Loudoun's In: Split Board Backs Silver Line Extension - Leesburg Today Online—Daily News Coverage of Loudoun County, Leesburg, Ashburn: News

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Loudoun's In: Split Board Backs Silver Line Extension

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Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:46 am | Updated: 9:31 pm, Wed Jul 4, 2012.

After months of at times vitriolic debate, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-4 this morning to support the Silver Line extension, and remain in the agreement to continue as a funding partner in the project that will extend Metro from Tysons Corner to the heart of Ashburn. Vice Chairman Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Supervisors Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) were opposed.  

The first phase of the project is already under construction from Tysons to Wiehle Avenue in Reston and is expected to open next year. The second phase will go from Reston through Dulles Airport to Rt. 606 and Rt. 772.

The vote turned the eyes of the region onto Loudoun’s board as people waited to learn whether the Silver Line project would continue as it has been planned for the last 20 years, or whether it would end at Wiehle Avenue. While the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Fairfax County have expressed a wish to see Metro extend to Dulles Airport even without Loudoun as a funding partner, there is no plan in place to make that happen and MWAA CEO Jack Potter has said it would likely put a heftier price tag and a multi-year delay on the project.

By opting in Loudoun agrees to pay 4.8 percent of the project’s construction costs, or approximately $270 million. That would equal to about $18 million in debt service each year. There are also operating costs to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in the amount of about $16 million per year.

During its debate in recent weeks, supervisors have stated they wanted to settle on a funding mechanism before the vote on the overall project to give residents and property owners a clear sense of the board’s intentions. However, any tax district must be implemented through an ordinance, which requires a public hearing and official adoption by the board, and could not occur before today’s vote.

The funding scenario includes a tax district with two different subsets—one within a half mile of each of the four stations that will impact Loudoun properties, Rt. 28, Dulles Airport, Rt. 606 and Rt. 772, and another for the remaining portion of the district. The inner core tax rate would be 20 cents per $100 of assessed value and the remainder of the districts would be tax rates up to 20 cents.

The tax district was created through the work of Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) and roughly encompass a one-mile radius around the planned rail stations. However, the boundaries are drawn such that they exclude virtually all the existing residential development in the area. According to county staff, only 37 parcels would remain. New residential development immediately around the Metro stations, like the planned Moorefield Station, Loudoun Station and Dulles World, would be included in the district in the future. Supervisors have noted that those residents would most benefit from the existence of rail and there would be plenty of time to prepare those residents for the additional tax.

This is a developing story. Check back for additional updates. 

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  • Bob_Smith posted at 11:32 am on Thu, Jul 5, 2012.

    Bob_Smith Posts: 448

    Bully? Re-read Harry's post - he uses words/terms like "now-inevitable behemoth tax increase", "strongly condemn", "irresponsible votes", "will certainly costs millions (perhaps billions) more than expected", "were lied to and manipulated", - all very strongly opinionated statements meant to denegrate and demonize Metro supporters and threatening them with these certainties of cost escalations and the insinuation of retribution to the 5 Board members who voted to opt-in. I took it very seriously and felt the need to point out a few things, perhaps I overstepped and got a little too personal by calling out Harry's lack of observing the obviousness of the tax district point, which he CHOSE to ignore in his post...because it works against his points of how Loudoun will pay its responsibilities.

    To your post, Thomas - many questions in there, and many pointed directly at me. I'll ignore those personal questions, as you create so many scenarios that my actual personal choices don't even compute and would never suffice to satisfy you. This is about Metro in Loudoun, how all Loudouners will use or benefit from it, which includes how all the visitors and passers-through will use or benefit from rail as well.

    To your questions:
    1. I think you are correct re: parking garages. I have faith that this detail will be worked out, either in P/P development, a parking authority, or CIP funding to build and operate what would be an asset to the County. If you look around the country, there are private corporations seeking out the purchase of municipally owned parking garages, because they know they are money makers. Garages are actually a good investment, especially when tied to a fixed METRO station.

    2. Development and traffic will increase, Metro or not. Metro will foster greater density in areas, however. Yes, this will generate more cars, students, and need for public and private services (libraries and grocery stores). Who will pay is exactly how it's been to date - proffers and taxes. You can't ignore the fact that more development does equate to increased property values and more tax revenue. And you can't ignore that growth will ignore, just differently, if Metro were not to come.

    3. Increased tax revenue from new development, in part. And we can't foretell the future - funding formulas may change. The gas tax may actually be increased (hasn't been since 1993) or at lease adjusted for inflation. You can't make assumptions for the future based ONLY on the present status - you at least have admit that the variables could change. And the gas tax variable is NOT controlled by the BOS.

    4. Huge assumption on the "ashburn folks". Maybe they'll bike to the station. Or walk, those within a mile. Or kiss and ride. Or, maybe a local bus service will be created, and maybe that is a private entity not something goverment run. Maybe taxi's will proliferate. Maybe rickshaws will come and use all the 10' wide multi-use paths we have.

    5. Again, fact-less fatalistic assumptions used to further your point.

    6. "always". That's false. Infrastructure loans are common, but get paid back. Tax abatements, like the deal Howard Hughes has, must be taken up with the BOS. You can't assume that will happen. And any tax incentive program always yields benefits, simply delayed. It's a question of vacant land paying $0, or development paying some level of deffered tax $$.

    7. If the debt cap must be raised, it will be. Debt cap is partly based on overall value of land, which will increase now that Metro is realized and new development occurs. And again, you are assuming the future debt cap will remain wehre it is, and it won't. It could go up, or down, based on the values that go into creating it. It's not simply an arbitrary number.

    8. Good question, don't know the date. I'm sure someone does. Pretty safe bet it's not tomorrow, though. Is that a good reason to scrap 25 years of planning for Metro, when the first payment is due? Not IMO.

    9. EIS's occur when they occur in the project design stage. Why would you expect it to be different for Metro, when Loudoun has hung the noose out all this time, threatening to kill their part of Phase 2? There is always the risk of something 'big' arising in an EIS. I would assume that in the projected budget, there is some level of adequate contingency for environmental issues. It's not like the engineers involved don't know the area, seeing as, Loudoun's rail line will be on already developed airport property and then in the middle of the already developed Greenway. This is not a big undeveloped farm field with cemeteries or historic structures.

    10. There is a reason, and I don't agree with it. I think it IS the Feds responsibility to get rail to the airport that THEY sited 30-some miles away from D.C. that is meant to serve the Virginia side of the entire D.C. region. But that argument is long dead and done. Ashburn has every reason to have Metro access that Shady Grove, Glenmont, Greenbelt, Largo, Landover, Springfield, or Vienna does (all end of the line areas). It's not just the populations around those places, it's the draw of people from that sector of the region that could use Metro, which in our case is part of Maryland and all of nearby West Virginians.

    11. It's undeveloped because it's waiting for the rail stations. If you don't know the plannign history of Moorefield Station, Loudoun Station, and the general area in Ashburn, then that speaks volumes. Sorry if that hurts, but it's the truth. It's fine to know be knowledgable, but one shouldn't throw spears - or ask those questions - when it's readily known information. Re: Rts. 7 or 50 - look at the map. The point with the Silver Line was to get it to Dulles Airport. It IS on Rt. 7, right up to and into Tysons Corner. Then it goes into the DTR median to get to the airport. Rt. 7 in Loudoun was never planned for having rail down the center. The medians aren't wide enough in all areas, and the interchanges weren't built for rail. While I'd love it for the future, I don't see it. Rt. 50, same scenario. If you want to start the lobby for Metro on Rt. 7 and 50, sign me up in support!

    I'll close by touching on your desire for an "overall cost" that, I'm sure, you want cast in stone. That just isn't the way things work in the field of public infrastructure that takes years and years to plan and construct. An anology - you buy a vehicle. You know the up front cost, price + loan interest rate, locked in, 60 months of equal predictable payments. But the maintenance costs, including gas...quite variable, unknown. Those who bought a gas guzzling SUV when gas was under $2/gal. probably second guessed that when it neared $4 a couple years ago for the first time. They had no control and just had to pay it. Now, gas is low $3's, but could change in an instant.

  • Impressions posted at 5:21 pm on Wed, Jul 4, 2012.

    Impressions Posts: 46

    It's about time! Thanks to those with foresight.

  • Thomas Packard42 posted at 10:42 pm on Tue, Jul 3, 2012.

    Thomas Packard42 Posts: 2

    Bob Smith there are many reasons people are opposed to this and I don’t believe I will change your opinion nor do I wish. However, you act like you know all the answers so perhaps you can enlighten us all on how this new tax district is going to pay for the following that will be a direct result of the two Ashburn stations, please:

    1. The county does not have a firm grip on how to pay for the parking garages. There are estimates of $130M and possibly a public/private partnership. What if no private enterprise wants involved? County models to park use $10/day. Is that acceptable? Will you pay $10 after paying Greenway fees to get to the station? Unless of course new public roads are built, which the County will have to pay because the new tax district will not be responsible for them. How will we pay for roads to get to the stations? What happens if the county wants to build a road next to your property? Will you support that knowing it is for the better good of all in the county?
    2. Schools, teachers, emergency workers, social service workers, more government workers to service all the new residents who will come before Metro is built, before commercial development is built. Who will pay for it? Traffic will actually be more not less because of Metro.
    3. Gas tax in 2019 will pay the annual operating costs of Metro. What happens to all the projects that currently use the gas tax? How will the county make up those millions of dollars?
    4. Do you think Ashburn folk will want to drive their cars and pay $10 to park? They will demand new bus service. Who will pay for it?
    5. Phase 1 has millions in cost over runs. What are the odds Phase 2 will be on-budget? Who pays for the over runs?
    6. Commercial development always requests tax abatements to re-locate. The business model does not consider commercial give aways when and if they come.
    7. The county debt cap is $200M. It will now be exceeded impacting our bond rating. How will this impact our ability to pay for schools and roads?
    8. MWAA has never told us when the first payment will be due. It could be tomorrow. How will we pay for it when commercial development in the new tax district is a decade out?
    9. Environmental studies have not been done or completed. How much risk do we have there?
    10. Why did the Federal Government back out of this? Surely, they had a compelling reason.
    11. If everybody is about “removing cars” from the roadways why is the line going to undeveloped land? Who owns the land? Why not have the rail go down Route 7 or Route 50, both are closer to population centers and commercial districts.

    I could write another dozen or so points but maybe you get my point and the point of others when we say there is no “free lunch” in this thing. It is my hope that you can answer some of these questions because the BOS has yet to find the correct answers. Many in the group of 5 do not even want to acknowledge these questions preferring to skate around the overall costs.

  • Thomas Packard42 posted at 10:38 pm on Tue, Jul 3, 2012.

    Thomas Packard42 Posts: 2

    Bob Smith – why do you feel compelled to be a bully? Just because Harry or anybody else does not agree with your logic does not make you right or them right. Your conclusion based off whatever analysis you did to arrive at your answer suits you as equally as the analysis Harry or anybody else who is/was opposed to Dulles Rail used suits them. Your bullying tactic is so middle schoolish, which is funny since you do mention the k-12 educational system. Have you always been a bully or did you just decide to be one today? I hope you stop going forward as it really does nothing to make people want to respect your opinion.

  • Denise M Pierce posted at 7:43 pm on Tue, Jul 3, 2012.

    Denise M Pierce Posts: 1

    Volpe Votes “No” to Loudoun’s Future

    As the Democratic candidate for Algonkian Supervisor, I believed that Metro extension was critical to Loudoun’s future and I advocated for it in my campaign. Prior to today’s vote, the Republican candidate, Ms. Volpe, ducked the issue about her support for rail to Loudoun. During the campaign, my experience was that voters favored rail; however, today Ms. Volpe said that when talking to voters before the election, the subject of rail never came up. Last year when asked directly about her position at a forum, Ms. Volpe refused to say she would support it. Today, Algonkian Supervisor Volpe voted against rail to Loudoun. Her position is hard to understand. Ms. Volpe likes to say that taxes are among her main concerns, but while on the Planning Commission over 8 years ago, she had no problem approving every residential project that came before her. She seemed to have no idea about how those future residents would get to work and she had no concern for what that huge influx of new residents would do to the tax rate or the increased demand on County services. We agreed on the position that bringing more businesses to Loudoun would increase the tax base so residential property tax rates could be reduced. A “Yes” vote for rail to Loudoun was the most obvious way to begin doing that, but she turned her back on this opportunity. Congratulations to the five members of the Board who had the courage to go against many in their Party to vote in favor of the most important project since Dulles airport was built in the early 60s.

  • Bob_Smith posted at 6:07 pm on Tue, Jul 3, 2012.

    Bob_Smith Posts: 448

    Harry, I'm sorry, your comprehension skills are quite devoid. I sincerely hope you are not an LCPS product.

    " now-inevitable behemoth tax increase that will most likely fall upon all Loudoun County businesses and property owners"

    Did you not hear the business owners and developers speak unanimously for Metro, and for tax districts if that was the Boards desire? I did. I heard citizens/residents speak for Metro, and understanding that tax districts will be utilized, and that that may raise costs in those areas. And those residents know what the toll rate situation on the DTR is going to be, and that even if opted "out", their use of the DTR was going to cost more and more to pay for Metro. Because those are all the facts according to the current funding structure.

    You and others, even after the Board has adopted the course to create the taxing districts, are shouting " without first having determined how this massive bill will be paid for." I mean, they just did - they approved creating tax districts. How does that not address your question?

    The residents for Metro understand that it will cost all of us something, just like our roads, utilities, and schools all cost us something through direct and indirect costs, each and every day, at the gas pump, at the checkout line, and when paying the mortgage. Metro is but another key part of the COunty's infrastructure that will be worked into the fray and dealt with. Those who oppose Metro, no shock, also oppose increases in school funding, increases in water and sewer projects, and anything else that isn't the status quo today. That's hyper-conservatism, unfortunately, and it really has no place in the rapidly developing and growing Loudoun of 2012. The developer friendly Republican of not long ago...they are rolling over in their graves (no disrespect to the recently departed) with this new-fangled Republican that wants to shut the door on growth, progress, and opportunity.

    The kicker is, the private sector is going to pay the bulk of Loudoun's Metro commitment share, not "the government" through property taxation. This, all Republicans should be praising together.

  • Unelaborated1 posted at 4:15 pm on Tue, Jul 3, 2012.

    Unelaborated1 Posts: 1

    Congratulations to the BoS for getting a no-brainer right, although barely.

  • mas954 posted at 2:42 pm on Tue, Jul 3, 2012.

    mas954 Posts: 352

    Yea :)))))) Now let's get the shovels in the ground and start constructing already!!!

  • Ashburn Resident posted at 1:27 pm on Tue, Jul 3, 2012.

    Ashburn Resident Posts: 6

    I applaud Supervisors Delgaudio, Volpe, Clarke and Higgins for their courageous votes to "opt out" of participating in this now-inevitable behemoth tax increase that will most likely fall upon all Loudoun County businesses and property owners. At the same time I strongly condemn those supervisors who voted to "opt in" for their irresponsible votes to do so without first having determined how this massive bill will be paid for. This gigantic public infrastructure and transportation project is already over-budget and will certainly costs millions (perhaps billions) more than expected before it is finally completed. Those county residents who supported "opting in" because they believed that it will not cost them anything will learn soon enough that there is no such thing as a "free lunch" and that they were lied to and manipulated, but by then it will be too late to do anything about it because now Loudoun County (meaning Loudoun County businesses and taxpayers) is committed to paying a share of the construction costs for several years and a share of the operational costs forever.

  • Stevens Miller posted at 11:42 am on Tue, Jul 3, 2012.

    Stevens Miller Posts: 113

    Well done, Ken, Matt, Shawn, Ralph, and most especially Scott!

    This makes us part of the future economic growth of the region, and forever precludes Richmond from saying again that we won't pay to solve our own transportation problems.

    Thank you, all five of you.

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