Next Monday, June 27, 7PM, North County Government Center, FCDOT will present a community meeting on funding the proposed re-shaping of the roadways in and around the Dulles Corridor to accommodate the massive growth planned there over the next 40 years. We anticipate two key elements of the FCDOT presentation (although we do not have the presentation).
- First, an update on the scope of the mitigation efforts that will be required to handle the traffic expected as density mushrooms along the Dulles Corridor. So far, FCDOT has gone through two of the three tiers of mitigation (from easiest/cheapest to most difficult/expensive). According to in late March, even with these Tier 2 improvements, 31 station area intersections will still be operating at Level of Service (LOS) “F” during the peak AM or PM or both hours.
Second, in a presentation to just the Advisory Group this week, FCDOT noted that it has found unexplained $223,000,000 in savings for the “grid of streets,” which were always planned to be paid for by developers only. However, no explanation is provided on how all this money is to be saved.
We are perplexed by how FCDOT managed to reduce the cost of the “grid of streets” for developers by nearly a quarter-billion dollars (22%) without significantly lowering County expectations for these roadways. We don’t know what features (number of lanes) or amenities (bike lanes) might have been cut to achieve this savings. In short, it sounds too good to be true.
On the other hand, FCDOT is proposing that station area residents pay a new property-based tax. It described two new funding options (new #6 and new #7) that would entail a new Tax Service District (like the one all Restonians pay for the Reston Community Center) for station area residents that would cost them $0.015/$100 valuation to fill an $85-$110 million funding gap depending on the option selected. Please see the footnote below that says New Option #6 would actually need to have another $0.005/$100 valuation—or a total of $0.020/$100 valuation—to cover cash flow needs. Always read the small print. FCDOT says this would add $75 to $100 to each taxpayer’s bill (depending on the option) for a property valued at $500,000.
At the risk of repeating ourselves, we would make the following points on the proposed taxation of Reston station area residents to fund these roadway improvements:
- Station area residents will derive no benefit from these roadway improvements; in fact, just the opposite. It is the stated intent of FCDOT to degrade to intersection Level of Service goal for these streets from LOS “D” to LOS “E.” More broadly, this degraded service intent extends specifically to the through streets—the ones Restonians beyond the station areas use to travel from one side of Reston to the other—even though they do not intend to go to or from the station areas.
- At the same time, developers will likely earn nearly $6 BILLION over the next five years from their existing and new Reston station area construction. The roughly 6,000 homeowners in the station areas will not receive one extra dollar in income because they live in the station areas, yet they will be taxed an added $85-$111 million over the same five-year timeframe. If that tax cost were paid by the developers, it would represent less than two percent of their net operating income in the same five-year period.
And please note that:
- The $.015/$100 valuation (or the more likely $.020/$100 valuation) tax is almost certainly a “teaser rate” introductory tax. Tysons’ Tax Service District tax rate went up one full penny per $100 valuation in one year, and will likely continue to rise. We can expect the same in Reston.
- Property appreciation will have its usual impact on property taxes: As the property value rises, so will the Tax Service District tax—even if the rate doesn’t change.
- Tax Service District will never go away. Just because the construction cost gap is closed in five years doesn’t mean there won’t be maintenance costs forever that will be paid by this residential tax. And it is not at all clear that the money will even go to Reston or to roads.
- Forcing residents of the station areas (or all Reston as previously proposed) to pay an additional tax for roads that will be less passable than at present is nothing less than massive and grotesque corporate welfare served up by the County to appease developers who are already making billions in profits each year.
Moreover, if $233 million FCDOT cut in the “grid of streets” cost can be cut from developers’ contribution to the grid, why couldn’t the developers easily pick up the $85-111 million FCDOT wants the residents of the Dulles Corridor to pay? After all, to do so would still mean a savings of $122 million or more for them—and presumably decent streets.
All these are observations and questions Reston attendees at next week’s RNAG community meeting may want to pursue with FCDOT. Again, that meeting is next Monday, June 27, at 7PM at the North County Government Center.
Come and learn about the cost and financing of future streets in our station areas and how much you may have to pay for them.