Fairfax board backs down on Tysons tax hike

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday backed off its plans to raise the property taxes of residents and developers in Tysons -- at least temporarily -- after residents spoke out against the plan for more than two hours.

The tax hike, expected to increase property taxes in Tysons by 7 to 9 cents, was supposed to come as part of the board's $3.1 billion vision of transforming the area into a new urban downtown.

But instead, the board decided to put off a vote to establish the tax district after what Supervisor John Foust, D-Dranesville, called "some of our most eloquent testimony" since the plan was first adopted in 2010.

Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, said he was shocked that the board, which met during Hurricane Sandy to ensure it could pass the tax hike before the end of the year, decided to put off the vote.

"I think the board just got cold feet," said Herrity, who has repeatedly spoken out against the tax hike. "It's not fair to tax current residents and businesses in Tysons."

More than 25 speakers turned out to the public hearing, and most focused on the board's decision to not exclude residents from the tax hike, something the board had planned to do until fears that the General Assembly wouldn't support the exclusion drove board members to change their minds.

"Do you really care about us?" said Michael Bogasky, president of the Rotonda Condominium Unit Owners Association. "We feel like we're being punished and isolated from the rest of the county."

County officials repeatedly touted the tax increase as a critical part of their vision for Tysons, but many of the speakers told the board it would only prohibit small businesses from thriving. Some even proposed the board scrap the entire project.

"The impact is nothing but negative: noise, nuisance and increased crime" said resident Molly Peacock. "Property owners are being punished."

The issue of "fairness" particularly resonated with board members, who vowed to look into making adjustments to everything from redrawing boundaries to not taxing residents.

"I think it would be a benefit to have time to digest and think about what we've heard from you," Chairwoman Sharon Bulova told residents.

The board is expected to vote on the tax hike at its next meeting on Jan. 8, although not all board members are expecting changes to the plan.

"I will do everything I can to make sure the people in Tysons pay for the Tysons transportation improvements," said Supervisor Michael Frey, R-Sully. "If we want these things, we have to pay for them."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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