Friday, June 22, 2007

Loudoun County York NVTA Hearing

Last night's hearing in Loudoun held by BOS chair Scott York, regarding providing input on NVTA's tax and fee response to House Bill 3202 (local taxation for local transportation) wasn't much of a bilateral ideas exchange, rather, it was mainly a one-sided display of builder/developer unity with a smattering of cautionary suggestions, and only 2 real "Vote No" proponents (out of a very meager audience of 50, with 30 public speakers). Supervisors Kurtz, Tulloch and Delgaudio were in attendance, along with House Delegate Bob Marshall and House Senate District 33 challenger Patricia Phillips.

The initial summary of NVTA's proposal yields up to 40% of $40 million per year to come back to Loudoun from local taxes and fees; the highest taxes to be paid by sellers of real estate (which the National Association of Realtors (NAR) representative vehemently disagreed with), with other fees levied on things like auto repair, transportation rentals, hotel stays. The other 60% of the money raised would be prioritized regionally by NVTA to service debt, help fund Metro and VRE expansions, and support what's sure to be significant administrative bloat (facilities, legal, bond consulting, technology, CFO, Marketing, etc.) around running a new organization responsible for raising and spending $400 million a year among public projects. The only Dulles South area project currently in priority this year to be assisted with funding from these taxes is improvements to the intersection of Rt. 606 and 621, all other Loudoun projects are around Leesburg or to the west. (Larger projects, like widening of Rt. 50 and Rt. 606 improvements, won't begin until 2013).

Speakers were a who's who acronym list of those organizations who aren't significantly impacted by the fees (which will mostly impact individuals), including the LCCC, DCRA, WATF, CFD, NVBIA, BAIOP, NAOIP, WTA, etc. All simply told York to vote 'Yes'. PEC offered a cautionary note on land development and land use environmental impacts, and Ms. Phillips offered an insightful cautionary note into the actual constitutional authority of NVTA to create bonds not actually approved by constituent voters. Delegate Marshall was a resounding and well-thought out "No" vote - focusing mainly on the fact that the NVTA tax and fee vote this July is far too soon to act without more information on what exactly would be funded, plus the NVTA's leadership is altogether too Fairfax-centric to have adequately considered Loudoun's priorities without significantly more insight and investigation. He asked York not to vote at this time for such a "transportation pot luck".

Dulles South Online and Dulles South Business Alliance's counsel wasn't provided orally, but internal statements by these organizations is to support the bill, if for nothing else than some progress absolutely must be made, even with the difficult hurdles to come.

York's concluding comments forecast a "Yes" vote from Loudoun if very specific questions regarding NVTA authority, bond issuance, funding priorities and other logistical issues can be answered fully by the time of the vote - otherwise, the vote will be a "No" supporting the few very illuminating speakers who counseled York that significant more time and introspection is required in this very important, and needed transportation funding opportunity (the first one in 21 years!).

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