Va. lawmaker backs residents fighting Tysons tax hike

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

A Virginia lawmaker is siding with Fairfax County residents in their fight against higher taxes even though that could disrupt the county's plans to redevelop Tysons Corner into a new urban downtown.

Del. Mark Keam, D-Vienna, said he will introduce legislation in the General Assembly that will either completely exempt residents who live in special tax districts or require that they be taxed at a lower rate than businesses in those districts. His bill is a response to the county's plan to increase property taxes in Tysons by 7 to 9 cents to fund the area's $3.1 billion redevelopment.

"It's a matter of fairness," Keam said. "This is not something they bargained for."

Fairfax had originally planned not to tax residents in the Tysons area, but decided at the last minute to include them in the tax district because the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors feared that the General Assembly would not allow the exemption.

The Board of Supervisors put off a vote on the tax district at its last meeting after residents spoke for two hours against the plan.

Since then, Fairfax supervisors have spoken to residents about ways to move forward and communicated with Keam about his intended legislation.

"It would be nice if the General Assembly could help us," said Supervisor Linda Smyth, D-Providence, a vocal opponent of imposing the higher taxes on residents. "I've been referring residents to state representatives because that's where we can get help."

Many Tysons residents, who already pay a real estate tax, stormwater tax and pest management tax, are supporting Keam's bill.

"We're trying to keep the momentum going," said Michael Bogasky, president of the Rotonda Condominium Unit Owners Association. "At this point, the supervisors are useless. They're wearing blinders and refuse to accept that this is unfair taxation, that we're being segregated from the rest of the county."

Despite the growing support, even Keam isn't sure his bill will pass. Exempting some property owners from a tax imposed on others in the same district may be unconstitutional, he said.

"The board clearly knows any attempt to eliminate residents from tax districts is dead on arrival in Richmond based on prior experiences," said Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield.

Taxes on Tysons residents would account for small part of the $253 million the county intends to raise from the special tax district, but supervisors would be pressed to replace the funds if Keam's bill passed.

The board is scheduled to vote on the tax hike at its Jan. 8 meeting. It would take effect in July, though officials say they'll adjust it if Keam's legislation passes.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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