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RA Gauging Opinion on Special Tax District for Transportation

by Karen Goff April 13, 2016 at 11:30 am 65 Comments

Transportation tax district questionsReston Association is seeking member opinion on the implementation of a special service tax district to help pay for transportation improvements.

Fairfax County is currently in the process of examining what the Reston area needs as it moves forward as a transit-oriented community. At a meeting in February, county officials said Reston is going to need more than $2.6 billion in transportation improvements to keep up with development and population growth in the next 40 years.

High on the priority list are an urban-style street grid around transit stations and additional spots to cross the Dulles Toll Road, according to the advisory group.

At that meeting, the possibility of a special tax district was first discussed. Tysons has a special tax district in place since 2013. Businesses and residents of Tysons are taxed in order to help raise about $810 million of the estimated $3.1 billion necessary for longterm changes.

The Tysons Special Tax  for FY2016 is $0.05 per $100 of assessed real estate value.

A special tax district can be put in place by the Board of Supervisors and does not require landowner approval. Reston Association is polling members purely for feedback; it does not have authority to institute a tax or special assessment for transportation.

In Reston, homeowners already are members of the county’s Small Tax District 5, which funds the Reston Community Center. That’s in addition to Reston Association assessments, Fairfax County and Virginia taxes for all RA members, as well as cluster dues or condo fees for many.

Fairfax County’s Reston Network Analysis & Funding Plan Advisory Group asked RA CEO Cate Fulkerson what she thought of a special tax district. She told RA members at Tuesday’s annual meeting she wanted to get community opinion before she answered the question.

RA is hoping to get member thoughts so Fulkerson can report back to the advisory group in late April.

“I would like to go back and give them a sense of reaction,” said Fulkerson.

At Tuesday’s RA annual meeting, informal paper queries were distributed asking these questions:

Would you be willing to pay an additional tax based on the value of your property that would only be used to fund transportation improvements in Reston? (Yes; No)

If yes, what rate would be acceptable to you? (Rates below are per $100 of appraised property value) ($0.020; 0.025; 0.030; 0.035)

As an example, an owner with a value of $600,000 paying $0.020 per $100 of the home value would pay $120 annually for transportation improvements.

Fulkerson said the question will also be sent electronically to RA members.

See the advisory group’s breakdown of what Reston needs in the December 2015 presentation attached to this previous Reston Now article.

Photo: Informal questionnaire at RA annual meeting. 

  • TBex

    Hahaha. I’m sure this is going to garner reasonable feedback where people carefully weigh the public services they receive against the costs and concede to a fair amount they can spare for those valuable services.

    • RestonGrandma

      NO a thousand times NO. It’s in the developers’ interest to have higher density not the residents. If it needs to be done, they should absorb the cost!!!

      • TBex

        It benefits residents (both existing and future) in the form of amenities, vibrancy, and the economic advantages of having an active hub of professionals exchanging ideas and creating things. Everyone should pay. If you don’t want to benefit from the changes, you can leave; the world writ large is under no obligation to cater to you and the small plot of land you may own.

        • Mike M

          Says the developer. What kind of arrogance does it take to say, I am bringing you “vibrancy,” “active idea hubs,” “amenities?” Thank with me a payment or get out of Dodge! ?

          These are for-profit operations. They can pay their own way. I am not a shareholder. I don’t benefit from their operation. I too prefer they stay out or pay their own way.

          TBex, I’d like to put a for-profit sewage dump next to your house . . . you can pay for the roads so the trucks can come in. If you don’t like it, you can leave. Otherwise stay and breathe in the “vibrancy!”

        • Guest

          ALL of which we will pay for, including the privilege of parking there! No, the only financial benefit is to the developers.
          And, TBex, the world is under no obligation to cater to you either. But if you want change that a few would call progress or improvement, you should pay for it–not the rest of us.

          • TBex

            You’ve been getting rich off the backs of everyone else this whole time. I hope your kids or grandkids have a better sense of what, exactly, they’re really entitled to in this world. Because years of cultural isolation have made you completely oblivious.

    • Fellow

      I think no one is really discussing the question here. (Should Reston residents pay more for transportation infrastructure in Reston). I would say no because much of the traffic during peak hours is from non Reston residents using Reston roads as transportation to work or to avoid tolls.

      • TBex

        True. The solution there is to toll the roads off the DTR as well, which will cost Reston residents a bit, but not put all of the burden on them.

        • Greg

          But, drivers (actually vehicle owners) already are burdened specially by an annual car tax (which, like the DTR toll was grandly bargained for and promised to be fully eliminated, but, shockingly, gets higher and higher every year) and the car sales tax (recently raised). Allegedly for the fairly burdened privilege of having (uncongested and well maintained?) roads on which to drive and park their vehicles. They also are burdened with annual inspection fees (of dubious benefit other than to the inspectors and imposed in only 17 other states) and emission inspections that are almost fully automated by the vehicles (except VW diesels, of course), roadside testing station or both and have been eliminated by 22 states and most areas of VA but for NoVA).

          And, there are fuel taxes (specially boosted higher only in NoVA to fund “mass transit”) and the special fee to have a gizmo just to pay the tolls that were supposed to be eliminated long ago. Where and when does it end?

          Haven’t we learned in Reston that we are little more than an emperor with no clothes? After all, and in addition to all of the above special burdens we have been burdened with for decades, we are burdened with a special tax for an ordinary community center? We have an, ever escalating far higher than reasonable inflation would support, special assessment (not tax deductible) for the privilege of being governed by the RA, a “homeowners’ association” that allows many properties, including its own, to fester, be underutilized or both, while expensively maneuvering into ventures into which it neither has a remit nor competence?

          And now we are being solicited, if not dunned, for more than $2.4 BILLION (read: at least three times that amount) for unspecified “transportation “improvements” over the next 40 years? Fool us once (the hippies of the 1960s who founded Reston, populated, RELACed, and burdened us with far too many Brutalist eyesores and our special tax and assessment burdens). Fool us twice (the free-from-tolls DTR). Fool us three times (Metro will reduce traffic). Fool us again?

          • TBex

            Drivers don’t pay even a fraction of the cost of the burden they place on society at large. http://www.citylab.com/commute/2013/09/these-2-charts-prove-american-drivers-dont-pay-enough-roads/6917/

            This is a philosophical debate, ultimately, about land rights and who’s entitled to what in the world. Just because you bought a house in a suburban enclave built (by a greedy developer, I’ll note) to take advantage of cheap government-backed mortgages (for a privileged few) and highways built using war-time funds raised from a 90% top marginal tax rate, doesn’t mean all that land and possible infrastructure is yours to do whatever you please with. Homes need to go somewhere, and you don’t own the parcels being developed in these instances.

          • Greg

            You assume often? Be careful.

  • Ming the Merciless

    How far from Reston would you be willing to move in order to get away from the Reston Association and Fairfax County nickel-and-diming you to death while at the same time spending money on useless nonsense? (1 mile; 5 miles; 10 miles)

    • Mike M

      (Pssst! Now do you get how development is subsidized by the neighbors?)

      • Ming the Merciless

        (Pssst! You still don’t understand what a “subsidy” is.)

        • Mike M

          (Psst! That sound was my hand slapping against my forehead!)

          • Ming the Merciless

            (Pssst, keep hitting harder until some knowledge gets in there!)

          • Mike M

            Smack! Smack! Smack!

  • Terry Maynard

    As Reston 20/20 has written in a well-documented research paper, there is NO GOOD REASON for any Restonian, including those living in the station areas, to pay for roadway improvements needed because developers are building higher density buildings for the purpose of generating greater profits.

    The costs of all the roadway improvements–“the grid of streets” within the station areas and the expansion of the through streets (Reston Pkwy, Wiehle, Fairfax County Pkwy, and Sunset Hills and Sunrise Valley for starters) AND related transit, bicyclist, and pedestrian improvements should be borne by the developers. They alone benefit financially from the added development and, therefore, they should pay the cost of transportation (and other infrastructure costs) their added development.

    The rest of us face only added costs through new special taxes and, ironically, even worse traffic conditions because the County’s goal for peak hour intersection level of service (LOS) is lower in the urban environment (LOS “E”) than it is in our suburban environment (LOS “D”). (In reality, about half the intersections involved are actually at LOS “F” (failure; more than 5 min. delay per intersection); so we can expect an even worse LOS “F” in the future.)

    FWIW, the paper shows that the road improvements (and transit improvements which are not evening being discussed now) will add several hundred dollars per year to local property tax bills. Below is the critical table showing how much Restonians (those either within the TSAs in a TSA-focused tax or all-Reston) would pay under seven (six from the County) options over the next 40 years.

    If you’re interested in reading the paper (or just the two-page summary), you can find it here on Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/doc/305852616/Reston-s-Coming-Urban-Area-Transportation-Network-An-Early-Look-at-the-Cost-of-Streets-and-Transit-in-and-around-Reston-s-Station-Areas

    • Pacino’s Keanu

      “They [developers] alone benefit financially from the added development”

      You sure about that? What about all those people in North Arlington who bought bungalows near the Orange Line for $30k in the 1960’s and are now selling them for a million a pop?

      • Greg

        Praying that happens to Reston’s Shadowood (for the benefit of the unfortunate rest of us nearby residents suffering with depressed values).

      • Guest

        So to get a “benefit”, you have to pay three decades of county taxes, maintenance, probably a parking fee, etc., and then move out of your home.
        Great benefit!

        • Greg

          That’s happening more than you realize. My friend recently sold her tiny Reston condo and moved to Columbia SC. She now has a 3/3, 2100 square foot townhouse and pays $800 per year in property taxes. No tolls; no parking fees; no special taxes; warmer weather and more.

    • ichrysso

      I would like to get TBex’s reply to Terry’s comment.

  • Mike M

    I think we live in a special place where a critical mass of people have more money than brains! They will sign up for any additional tax they are asked to consider. It’s a fundamental dysfunction about Reston. It’s what we have Ken Plum, Cathy H, and the RA “leadership” that we have.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Two words: Absolutely Not.

  • TBex

    Rather than charge taxes, they should really just charge people usage fees for the infrastructure. I’d rather see toll roads and fees for street parking than income taxation. Then people can actually see what they’re paying for.

    • Greg

      Yes, but the silver line is being financed largely by tolls. The toll-payers see the silver line, but few use it and pay more than those who do.

      • TBex

        Yeah. I guess the idea there is that DTR usage is cut by facilitating rail riders down the same corridor, so the toll-payers are benefiting (by dealing with less traffic on the DTR) but this model further feeds the persecution complex drivers feel when made to pay for the resources they take up.

        • Mike M

          Driver already paid for the toll road, Mr.Developer.
          You remind me of the guy who got three weeks of editorial space in the local paper to explain how the Metro would reduce traffic in the immediate vicinity. He was working for the developers too. Amazingly the paper played ball. I wonder what they got?

          • TBex

            Right. The road was already built! Costs incurred; nothing more to spend now! Maintaining infrastructure is a forever cost; not a one-time cost. And handling load is an expanding cost if the that load is going to be all-car. And expanding load is necessary for economic growth; unless you want to figure out some way to build out additional roads through as much wilderness as we can find and/or start sterilizing people.

          • Mike M

            The notion that subsidizing your industry with higher taxes is necessary for growth is fallacy.

          • TBex

            Well it’s certainly a manmade circumstance of our own design, but I’m not sure what the solution is. Pure capitalism: everyone pays for everything they use, and we can’t fund public goods like roads and schools. Pure socialism: the government will determine where anyone gets to live, and nobody gets to bid up the cost of housing or capitalize on building desired housing because it’s all assigned. Neither of those sound good to me; I think anyone sensible knows we have to meet somewhere in the middle, and complaining as if there was going to be any pure solution is pointless.

          • Mike M

            Anyone sensible knows you are the developer’s shill. The new costs are due to your employers presence. Not due to the longtime residence. Pay your own way. Don’t expect me to kick in.

          • RERSRESQ

            That is why we pay high gas taxes. If that fund isn’t diverted (which it is by politicians) it would cover 99% of road and infrastructure costs. They should never have promised the tolls would end if they shared your assumption that there would always be infrastructure costs that the gas tax couldn’t cover.

          • Dentro

            I can’t blame politicians for saying things like that considering how unruly and entitled the loudest constituents are. They’re partly to blame for all of the idiocy that exists on this comment thread.

            Everyone here thinks that they earned everything they’ve had their whole life, when really it was gifted to them on the backs of everyone else. Now that they have to pay one tiny iota more for it, they think they’re being robbed. It’s a real problem and the politicians have definitely not done society any favors by feeding it.

          • Greg

            LOL. Ah idiocy. Wouldn’t it be nice it it was one tiny iota? We would all be dancing in the uncongested streets and partying on the safe, efficient, uncrowded Metro trains.

            But, we all have to work, harder than ever, to pay for the ever more than everyone in government always wants.

            It’s MANY iota, EVERY year. And it’s not sustainable.

            Oh, but the USPS did reduce postage, very reluctantly I understand, for the first time in nearly 100 years. Huzzah to that!

          • Mike M

            We have a DOT and we pay taxes for the roads to maintained. What ever is your point?

          • Dentro

            You don’t pay enough. No driver has ever paid enough. Once these new fees are imposed, you still won’t be paying enough. It’s fine; the social construct means you don’t have to pay for everything you use. But you definitely shouldn’t whine about having to pay slightly more for something you’re not evening paying 10% of now.

          • Greg

            Facts, please. Paying 10 percent of what?

          • Mike M

            If we don’t pay enough we do elect and pay people to allocate, reallocate resources. We all have a right to weigh in on that. So, please, don’t tell me I don’t pay enough. That is not up to you and you have no gauge with which to measure that. This special tax is being considered NOT to address your extreme and irrational views. It is to accommodate new development which I would be happy to do without.

  • Terry Maynard

    I recommend that each of you reading the above article send the RA Board an e-mail saying you do not endorse added Reston taxes to subsidize the for-profit activities of station area developers. Here’s the address: [email protected]

  • meh

    I’m guessing those people in Shadowood won’t be paying this extra tax.

  • Jillian Morris

    I’m not necessarily apposed to this concept except that it seems to imply that only Restonians would get the benefit which can’t be true. When you look at the corporate presence along the Toll Rd and the density that is being built in the Transit Area it seems like there are plenty of other potential contributors.

    • Mike M

      Jillian, let’s say I decided to put a private sewage dump next to your house. But hey! I need road improvements for the dump trucks. I decide you “benefit.” Should you be taxed? The notion that there is “benefit” in ANY of this save for the developers is a little bit of a reach. If I want the “benefit” of these facilities I will patronize them and pay for that “benefit.” If someone just plops the facility in for their “benefit,” and I am in the vicinity, I do not necessarily benefit. The whole concept is ludicrous and makes clear that every level of government around here simply holds the citizens down while the developers have their way with us. The proposal is obscene. I am not surprised that RA is driving this trial balloon. Who paid whom for that?

      • TBex

        The homes of these future residents are not a sewage dump. And you don’t own the land next to your house, and you benefit from the roads leading up to both your house and sewage dump, so if you and the sewage dump authority pay taxes by the same mechanism (as the future residents/landlords of these developments will), nobody’s shafting you.

        • Mike M

          You don’t determine my benefit.

          • TBex

            Who does? You determine your own benefit and what you should pay for it? How in the world would we convince anyone to pay for anything if that were the case?

          • Mike M

            I do. It’s pretty simple. If I choose to patronize those businesses, I should pay as a part of their prices. If I do not, I should not be thieved.

          • TBex

            Do you have any actuarial tables to prove that you precisely pay for what you use? Didn’t think so. I’d love to move to that sort of system, but it’s logistically difficult and far away from the system we have. And that’s why we have taxation. Welcome to modern America.

          • FSA

            What do actuarial tables have to do with it? Nothing!

          • Dentro

            Right. Accounting should be about feelings.

          • Mike M

            You work for a developer so your view is not a surprise. I don’t need an actuarial table to tell me that the road changes are due to your employers presence. So, why should I pay?

          • TBex

            I don’t work for a developer, and you were getting a free ride before anyone came by to actually use the large swaths of land the government handed you using zoning laws, government-funded highways, and government-backed mortgages. At the expense of many other Americans who weren’t so lucky.

  • Greg

    No. Hell no.

  • prmisencik sr

    Does every community in Fairfax County pay for improvements to the county roads in their community? I doubt it? Who’s idea is this?

    • Mike M

      I will bet that if you follow the money you will find the developer’s had planned this all along. The question is what Does Cathy Hudgins get out of it? Trips to Vale, or just a Diversity garden? Why is RA involved? I smell payments.

      • Greg

        Hudgins gets voters, more and more percentage-wise with each deal.

        RA has no business being involved. Among many other reasons, it cannot tax.

  • Restontimes

    First of all, how’s that Special Tax District 5 working out for Reston?

    It’s so nice of the County to just arbitrarily taxes us for things we didn’t ask for. Agree with Terry Maynard, this is something the developers should compensate.

  • RERSRESQ

    We already pay hefty state and local taxes and the special district tax, and rising Association fees. There is no end to government’s greed. Spend what you have wisely instead of just asking for more.

  • Mike M

    Yes, I am being thieved when the road is bought and paid for with taxes, maintained with taxes, then the government comes by and says pay more, and more, and more.

  • Dentro

    You’re getting way more than what you’re paying for. Your mortgage wouldn’t exist without the government insuring it. Many people couldn’t get mortgages for the longest time, so Reston and other suburbs only existed in the sparse car-friendly state you are so enamored by because of those people being abandoned in redlined impoverished areas. All the while, federal money (that you weren’t paying) build the infrastructure that made these areas possible, all for you to enjoy at everyone else’s expense. Now, a change in the way we govern means that’s not tenable anymore, and you are complaining about it.

    • Mike M

      Wow! You are wrong. People have owned property and home since before there was a federal government. You are a leftist loon.

  • Dentro

    You’re lucky you aren’t being made to pay reparations for the free ride you’ve been receiving this whole time.

    • Mike M

      Reparations? To whom? For what?

  • Terry Maynard

    John–All the improvements (not just the roadway ones) in the station
    areas to accommodate their future growth can be paid for by the
    developers through a variety of mechanisms, including:
    –in-kind contributions,
    –proffers,
    –a roadway fund to which developers contribute, and
    –a developer self-imposed tax district (which covers developer property only; not a “tax service district” that is all property owners). Note: The developers already have such a tax district to pay the cost of the Metro station construction.

    No bonds are necessarily required. Funding from other federal, state, and (regular) local sources–which the County acknowledges–could also contribute a small portion (less than 10% probably).

    No special Reston special tax district is required to build out the road network given the alternatives available.

    As for “benefits” for the community: There is not a benefit in the future
    development in the station areas for which the users of that benefit will not pay, including for parking.

    The only potential “benefit” that I can see that Restonians might be perceived as receiving is residential property appreciation–for which they will pay added property taxes throughout their ownership (in addition to any special tax) and any financial benefit can only be realized by selling their home and moving out of Reston. Moreover, high-density development might actually harm the values of homes near the station areas (say, along Sunrise Valley Drive) who would face seriously increased congestion, noise, pollution, and possibly more crowded schools (another development impact).

    As for actually driving in the emerging station areas, FCDOT’s intention is to
    make traffic congestion worse (an LOS “E” vs. LOS “D” goal) so, no matter who pays, the traffic in and around Reston’s station areas will be worse than it is now.

    The only entities that will garner real bottom line financial benefits from the planned tripling of density in our station areas are the developers. They should pay for all the transportation costs their development will create and, if they choose, pass that cost on to their tenants who, no doubt, will pass it on to shoppers, etc. There should be no obligation for the Reston public to
    subsidize these developers’ for-profit initiatives since there will be no opportunity for Restonians to recover those corporate welfare subsidies unless they actually use some new feature of station area development.

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