Since May 2011, the Planning Commission Tysons Committee has created a plan that would create increased density and traffic, supported by substantial additional taxes. The Tysons developers and planners want Fairfax taxpayers to pay $1.6 billion (2012 dollars) in the future to support the development for "transportation." In addition to the $1.6 billion would be another $500 million for housing subsidies for people making up to $120,000 per year. Thus the total taxpayer burden would be more than two billion dollars.
Fairfax Poverty? Fairfax is so poor it can't even afford enough computers for all the election sites on Nov. 6. Missing computers will be 47 precincts, which will have to rely on marking paper books to record who voted. The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board eliminated 17 jobs and planned expansion of programs to help the homeless. Social services are to be cut 10 percent during the next two years.
Free buses in Tysons. Fairfax planners want to spend almost one billion dollars of the $1.6 billion to buy buses and pay for their operation so people can visit jewelry stores without paying the full costs and employees won't have to walk. In 2013 alone, the planners propose to spend $45 million for the buses. Why should residents of Fairfax subsidize shoppers touring around high-end Tysons stores? Fairfax planners say residents should walk and bike, but not high-end shoppers and employees.
Short-change school children to help Tysons developers. This subsidy is foolishly proposed at a time when the county is short of cash and Fairfax school children take classes in almost 900 classrooms in trailers. Taxpayers and toll road users are currently spending about $2 billion to put in four Metro Stops in Tysons to support the developers, but that is not enough for the planners and developers.
Increase traffic, decrease parking. The current Comprehensive Plan Transportation Introduction notes "traffic conditions are likely to deteriorate further" and it is "imperative to bring about less demand for roadway capacity" with biking and walking. The planners are proposing to restrict parking, while contradictorily encouraging massive development of offices and subsidized apartments for people making up to $120,000 or more.
Tysons vacancies high and increasing. Tysons office space vacancies have grown every year for the last four years and are now above 17 percent. Tysons office rents are uncompetitive at $30 per square foot versus $24 per square foot in other parts of the county. Subsidies from taxpayers in the near term to encourage uncertain development in the distant future don't make sense. Tysons planners don't mention vacancies, growth of offices in other areas and comparative rents. More than 17 million square feet of office space is vacant now outside the Beltway in Northern Virginia, and it is likely to go to 20 million square feet soon.
None of the planners has provided the public with answers to the following key questions:
1. Why is further taxpayer support for Tysons development needed, considering the vacancies, state of traffic around Tysons and alternatives for development in other areas like Reston, Herndon and Springfield? Why shouldn't developers pay all the costs?
2. How and when would the public benefit from taxpayer subsidies of the infrastructure and what is the rate of return? Fairfax planners talk about cost/benefit analysis, but don't do the calculations.
3. What other areas in Fairfax are being developed for office buildings without taxpayer subsidies and what are the comparable rates of return to taxpayers for each area?
The planners clearly have no firm financing plan when they recommend vaguely and unrealistically: "The primary funding responsibilities for these improvements come from state, federal, regional and county funding sources."
Fairfax County has a $275 million borrowing limit each year, but just expanding Route 7 from Reston Avenue to Tysons would cost $300 million, and of course would have to be repaid with interest by taxes. The "regional" sources are not identified. The federal government has to borrow more than 40 percent of its budget now and is an unlikely source of financing. VDOT borrows for all new projects and has no budget for Tysons.
The obvious conclusion is to identify a few priority needs, such as expanding Route 7, but drop public funded Tysons projects and subsidies that would cost Fairfax taxpayers massive tax increases, add to traffic congestion and decrease parking availability.
Thomas L. Cranmer,
First Vice President,
Fairfax County Taxpayers' Alliance