State of the County: Fairfax's Future Is Development

In annual address, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova warns sequestration could impact revenues, is making business owners delay decisions.

Revitalization and development will drive Fairfax County's economy in 2013 and beyond, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova said in her annual state of the county address Wednesday.

Talking to members of the media Wednesday morning, Bulova said massive development projects in Tysons, Merrifield and Springfield will create "bright days and years ahead" — but the threat of sequestration was also making business owners hesitant to commit to a relocation or expansion in the county. 

“Fairfax County’s future is in development,” Bulova said in her statement. “Aging commercial centers near mass transit, like Tysons, present especially valuable opportunities for attractive, transit-oriented mixed-use revitalization.”

The county is hoping some of that revitalization and business growth occurs outside the federal government or defense-contracting arenas, which will be the hardest hit if sequestration becomes a reality. 

Federal contracts accounted for $24 billion of the county’s FY2010 income;

About 86,000 of them are in Fairfax County, the Washington Post has reported.

“We’ve been trying to increase our commercial base in areas that are not necessarily federal or defense-related,” she said, adding the move of Hilton Hotel's global headquarters to Fairfax County was a huge step toward that goal.


The Board of Supervisors has approved three large-scale development proposals since September 2012, all in Tysons Corner.

Last week, the Board approved The Georgelas Group’s 3.8-million-square-foot Spring Hill project, a complex of seven high rises that is expected to house up to 2,000 units. 

Capital One Financial’s 4.4 million square-foot headquarters expansion, and CityLinePartners’ Arbor Row, about 2.6 million square feet of mixed use development, were also both approved towards the end of 2012.

But there is still much work to be done, including improving the transportation infrastructure in the area.

“The roads are not ready,” Bulova said after her speech, adding the finished project was still 30 to 40 years away.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Pat Herrity criticized the Board’s decisions on where to use proffer money in Tysons in his own state of the county address. Herrity said the county’s priority for proffer dollars should be transportation and education.

“This is where I think the county has really gone wrong,” he said. “Instead of using the $500m of developer contributions for priorities like transportation, the Board opted to create a Tysons tax district to collect $250 million of the $2 billion needed in transportation improvements from the residents and businesses in Tysons Corner.”

Bulova called the transformation of Tysons an "evolution."

“You’re not going to see all of Tysons develop in one year – it’s going to happen over a period of time – and just as the development happens over a period of time so will the transportation to support it," she said.

Bulova noted two other new commercial centers are closer to completion.

The Mosaic District in Merrifield opened in fall 2012, bringing restaurants, retail and hotel space and a movie theater in a complex at the intersection of Lee Highway and Gallows Road. When complete, the district is expected to include 500,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000 residential units.

Simlarly, Reston is undergoing a development boom in anticipation of Metrorail's arrival at the end of 2013. New devleopment at the Spectrum Center, Fairway Apartments and at the Wiehle Metro Station are all in the planning and building stages.

Sequestration's Impact on Budget, Business

Bulova warned the looming shadow of sequestration is creating uncertainty for business owners looking to relocate to these centers.

“Already we’re seeing the effect of sequestration, with business people making decisions not to make expansions right now or not to fill vacant space,” she said. “That equates directly to our tax revenue.”

It also makes it difficult for government leaders trying to plan for budget years based on uncertain tax revenues.

Bulova said county officials have done their best to account for sequestration in the county’s FY2014 budget, but much remains uncertain.

The county relies on $290 million in federal dollars, including $135 million for schools, County Executive Ed Long said in December.

Real estate taxes likely wouldn’t be affected until 2015, Long said, but the impact to sales taxes and transit occupancy taxes could hit as early as the second half of FY2013.

Long presents his FY 2014 budget to supervisors next week.

Jim Hubbard February 21, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Bulova's presentation highlights three myths. First, County officials talk as if they had control over the businesses that choose to locate in the county. In fact, businesses locate in the county because of its proximity to the Federal government. County policies are immaterial. As we will soon see, the County will prosper or struggle according to decisions made in the District. Second, the County continues to imagine that it can attract development that involves new revenue but no new costs, the right kind of commercial development or affluent folks without children. In fact, nearly all new construction will involve both new revenue and new costs. It is not obvious that a county of 1.4 million people will be more cost efficient than a county of 1.2 million people. Third, the County continues to imagine that it can pay the costs, particularly the capital costs, that new development brings without resorting to the general fund. In fact, reliance on proffers, special tax districts and the like will only produce the same haphazard, unplanned development that has long plagued the County. Because the County is reluctant to spend its own money, we are now facing the prospect of a $6 billion rail line which almost no one can readily get to. Were the County willing to pay for better feeder buses and minor road improvements, we could make good use of the Silver Line. Instead it threatens to be the preserve of the few people who can walk to it.
The Analyst February 21, 2013 at 07:08 PM
Land development based economics - if we build it, they will come. I read yesterday that the Democratic party is saturated with development special interests. It's quite clear that this idiotic and imbecilic economic policy has made its way to the local level and is dominating it. The county government is saturated with developers. All the "economic forecasts" provided to the BOS is provided by "economists" working for developers. Development should be on an as-needed basis. We can see the effects of speculative development at the intersection Sunrise Valley, Hunter Mill, and the Toll Road where the so-called "Shrine to Over Development" has sat completely empty, without one single tenant, for over 10 years now. Bankruptcies are associated with that building and the losses are passed on to us. ...and this is the "growth" the county plans for us? It seems far too clear to me that too, too many of our "Supervisors" simply swallow information that's being spoon fed to them by special interests in the development community without even checking the credibility. We already have the nations worst traffic, and this plan promises to make it even worse while raising taxes on everyone to pay for any roads, schools, police, or other govt. services that may be needed, not to mention the costs of the bankruptcies that will occur. This is not a path for growth, it's a path for destruction.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »