<bt>When Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland has an answer; he shares it with the community. When he doesn’t have the answer, he either resolves to get one, or explains who the appropriate source might be.
Such was the case at this week’s meeting of the Mount Vernon Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC). As the featured speaker, Hyland updated the audience about the status of activity on Route 1. He said that the county has been successful in attracting developers and changing the face of Route 1.
“Richmond Highway is a hot spot, and is viewed as a place for opportunity,” Hyland said. “We helped public safety by removing the things that are less than desirable and replacing with better,” Hyland said.
Regarding mass transit on Route 1, Hyland said that it’s “just a matter of time.”
“The Board of Supervisors has decided that rail should serve this part of the county. I’m just not sure where and when. I think we need rail down the center of Route 1.”
Hyland spoke about the development of the Army Museum at Fort Belvoir, saying that it will bring a million visitors into this area.
Regarding the future, the major challenge will be the budget — taking care of employees, particularly public safety employees. When Judy Schultheis, president of the CAC, later asked whey there is such a discrepancy between the salaries of firefighters and that of police officers, Hyland said, “They’re better lobbyists” and went on to explain how important it is to get involved politically.
Continuing with the budget, Hyland said that the challenge is the tremendous dependence on the real estate tax, an “unfair burden on the citizens.” He explained that the Board of Supervisors is committed to trying to reduce the tax rate, but that while they may reduce it by a few pennies, there will continue to be double-digit increases in assessment, so the net tax will still go up.
HYLAND IS FRUSTRATED by the fact that Virginia is a “Dillon State” where local governments "have only those powers that are expressly granted ... or implied" by the state legislature. Since Fairfax County is not allowed to collect revenues directly, and because it's a wealthier county, out of every dollar, only $.19 returns to the county.
When asked later why the ratio can’t be changed, Hyland said, “The General Assembly won’t change it. We’re only authorized to receive what the state gives us.”
He said that cities in Virginia have more authority than counties and has asked that Fairfax County be accorded the same authority as cities.
Other questions focused on the contribution of commercial properties to the real estate tax base. Hyland said that the goal is to have a mix of 25 percent commercial, 75 percent residential. The current mix, however, is 16 and 84.
“If we have that mix [25/75], we will have more help with taxes,” Hyland said. “As the commercial property values go up, the vacancy rates will start going down.”
There were three areas that Hyland was not familiar with. One was that of the swimming pool at Woodlawn Apartments that has been left filled and not covered for several years. Another was that of a dark parking lot at South County Government Center. He said that he would look into both of those issues. When asked about the legitimacy of free mailing for flyers of an educational foundation with the tax bill, Hyland suggested that the person follow up with Fairfax County School Board members.
WHEN ASKED ABOUT placing items of public record on the Web site, Hyland said that he would also follow up on that. Regarding the additional surplus properties that will accumulate after the centralization of the School Board offices, Hyland said that the supervisors would continue to save as much of it for park land and that when the surplus properties are returned to the Board of Supervisors for disposition, there will be public hearings and citizens will have a chance to decide.
He responded to a question about traffic court in this area, saying that he hasn’t given up, but that the courts were not in favor of it.
“If we have the right combination of a chief judge and staff, it will happen.” Hyland said.
He said that the citizens’ task force is continuing to meet about King’s Crossing and are working to get a consensus. He anticipates that it will be at least a year before everybody feels comfortable about what is being proposed.
“They are not satisfied with what the developer is proposing [mostly residential]. The community wants a town center type of development. This is the most important piece of property and we want something special,” Hyland said.
When asked about housing for seniors who want to downsize, but stay in the community, he suggested that they look into the new development being planned for Lorton. On the other side of the coin, addressing a woman who is concerned about her high rents, Hyland said that they are trying to keep existing affordable housing in the county, but that much of that is comprised of apartment buildings on Route 1.