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Letter: Adverse Actions Have Consequences

To the Editor:

Martin Tillett understandably wants to avoid having the downfall of the proposed Kings Crossing Town Center as his legacy in the civic arena. In prior letters to the Gazette, I've explained the role the Spring Bank Community Association (SBCA) played, under the leadership of Mr. Tillett and SBCA President David Dale in the demise of Kings Crossing (see my letter in the August 13, 2009 Gazette) and the resulting development of a Wal-Mart store on the property.

To be clear, SBCA wasn't solely responsible, but they were involved in the ultimate result. See the front page article in the July 30, 2009 Gazette. In the April, 2012 edition of the MVCCA Record, the minutes of its Environment & Recreation (E&R) Committee report on Mr. Tillett's presentation regarding the Fairchild property located behind the Spring Bank Wal-Mart. In the minutes, Mr. Tillett reported on the estimated $750,000 (in 2008) cost for stormwater control and stream restoration projects for the Fairchild property. His only comment reported in the minutes regarding the demise of Kings Crossing was "JPI [the developer that attempted to develop the Kings Crossing Town Center] abandoned its plan during an economic downturn."

For those who have forgotten, although JPI's proposals all complied with the requirements of the Comprehensive Plan concerning the ratio between commercial and residential components, a coalition that included SBCA and the MVCCA demanded a lower percentage of the residential component than JPI thought was economically feasible. This among other issues caused delays that resulted in the ultimate demise of the project when an economic downturn rendered it non-feasible. Quoting from a document released by JPI at the time (the JPI document): "In order to appease the Spring Bank's opposition to the overall unit count, JPI was forced to include large townhouses in place of multi-family. The site plan suffered greatly as the project became too heavily reliant upon the high end for-sale market."

JPI's proposal for Kings Crossing (as reported in the JPI document) included JPI paying for a complete stormwater management system and up to $500,000 for restoration of Quander Brook at the Fairchild property. When JPI announced in March 2008 that it would have to abandon the project, the very next month, Mr. Tillett asked the MVCCA to pass a resolution urging the County to fund the park on the Fairchild property. See MVCCA Record, April, 2008. The resolution was immediately enacted (E&R Resolution 2008-4). Now Mr. Tillett advocates that County funds be used to fund the stormwater controls, at a cost of at least $750,000, that JPI had agreed to provide at no taxpayer cost.

Civic activity is a serious business. Those who decide to involve themselves in civic activity must understand that irresponsible actions can lead to adverse consequences. The unreasonable opposition of SBCA and the MVCCA to the efforts of JPI to create the Kings Crossing Town Center introduced unexpected delays that contributed to failure of the proposed project. Since Wal-Mart is now a partial owner of the property and the property component north of Shields Avenue has been sold, that train has left the station never to return. With numerous projects competing for scarce County funds, a project that could have been completed at no expense to taxpayers but now must be carried out at significant County expense, should be given a lower priority, particularly where the very community that would most benefit from the expenditure contributed to the necessity of using County funds for that purpose. If irresponsible actions do not result in adverse consequences, civic activists will never learn from their irresponsible actions and reform their behavior.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon