road get clogged, that is where they go,” he said. And Rail to Dulles will be seen and heard, if not felt, from many of the residences. So the potential for an increase in noise has had the rapt attention of Tyler and the other HHA officers. “That’s what our issue is,” he said.

“On the Dulles thing, we are for that,” Tyler said. “Having access to Metro has a positive impact on our property values. But it can be done in such a way as to kill us.

“How to be for it, but not let it ruin us: That is our concern as a community,” he said.

AND 94 PEOPLE ATTENDED Hallcrest Heights’ annual meeting at Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, he said.

“That was the most anyone has ever had,” said Tyler. “That tells me people are interested, not in listening to an ideological discussion that doesn’t relate to property values” but in the other issues raised.

After Hanley took questions, at Ferrera’s insistence, Cuccinelli was introduced. Hallcrest Heights residents listened politely to a man who said he attended elementary and middle school in McLean.

Now he represents the Centreville area of Fairfax County in the state Senate.

He was elected on the resignation of Warren Barry.

TYLER, WHO SERVES on the McLean Citizens Association’s (MCA) transportation committee, had already heard Ferrara debate the sales tax issue at an MCA meeting, he said.

His purpose was to invite Hanley to the homeowners association meeting was that “she is one of the best at explaining all of the basics.”

What he did not want, he said, was an occasion in which two people were just “restating hardened positions.”

He lightened the moment by telling Cuccinelli that “if you ever think of the words ‘noise mitigation,’ you think of Hallcrest Heights.”

“In terms of people wanting to know about the structure, [Hanley] did a wonderful job,” Tyler said.

“It was kind of a dual thing; explaining about the sales tax, but we were very interested in having her be interested in our problems about the sound wall [for Metro at the Toll Road].”

TYLER ALSO PRESENTED plaques to McLean volunteer fireman Mike Paris, who performs part-time maintenance duties and security checks at Hallcrest; Randy and Frances Elsea of McLean Trash Services, who provide service to Hallcrest; and Jose Araujo of the design and location department of the Virginia Department of Transportation, who is working to resolve Hallcrest’s problem with water collecting at its entrance.

The Elseas, he said, “have pride in the community. It shows in the service they give. That is a really precious thing.”

Araujo “is a breath of fresh air. ... Here is a guy who calls me, and makes stuff happen. He is very hands-on and responsive,” Tyler said. “He followed through. A guy like that should be recognized.”

Paris “has been a blessing to this community,” he said.