Fairfax board clashes over Tysons Corner housing

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Local,Virginia,Aubrey Whelan

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved redevelopment plans for Tysons Corner two years ago, but the board is still fighting over how to pay for transportation improvements and how much affordable housing is needed in the area.

The board requires 20 percent of any residential development in Tysons to be set aside for affordable housing, which in one of the nation's wealthiest counties means housing for residents who earn between $50,000 and $120,000 a year.

But Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity this week raised objections to the housing plan, saying that the $500 million developers might have to pay to help shelter people who are earning what are essentially middle-class incomes could be better spent on transportation needs.

That money could help fund the $1.6 billion Tysons itself needs for transportation projects, including Metro's Silver Line to Washington Dulles International Airport, Herrity said.

"Should the county be requiring developers to subsidize people making $70,000 to $120,000 a year, or should we be putting that half a billion into our transportation needs in Tysons?" Herrity asked The Washington Examiner. "We have $1.6 billion to pay and we don't know where we're going to get it."

But Herrity's proposal riled his fellow board members, who say the plans for Tysons took years to work out and shouldn't be changed on a whim.

"I don't really like to say negative things about colleagues, but Supervisor Herrity is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong, and he's been wrong all along," said Board Vice Chairwoman Penny Gross. "Frankly, I'm getting tired of it. It's taking up valuable time on other things. At some point you just sit down and be quiet."

Other supervisors said they worry that focusing too much on transportation issues could actually undermine community support for the development plan. Over the years, community members helped work out transportation, housing and environmental concerns with the plans.

"Housing provisions and environmental provisions -- those things cost some money," said Supervisor John Cook. "But we wouldn't have the broad support for Tysons if we were not going to do it in an environmentally responsible way. I think the task force struck a good balance."

Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova is among those bristling at Herrity's attempt to reopen the Tysons Corner plans.

She dismissed his claim that developers will spend $500 million on affordable housing as a simplistic "back-of-the-napkin calculation," and noted that developers already agreed to contribute toward the transportation improvements.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay also balked at Herrity's proposal, saying affordable housing is critical to the county's future.

"With all due respect," McKay said, "in Pat's world, Tysons Corner and other upscale areas of Fairfax County would be middle-income-free enclaves of the well-to-do."

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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