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Tysons Tax: A Bitter But Necessary Pill

Resident says since state "all but abandoned us to find our own source of funds," tax in Tysons is necessary — but with it should come with more input from the people who live there.

Controversy has shrouded the planning process of Tysons once again, this time in protest to the long debated (over two years in fact) tax for infrastructure on all land owners in the district. At its heart opponents believe the tax is just another nuisance being imposed on them, and many say it should be the developers who pay for these costs, as they reap all the benefits. Some feel that Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors envisioned plans that were grand, but avoided figuring out a way to pay for it. They believe the unforeseen costs are now being passed onto the residents.

Those are interesting points, but sadly most who are arguing this case simply have not been in touch with the discussions and reality of the past three years. This is not saying they are incapable of understanding what is going on, it is that good information in context is often much less interesting. Why delve into the depths of what is involved and has been debated on a tax, when you can simply blame developers and call the whole plan a boondoggle doomed from the onset.

The Comprehensive plan, and the many months of planning that came there after have worked towards finding equitable solutions to funding, schedule, and needs in Tysons. Opponents are quick to point fingers at the most visible object of grievance, and this is what continues to happen time after time. Even more shocking is that most of the time the angst is being generated by people who don't even live in Tysons and are unaffected by these tax options and planning decisions.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting there were residents of Tysons who were against the tax. Then again, who in their right mind wouldn't try to avoid a new tax? I mean, the goal should always be to negotiate the minimum absolute need, right? So with that in mind, I can completely understand the protest to the tax. However, what these protesters continue to leave out is what the decisions of this Board, and ongoing funding provided by private developers, have meant to the values and marketability of their units in Tysons.

Since the Board pushed for the Silver Line's approval home values in Tysons have risen 25 percent, in some cases 50 percent. This at a time when most of the country saw values collapse. This is an illiquid value, but it is equity none the less. Beyond this, the rental value of their property, something that could make them money, has risen significantly paralleling and often exceeding rates in Reston.

How about the economic well being of the city? During the past three years several companies selected Tysons as their home to be close to Metro, within state-of-the-art buildings, and in an area which is growing and becoming a true urban core for business. This means more high paying jobs being located within short drives, or in some cases walks, for Tysons residents. The productivity gained from not having to drive 30 minutes to get a job is worth thousands of dollars in saved time, let alone the savings for travel that many who don't have the luxury of a next-door job market incur. These are all tangible benefits that residents are gaining through this process.

Now, I do have some serious qualms against the tax. While I am not as outraged as some that I didn't get to vote for this tax (blame an archaic state law for the reason why this won't be voted on), I am very disappointed that through out this process the voice of residents in Tysons isn't being listened to for which projects are needed, and when these improvements will occur. This has been highlighted by the disconnect that occurred in opposition to a toll road exit planned through one of the few green spaces in Tysons. It wasn't just the destruction of the park that opponents stood against, but the idea that one of the first steps to making Tysons more urban and resident friendly was to destroy something aesthetic to help commuters use cars more easily.

I am upset with Fairfax County that they continue to push for Route 7 to be widened, a project which will cost a half billion dollars and goes against the purpose of the comprehensive plan to promote safe alternative transportation options. It is more of the same, and sadly I believe it will be pushed to the top of the list of early projects that are deemed a "must have" because of the political connotations of its construction. We residents in Tysons deserve to have more of a say on Table 7, but instead we must continue to listen to transportation planners who have only one solution, more pavement.

As an agreement to this new tax, I believe the residents of Tysons should be given an elected chairman to vote on their behalf for matters involving public works projects within the district. This solution would ensure that Tysons' residents, those who are being taxed, are not consistently silenced by the much larger population of Fairfax living outside of Tysons.This tax is necessary. The state has all but abandoned us to find our own source of funds, regardless of how many times Governor McDonnell drops by to champion an accomplishment he had nothing to do with. Without a change in that dynamic, the big problems we have in Fairfax will need a local funding source in order to be solved.
I am a resident of Tysons, I plan on being so for many years, and I am for this tax.

Tysons Engineer is a resident of Tysons and has lived in Fairfax County for nearly 30 years. He is the founder of TheTysonsCorner.com, a website discussing community events and development activity in Tysons. He has no association with development projects in Fairfax County but is passionate about promoting responsible planning and communicating smart growth policies to residents of the County.

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Rob Jackson December 19, 2012 at 01:28 PM
The letter shows a lack of understanding of how state finances work. State money largely comes from NoVA. Fairfax County regularly produces c. 22-24% of the state personal income tax and 13-16% of the state sales tax revenues. Yet, we generally receive less than 10% of funding for most programs. It makes no sense to seek more funding from Richmond if we need to provide it. Cut out the middle man. Pay for it locally with the bulk coming from those who benefit most - Tysons landowners. Alternatively, don't build Tysons so densely. As far as Table 7 of the Comp Plan is concerned, the County held several years of public meetings and hearings where residents of Tysons could speak. Some did. May didn't. It's too late to argue about what is in the Plan. The Table lists projects that need to be completed including widening Route 7 west of Tysons. Tysons will generate more traffic, not less. Much will head west, such that Route 7 needs to be widened. If the road is not widened, where will all of the traffic go?
W. R. Knight December 19, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I have serious doubts that the majority of Tyson's residents will reap any of the benefits cited in this article. While I fortunately do not live in the Tyson's area, I know that I would resent anyone bringing new business to my neighborhood and I know that it would not benefit me in any way. So I find it hard to believe that more business in Tyson's will benefit the average Tyson's area home owner. Rising land values do no one any good until they sell the property; and if you don't want to move, the only "benefit" is higher real estate tax appraisals that cost you higher taxes (even without a surtax) plus more noise, more congestion and general nuisance. Most new "high paying" jobs created in Tyson's are likely to go to new arrivals in the area and not to long standing residents who are already employed elsewhere. Thus, to most there is no savings in commuting time, and the additional congestion may cost them additional commuting time to their current jobs. Retirees living in the Tyson's area, especially those living on fixed incomes, are likely to be hurt the most as they receive no benefits but have to pay higher real estate taxes due to rising land values PLUS a surtax. I have to agree with the argument that those who profit most from all the development should pay the most for it. And from my experience, it is the developers who profit the most. It's the developers, not the residents, who want all this new business, so let them pay for it.
Navid Roshan December 19, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Rob, that makes no sense. The fact that the state doesn't provide back an equitable share is justification to ask for themoney we are owed, not a reason to say to heck with it lets pay for everything on our own. if thats the case why be part of the commonwealth at all? Recoup all of our gas tax funds, secede from state responsibility on roads. What you proposes is we let Richmond off the hook, let them take our money and continue a cycle in which they rob us to pay for dumb projects abroad that dont create economic payback.
Navid Roshan December 19, 2012 at 03:01 PM
The single family view point does not allow you to view things through the eyes of a person who lives in a city. You say you dont want business in your town or neighborhood. That is not how city people see it. Business is a good thing, its what keeps this place from turning into a backwater. The closer the business the more opportunity to have a job at a close location. Its not about definitives of individual cases, it is about more options to find a good job close by. It is the opportunity to reduce your transportation costs which is a real tangible element of selection of your employment... atleast for people who are good with their money. Developers, as noted in this letter, are paying for far more than any city has ever required of developers. No city has ever been built this way. The residents were lumped into this for 2 reasons 1) A state law, being used as a defense by the GOP against smart growth, that does not allow partial taxation of some properties and not others. That is why a service district had to be formed, originally the plan was that only projects that seek rezoning would have to pay... but the governor stopped that, so now residents have to pay by state law 2) In order to provide early cash flow, though this is absurd because rezonings have already been approved, and that cash flow is more than available from Cap One and Arbor Row alone.
W. R. Knight December 19, 2012 at 03:11 PM
No, I am speaking for myself and how I would react. But while I am not a resident of Tyson's, we live close enough that we have several friends and acquaintances who do live there and know of none who don't feel the same way. I also know the kind of development going on in my neighborhood which is entirely residential. Many old houses being torn down and lots being clear cut to build new McMansions. The old neighborhood charm is slowly being destroyed. The noise, congestion and general nuisance of all the construction is resented by all the neighbors. The new McMansions are sold to newcomers to the neighborhood, not to any of the long standing residents. The only benefit to those of us who have been here a long time is rising land values (which, since we don't want to move, don't benefit us now) and rising tax assessments. And who reaps the greatest profits from all this development? Speculators and developers, of course.
Jeff Stark December 19, 2012 at 07:06 PM
The author of the letter cites the 25-50% increase in property values over the past few years, but conveniently forgets that residents are already paying higher taxes because of that increase. This tax would then be a double increase. And unlike income, provides no cash to pay for it. So now residents are becoming cash poorer. Fairfax County should be setting aside the already built-in tax increase and watching their spending throughout the rest of the County.
Navid Roshan December 19, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Assessments have lagged behind sales values actually. I think there would be an all out revolt if assessments jumped 25-50% in a year.
Terry Maynard December 19, 2012 at 10:33 PM
The author of this letter ignores, as Navid Roshan has in the past, that homeowners derive no opportunity (much the reality) for financial gain from paying the new taxes. Developers will re-develop their properties to much higher densities, rent that massive additional square footage increase at "premium" rates to willing clients & customers, and write off the cost of operating those businesses and the depreciation of their appreciating properties on their taxes. Moreover, as with Intelsat, new businesses there are being paid with County and Virginia taxpayer money (or being allowed not to pay their fair share of Virginia taxes) to set up shop there. And, as Rob Jackson points out above, NoVans--including those in Tysons--are already paying a disproportionate share of those state taxes. Condo residents have none of those options. Period. It is not FAIR. It is not EQUITABLE. It is a tax scam on Tysons homeowners.
Navid Roshan December 19, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Of which no one but me on this thread is one Terry. You scream bloody murder because of your agenda in Reston, not because of the specifics in Tysons. You haven't looked at a single Tysons Corner plan to see what the developers have to provide. Look at Arbor Row, dont just mouth off, look at the darn plans and do your homework and the hard stuff instead of scape goating and tell me THAT project isn't paying its share. Its giving up the equivalent of 100 million dollars in contributions alone with its land grant for future school site and current rec fields. Then add in all of the road work it will do on its property, along its property with Westpark Drive, in its contribution to the road fund city wide. Then add in the landscape improvements and stormwater management that must attain LEED silver, not just Fairfax county standards in order to fix downstream water way erosion from ALL of fairfax. Then you can start talking about their equal contribution compared to US condo owners in Tysons for a tax rate which costs them dozens of millions of dollars PER year on their properties. And again, the developers arent the ones who proposed the residents pay, because the resident contribution is minimal in the long run, it is an archaic state law which STOPPED the original plan to tax only those properties seeking rezoning, something the developers were ready to approve. Dont use your issues against Tysons please. Stick to Reston.
Terry Maynard December 20, 2012 at 04:23 PM
. . . and, Navid, for the record, I have tracked the saga of the Tysons comp plan and subsequent financing plan efforts for years in more depth than you can apparently imagine. Even with the moderating efforts of the PCTC and the FC Planning Commission, the approved comp plan allows too much expansion (based in part on gross over-estimates of demand by GMU) and the financial plan is unfair and inequitable to Tysons homeowners.
Terry Maynard December 20, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Navid--I expected a response, but I hoped it would be more balanced. ALL the expenses and taxes--including the special tax on Tysons--of the developers will (a) be deducted from their federal and state tax bills (if any) and (b) lead to huge profits on their new developments whether residential or non-residential. Those investments in roads, etc., are all the cost of doing business, just like the concrete and glass slabs they will erect. It has always been the case and it's not just limited to Virginia or Fairfax County. It's the law of the land. You are the one evading the issue. I'm talking about homeowners in Tysons being forced to absorb new taxes that they have no chance to recover. You're talking about the woe-is-me developers who will make large added profits and avoid taxes on the normal investment costs they will incur. And the issue applies equally to Reston and Tysons. We just haven't had that discussion yet here in Reston--although we should as part of our ongoing master planning effort. Neither the County staff nor the developers here want to discuss the issue now. It is obvious why they don't.
Navid Roshan December 21, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Terry, Again, as a homeowner in Tysons I am very much aware that it will impact my cost. But to say that the improvements occurring in Tysons are not having tangible improvements to the lives of residents is absolutely ridiculous. People have made THOUSANDS on the value on their home. You say that is not income; it doesn't have to be, it could be a windfall. You talk in ideological values not real world numbers. The 7 cent increase in tax rates for a 400k condo will create $280 more in tax payment per year. Let me repeat, your terrible imposition on the residents is $280 more per YEAR, or about 22 dollars per month, the cost of a dinner around town... without appetizer. And as I have said home sale values have increased for many 2br owners by lets say a conservative $50,000. It would take 178 years of living in that unit for the new tax to equal the value added. See Terry? When you remove the whiny agenda driven aspect of your argument, it is shown for the weakness that underlays it. No one likes taxes, I get it, but guess what, without them you don't get improvement. Until a company starts legitimately building private infrastructure that can compete with public works, that will continue to be the case. $280 per year to do what is going to happen in Tysons, is no scam.
Navid Roshan December 21, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Unfortunately Terry with your stance you negate all of the other elements that are just as important in this letter. 1) The most important thing is that Tysons residents FINALLY get a voice at the table, something more important than $280 per year. It should be a local elected representative that will have a vote for issues specific to the use of any Tysons allocated funds. Currently our voices are being silenced by the 1 million other residents in Fairfax that won't be paying any special taxes in Tysons. 2) The tax was created because the GOP lead state house wants to obstruct growth in NOVA for their own personal agenda of growing GOP regions of the state. They have delayed projects with phony traffic studies that anyone who has seen them knows that the comments are completely bogus and circular arguments anticipating worst case upon worst case scenarios. The reason why residents have to pay this tax again is not the fault of developers, so you can keep blaming them so you can promote your anti-growth agenda in Reston, but it isnt because of them. They were in agreement with the original idea that only rezonings get taxed this special tax. Unfortunately the GOP state house would not make an exception to rules that would allow that. If you create the service tax it had to apply to all property owners of the district. THAT is why residents have to pay this tax of on average 280 dollars per year.
Terry Maynard December 21, 2012 at 03:45 PM
So, Navid, the answer to my statement that the Tysons homeowners have no chance to garner reimbursement of their extra taxes (per your 9:56AM reply today) is that that they can sell their homes (and make thousands) and move elsewhere. In short, like it or leave. And, for the record, many high-rise condos in the Reston Town Center area sell for upwards of $1 million, not the $400K you posit. So the homeowners' tax bill would be higher here (and may be higher than you infer is typical at Tysons). As for seats at the table, in a representative democracy, shouldn't the number of seats for homeowners be in proportion to the number of people who live in Tysons? Instead, the seating allocation appears to be based on who has the most money, i.e.--developers. Why should homeowners only get one seat? Why shouldn't they have most of the seats? They are "the people", not the dozen or so landowner/developer corporations at Tysons. (I say this knowing that--in the infinite conservative wisdom of our Supreme Court--corporations are people too. So give them one vote.)
Navid Roshan December 22, 2012 at 05:13 PM
And for the record there are lots of 1br and studios that sell for 150k or 200k. The average is meant to define what the typical person can expect. Also, again, you are saying you are worried about people being forced to leave because of this cost. For 1 million condo, the cost would be a whopping $600 per year, not necessarily on the radar for most million dollar home owners. You completely ignored the basis of my point. They dont have to sell. The amount of money their unit is now worth because of the changes allows them to pay this tax for over 100 years and STILL make a profit when they want to sell it. The amount of money is not enough to cause actual financial harm in the short term (20 dollars per month range), therefore it is not eminent for them to sell by any means. You are creating panic over something that doesn't deserve panic, and beyond that you continue to reject the idea that urbanization is already PROVING to be beneficial financially for these homeowners. Beyond this, the homeowners are gaining many new benefits that will help their lives including a road grid which will finally address pinch points in town, new bike lanes, pedestrian improvements, and an overhauled transit system focused on bus circulator service around town.
Navid Roshan December 22, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Then you bring up the one seat issue. That is ONE more seat than the county is currently providing them, and it isnt the developers that are quieting this (with zero votes on the board) it is the rest of fairfax, IE you and your make an issue about somewhere else ilk. Get it? This is about Tysons, not Reston so stop robbing us of our voices. Sadly you think because of my position you know me? Its fine I have been attacked by shallow analysts like you before who want to label someone a republican, or democrat, or developer supporter, or radical urbanist. The fact is I am none of those things. I general vote for progressive and liberal candidates, I believe that the surpeme court ruling you noted is one of the worst judicial decisions of the past century. On the other hand I believe that scapegoating of the very mechanics that create good economic fundamentals is the weapon of those who have no idea what they are talking about. Your solution? Make the developers pay for it. They are paying for it, so what now? To build this infrastructure the county doesn't really need the money from Tysons residents because the developers are already paying for much of it, 17000 residential tax assessments make up about 10% of the total tax revenue from Tysons. You dont understand that it is a state legislative issue, noted by the fact that Del. Keam is already bringing up a bill about that old archaic law... which will not pass because of the GOP
Terry Maynard December 23, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Navid--SInce you have fallen to the level of personal insults in your remarks, I am no longer going to engage in this dialogue. Merry Christmas!

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