At its meeting Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to officially establish the Reston Transportation Service District, part of the 40-year, $2.27 billion plan to upgrade roadways in Reston’s Transit Station Area.
Supervisors in February approved the project’s funding plan, which includes a proposed 2.1 cent/$100 of assessed value tax assessed to properties in the Transit Station Area. That rate will be discussed and finalized when the county budget is approved in May.
The overall project includes road widening and upgrades to intersections and interchanges, in addition to construction of new Dulles Toll Road crossings, including at Town Center Parkway and Soapstone Drive. Roadway projects would be paid for with public revenue, while work on intersections and the street grid would be covered by private funding.
Under the agreed-upon plan, current homeowners in the TSA will be responsible for up to $44.6 million of the estimated cost. The remainder of the tax funds (totaling $350 million) will be collected from commercial/industrial properties and from residential properties built in the future. The rest of private funds, about $716 million, is expected to be collected through in-kind contributions to the grid by developers.
In addition, the board voted Tuesday to create a 13-member advisory group for the service district. The group will consist of the following members:
- One member from the Dranesville District
- Two members from the Hunter Mill District
- Three members to represent residential owners and homeowner/civic associations
- One member to represent apartment or rental owner associations
- One member to represent residents of Reston Town Center
- Three members to represent commercial or retail ownership interests, including the Reston Town Center Association
- One member from the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce to represent lessees of non-residential space
- One member from Reston Association
Among the group’s responsibilities, county Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny said, would be to “work with staff to ensure that estimated funding levels are coordinated with construction of transportation projects, that the timing of the construction is coordinated with development, and that the funding is being spent in an appropriate and efficient manner.”
Supervisors Linda Smyth (Providence District) and Pat Herrity (Springfield District) both abstained from the votes, as they have throughout the process. Herrity once again stated that the cost of the project, which he called “gold-plated,” is too high.
“We’re taxing our residents out of the county and I think we’re going to see some of them fleeing Reston,” Herrity said.
A pair of TSA residents who spoke during a public hearing Tuesday, Robert Perry and Hank Schonzeit, both expressed feelings that taxing a small group of residents for work that benefits the entire community — as well as developers — is unfair.
“If you’re going to have a situation where you’re going to try to flog us the most you can get away with, in the smallest possible area for the fewest taxpayers, I say that’s not fair,” Perry said. “The developers who probably live in a different state who are getting rich from this [are] the ones that should bear the payment, not us.”
Developers will be responsible for 96 percent of the private share of the project, Biesiadny said, and 53 percent (about $1.2 billion) of the project is to be paid out of the county coffers. Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill District) said that while developers will be benefiting from the major road improvements, she believes residents will see the benefits of the work as well.
“We’re hoping it will not be considered onerous, but I think anytime we ask the citizens to [be taxed], they may assume it’s going to be an onerous assessment,” Hudgins said. “But I think they’ll see the return.”
After the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed the Reston Transportation Funding Plan last month, the next step will be the official creation of the Reston Transportation Service District.
Community meetings on the subject are slated for Tuesday, March 21 from 7-9 p.m. at Coates Elementary School (2480 River Birch Road, Herndon) and Wednesday, March 29 from 7-9 p.m. at Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road, Reston).
The $2.27 billion, 40-year funding plan, which includes a 2.1-cent/$100 of assessed value tax assessed to properties in the Reston Transit Station Area, was approved Feb. 28 by the Board. Under the agreed-upon plan, current homeowners in the TSA will be responsible for up to $44.6 million of the estimated cost. The remainder of the tax funds (totaling $350 million) will be collected from commercial/industrial properties and from residential properties built in the future, according to information provided at the Feb. 28 meeting. The list of parcels included in the TSA is available on the Fairfax County website.
A public hearing on the creation of the Reston Transportation Service District is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at the Fairfax County Government Center. (12000 Government Circle Parkway, Fairfax). Individuals interested in speaking at the public hearing before the Board of Supervisors are asked to register in advance with the Office of the Clerk to the Board.
More information on the Reston Network Analysis is available on the Fairfax County Department of Transportation website.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the $2.27 billion Reston Transportation Funding Plan.
Included in the plan is a 2.1 cent/$100 of assessed value tax assessed to properties in the Reston Transit Station Area (pictured). Under the agreed-upon plan, current homeowners in the TSA will be responsible for up to $44.6 million of the estimated cost. The remainder of the tax funds (totaling $350 million) will be collected from commercial/industrial properties and from residential properties built in the future.
The rest of private funds, about $716 million, is expected to be collected through in-kind contributions to the grid by developers.
The residential tax issue was a concern of several of the speakers during a public hearing before the vote.
“FCDOT implicitly declares that Reston homeowners must be taxed because the County cannot move any current tax revenues in its $4 billion budget to improve Reston’s streets, the County can’t use any future station area property tax revenues to invest in Reston’s streets [and] the County can never raise the rates on any countywide taxes that would help generate billions in future tax revenues,” said Terry Maynard of the Reston 20/20 committee, who has been an outspoken detractor of the tax. “To insist on these assumptions is an outright falsehood, and FCDOT and [the Board of Supervisors] know it.”
Reston resident Tammi Petrine also addressed the board with similar concerns about forcing residents to pay for needed infrastructure. In addition, John McBride, land-use attorney representing Reston Association, addressed the board to share the RA Board of Directors’ stance against the residential tax.
Representing the Reston Network Analysis Advisory Group, chairman Andy Sigle said the “alternative funding sources” beyond the in-kind developer contributions were necessary.
“Following much discussion and additional community input, a majority of the advisory group voted to endorse staff’s recommendation,” Sigle said. “While the vote was not unanimous in regard to the specific road fund and service district contribution rates, the advisory group was in agreement regarding the general structure of the funding plan.”
Maggie Parker of developer Comstock Partners, who was also a part of RNAAG, said the group’s meetings were “informative, inclusive and impactful.”
“This funding plan is burdensome; however, after dozens of meetings, revision of scope and countless financial models, it is what it is,” she said. “Ultimately, it’s an investment in our community and the citizens who live and work here.”
In addition to the grid, private funds are slated to be used for upgrades to intersections. Public funds — from local, state, regional and federal sources — totaling $1.2 billion are to be used for roadway improvements including the construction of a bridge over the Dulles Toll Road at Soapstone Drive and a Town Center Parkway underpass of the Toll Road.
Two supervisors abstained from the vote. Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield District) said he continues to have concerns about the overall cost of the project, and Supervisor Linda Smyth (Providence District) said she could not support the plan when she has continually opposed a similar tax in Tysons.
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill District) said she understands taxes are unpopular, but she believes the impact is outweighed by the benefits.
“I think the relative point is that the majority of [the plan] is being paid for by public dollars and by developers,” she said. “It is a difficult ask, but we think it is an important ask. As Reston continues to grow, we have congestion — very bad congestion — and these infrastructure improvements need to get started.”
Saying that RA has historically not taken a stance on county tax issues, the original recommendation to the board from land-use attorney John McBride was to not do so. Director Sherri Hebert (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District), though, said she believes there should be no special tax and that it would behoove the board to go on record with that stance.
“Are we going to let this happen? There are so many things that come along with this tax for the residential units within the [Transit Station Area],” she said. “We hope that every cluster that starts to pop up in the TSA we’re going to bring into RA, so I would think that we would want to make a stance that this needs to be paid for by the developers.”
Director Julie Bitzer (South Lakes District) agreed with Hebert’s assessment.
“As we seek to make in-roads into what’s becoming more residential within that corridor, it’s important that we not be short-sighted in our anticipation of addressing those concerns,” she said.
The tax would be on all types of real estate, not just residential, McBride clarified.
The motion passed by RA directors Thursday states that while they recognize the improvements are needed to keep pace with development, they do not want the proposed service district tax applied to residential properties within the TSA.
“I think we need to have a longer-term strategy… that takes these issues into account,” Michael Sanio, RA Board vice president, said. “We should not be silent, we should not just have these events happen and us not have a voice in them.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the plan today at 4:30 p.m.
Map of Reston Transit Station Area via Fairfax County
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins led off her newsletter this month with a two-page article on “misinformation” concerning the proposed Reston Tax Service District (TSD) for homeowners and businesses along the Dulles Corridor, the so-called Reston transit station areas. So far as we know, no one has provided misinformation on the road tax, including Reston 20/20.
What Reston 20/20 has done — and will continue to do — is highlight the vast quantity of vital information about the proposed Reston road tax that neither Supervisor Hudgins nor FCDOT have been willing to acknowledge because, of course, it undermines the validity of having such a tax. Let’s take a quick look.
First, the foundation argument for a Reston road tax is that there is a $350 million gap over the 40-year period of planned station area expansion — less than $9 million per year — in road funding that can absolutely only be filled by another singular tax on Restonians. Supervisor Hudgins doesn’t even mention the “funding gap” in her missive, almost certainly because she knows there isn’t one. The “funding gap” was created by FCDOT to justify creating an added County tax revenue stream (at the Board of Supervisors’ direction) solely on Restonians.
The so-called “funding gap” is the result of a series of FCDOT assumptions about transportation funding that are a fantasy, plain and simple. [This was addressed in an earlier op/ed.]
That’s all not mentioned, much less explained, in Supervisor Hudgins’ letter. And some things mentioned there are less than “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Some example, her letter states, “To accommodate traffic pattern changes, reduce congestion, move traffic efficiently, and provide convenient connections to transit stations, multi-modal transportation improvements were proposed.” That statement alone is loaded with fallacies.
- Well, yes, multi-modal improvements were proposed in the revised Reston master plan, but the ongoing County transportation proposal addresses only street improvements. Nary a word about more buses, better bike access, improved pedestrian movements, etc. In fact, to the contrary, FCDOT Chief Biesiadny has stated on multiple occasions that no added bus service is required, just a re-jiggering of current routes. Yet, the plan calls for 76,000 new residents and 41,000 new jobs; a total potential of 211,000 people living and working in Reston’s station areas. But no new bus service is needed? Preposterous! And you know that the proposed Reston station area tax will be increased to finance that obviously needed new bus service.
- And, no, the planned street improvements will neither “reduce congestion” nor “move traffic efficiently.” To the contrary, by County policy intent, the goal is to increase congestion by lowering the acceptable level of service for traffic under the County’s new “urban standard.” Yes, you can expect to wait at least an extra half-minute or more at every already gridlocked intersection in Reston’s station areas as this “urban standard” is implemented.
In fact, proceeds from the County’s Reston road tax proposal will be primarily used (87 percent) to finance the construction of the so-called “grid of streets.” This grid is not being built to “reduce congestion” or “move traffic efficiently”; it being built to improve the profitability of the development of the adjoining properties. In fact, the specific grid streets to be financed by Restonians road tax are primarily those streets at the east and west periphery of the station areas, areas that could not be profitably developed without a public tax subsidy. From your pocket to developer profits.
Moreover, the fact that these streets will be built and the areas developed will mean more, not less congestion, in the station areas. For what it’s worth, not even the developers in Tysons are having the “grid of streets” subsidized by taxes on residents; they will be building all of them there out of their own pockets. Yet somehow Supervisor Hudgins and FCDOT don’t mention any of this. No need to fully inform Restonians, they must think.
And two bits of seeming relative good news in Supervisor Hudgins’ commentary are less than they appear.
- First, there is the seemingly low impact of the $.021/$100 valuation impact of the proposed TSD tax on station area homeowners’ tax bill, for example, $105 per year on a half-million dollar property. Sounds OK, but it fails to acknowledge: The tax is based on 2016 dollars and will triple over 40 years at three percent inflation, totally ignores any property appreciation above inflation, fails to mention that the Board can raise the tax rate at any time — as it has already done on a similar tax in Tysons, and assumes construction costs will not exceed inflation. So, no, it will cost much more than Supervisor Hudgins’ letter says.
- Second, Supervisor Hudgins states that there is a new “sunset” provision in the proposed tax without specifying the details. The implication is that the road tax would be used only for construction, not the indefinite maintenance of the streets and intersections. That’s a positive change, but — like the tax rate and adding needed bus service — can be undone by the Board with a simple vote anytime in the future.
So “cui bono?” Who benefits? By our estimate based on an analysis of Boston Properties’ annual report, developers in Reston’s station areas stand to earn $45 billion over the next four decades in 2016 dollars, roughly double that in future dollars, from fulfilling the Reston master plan. And, as stated above, the County stands to receive $11 billion in property tax revenues at current tax rates in 2016 dollars over the same period.
And station area residents? They get a larger property tax bill every year and increased congestion.
What could be wrong with that?
As the late radio commentator Paul Harvey (for those of you old enough to recall) would say, “And now you know the rest of the story.” So you can accept Supervisor Hudgins’ Tetra-esque one-sided sales promotion or you can consider the proposed Reston road tax in the context of this more complete picture. If you believe, as we do, that the TSD road tax is little more than a fraud, please do any or all of the following:
- Join the more than 200 others who have signed Reston 20/20’s petition to stop the Reston TSD tax which we will submit to Chairman Bulova and the Board of Supervisors before the upcoming public hearing on the Reston road tax proposal.
- Share with Supervisor Hudgins your concerns about the proposed Reston road tax by any means you choose — email, telephone, letter, social media, whatever.
- Take the time to attend and even testify at the public hearing at the Government Center on Feb. 28.
There is no good reason that Reston station area homeowners, current or future, should subsidize developer profits or bolster County coffers for basic public infrastructure requirements. Next they will be taxed for schools, parks and more. Tell Supervisor Hudgins and the Board of Supervisors you oppose this misguided and ill-conceived Reston TSD road tax proposal.
Terry Maynard, Co-Chair
Reston 20/20 Committee
The next community meeting for the Reston Transportation Funding Plan will be Thursday at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of Coates Elementary School (2480 River Birch Road, Herndon). The Fairfax County Department of Transportation and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust will host the meeting.
“It will be a great opportunity for residents who have not been able to attend a previous meeting to learn more about the funding plan,” said Jenny Kaplan, a staff aide in Foust’s office.
The presentation will focus only on the funding plan, Kaplan said. The agenda will not include discussion of the network analysis.
According to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:
“The proposed Reston Transportation Funding Plan addresses the $2.27 billion (in 2016 dollars) need for infrastructure improvements to support the recommendations in the Reston Phase I Comprehensive Plan Amendment. The proposed plan allocates roughly $1.2 billion of the improvements over 40 years from public funds — federal, state, local, and regional funds that are anticipated for countywide transportation projects. Approximately $1.07 billion of the improvement costs will be raised from private funds — sources of revenue that are generated within the Reston TSAs and used exclusively for transportation projects in the Reston TSAs; this will require creation of a service district fund and County road fund project for management of revenues. It is anticipated that a fund for the service district will be created in FY 2018, and a new project will be created in Fund 30040 (Contributed Roadway Improvements) for the management of these Reston road fund contributions.”
The transit areas are expected to see the greatest level of development — and will need the most street grid upgrades, lane additions and traffic signals, among other improvements — as Reston grows over the coming decades.
The cost of the improvements is expected to be a public/private split, roughly 50/50. In this framework, Reston roadway projects would be paid for with public revenue, while intersections and the grid would be covered by private funding. A significant portion of the private funding is expected to be paid for through in-kind contributions to the grid from developers as redevelopment occurs, the Reston Network Analysis Advisory Group says.
Reston Association CEO Cate Fulkerson is encouraging RA members to be “educated and engaged” regarding the plan, according to information provided in the RA Board of Directors’ agenda packet for their own meeting Thursday. However, because it is a county tax and revenue matter, the board is not being recommended to take a position.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing on the plan Feb. 28.
Map of Reston Transportation Service Area and chart showing cost breakdown via Fairfax County