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Letter: Community Disconnect?

To the Editor:

The silly season is upon us, the time of year in which the Mount Vernon Council (MVCCA) passes budget resolutions in which it urges the Board of Supervisors to raise every conceivable tax so that sufficient funding is available for the progressive spending the MVCCA supports. This year is no different. In the March 2012 MVCCA Record, its Budget and Finance Committee has proposed a resolution that will have been voted upon this week by the time this letter is published.

The resolution discusses the work performed by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) at a forecasted cost of over $7 million. The FCEDA's work includes all manner of activities designed to attract new businesses into Fairfax County and assist existing businesses in expanding their operations in the County. The MVCCA resolution advocates eliminating the funding for the FCEDA. What could be more foolish than cutting the legs out from under a County agency which is directly responsible for priming the pump of the County's economic engine by attracting businesses that mightily contribute to our tax base and help keep citizen taxes low? I can't think of anything.

The resolution advocates enactment of a meals tax and increases in the BPOL tax. These taxes and tax increases can potentially reduce tourism and cause businesses attracted to the County's relatively low tax rates to either relocate elsewhere or not establish themselves in Fairfax County in the first place.

The resolution calls for using proposed funds for development of affordable housing at North Hill to be used instead for public safety, human services, and education. This mean-spirited song has been sung by the MVCCA over the past couple of years and evidences a disconnect between the leadership of the MVCCA and the community it purports to represent. The County is legally obligated to develop affordable housing at North Hill and any further delays just render that obligation more expensive. Of course, providing affordable housing at North Hill is also the right thing to do. Just ask Supervisor Hyland.

The resolution also advocates assessment and imposition of "transportation impact fees on any development needing a building permit." Currently, those fees are only assessed where the property owner needs a re-zoning, special exception or special permit. The MVCCA is advocating extending that obligation to by-right development. I haven't done the research, but I surmise such a step would require enabling legislation by the Virginia legislature. Moreover, this proposal appears to venture into the area of takings without compensation that are forbidden by the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Such a step would transform properties that may currently be developed "by-right" to properties that couldn't be so developed without paying the required fee.

In December, the MVCCA passed a resolution advocating having the County take over responsibility for repairs to sewer lines under a public street. This change is reported to potentially cost up to $18,000,000 per year. The MVCCA budget resolution fails to propose budget cuts to offset this additional expense. Unlike the U.S. Congress, the Board of Supervisors is required to balance the budget. Deficit spending is not permitted.

The County's public hearings on the Budget will occur April 10-12 before the Board of Supervisors. Those who wish to testify at those hearings should register as speakers and do their civic duty. One important reason to do so is to make sure the Board of Supervisors is reminded that the MVCCA does not represent the Mount Vernon community. It only represents the small percentage of residents whose neighborhood associations are MVCCA members. At that, insofar as community association representatives do not vote in accordance with the consensus of their respective communities, the MVCCA doesn't even represent them.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon