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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.

Related Content: 

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LTE: Tysons Tax District Should Worry Us

Fairfax Board Defers Vote on Tysons Tax District

Tysons Tax District Hearing Scheduled for Tuesday

Fairfax County Endorses Tax Hike for Tysons Transportation

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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