Tysons Tax District Questioned

Tysons Tax District Questioned

Residents, Taxpayers Alliance oppose new taxes.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected shortly to create a tax “service” district in Tysons Corner that will fund 11 percent of the estimated $3 billion in transportation projects over the next 40 years as the giant redevelopment plan moves forward.

Walter Alcorn, who headed the Planning Commission’s Tysons Task Force, told the supervisors at the Oct. 16 meeting that though the tax district will provide a small percentage of the overall costs it was vital because the tax district will mean a “cash flow” that will allow transportation projects to move forward immediately.

The tax district was the most controversial aspect of the Tysons infrastructure funding proposal. The other controversial issue was a requirement that developers create a portion of subsidized housing even though Tysons is expected to have residents earning over $100,000 a year.

The plan that would grow Tysons over the next 40 years from a village of 17,000 permanent residents and 105,000 day workers to an employment Mecca of 200,000 and a residential population of 100,000 has the supervisors support and a public transportation survey in the county found a majority of residents backed transportation plans as well.

But for the 17,000 people now living Tysons the tax district is a painful decision because it means increased taxes in a county where taxes are already heavy and they will face the disruption of the construction projects.

THE TYSONS CORNER FUNDING plan was created by the Fairfax County Planning Commission after nearly 18 months of study. It envisions developers building the street grid system, but leaves to county tax payers ramps to the expanded roadway system. County tax payers are already on the hook for building four Metro Stations in Tysons Corner to service the Silver Line that is under construction.

The ambitious plan grew during one of the hottest housing booms of Fairfax’s history. Housing prices soared and equities grew. The boom in turn was fed by millions of dollars of federal and defense expenditures in Northern Virginia. Typical family real estate taxes grew as well from $2,400 a year to $4,800.

But in 2012, the hopes of that glorious vision have run into the reality of a post recession Northern Virginia and the tightening of federal expenditures that could spell limitations in the future.

The Metrorail has arrived and is slated to be completed some time in 2013; four stations in Tysons and one at Wiehle Avenue in Reston. In July, Loudoun County supervisors voted to buy into the Silver Line, which means its phase two project to Dulles airport will continue.

This phase two project is backed primarily by a special taxing district in Loudoun County and the drivers along the Dulles Toll Road.

As Thomas L. Cranmer, a director of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance wryly puts it, “the taxpayers have generously provided subway stops for developers.” He is one of a growing clique who thinks that Tysons redevelopment will be an economic disaster, based on faulty estimations of revenue.

IN AN INTERVIEW, Cranmer restated his objections to the plan:

  • Housing values have fallen due to recession, but the high taxes of the mid-2000s have remained high.

  • Federal government spending is growing tighter and the Department of Defense anticipates sharp cuts.

  • The office market, the very center of the notion of historic expansion for Tysons Corner, is down 17 percent and the federal workforce is contracting.

  • Large projects in nearby jurisdictions mean competitors for Tysons Corner. In Alexandria construction is under way on a 20-year, 300 acre project which will include high rise office buildings, perhaps an additional Metro stop and could attract a work force of 60,000. In Arlington, the county is working hard to repopulate the Crystal City development which until recently had a work force of some 60,000.

  • When the military’s Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC) moved 20,000 employees from Arlington to Alexandria, South Fairfax and Prince William County in 2010, it created a mini office building boom around Ft. Belvoir and increased development in Prince William County.