|8515 Lee Highway [Google Maps]|
The agency is conducting a public hearing on the issue Nov. 19 at Fairfax Water’s offices at 8570 Executive Park Ave., Fairfax.
According to Fairfax County records, the property in question, just over 177,000 square feet, was purchased by Milestone Properties in August 2014 for $7 million. The 2015 assessed value of the land and buildings was $5.2 million. The property has a Penske Truck Rental business facing Lee Highway and vacant spaces at the rear.
The Falls Church News-Press reports that Fairfax Water would require Milestone to accept a price for the property “far below its market value, and especially below its potential in a Lee Highway corridor that, with the Mosaic District nearby, is ripe for major new development.” Actually, it's about half a mile from Mosaic.
The article says Milestone had refused Fairfax Water’s earlier proposal to purchase the property. Milestone was planning to move its scrap metal business to the rear part of the building from it's current location in an old Wonder Bread warehouse on the other side of Lee Highway, says Mike Wing, the land use specialist in the office of Providence Supervisor Linda Smyth.
Fairfax Water states on its website that it needs the property for a new central maintenance facility that “it must construct and operate to meet the existing and future public water service requirements of its customers.”
Fairfax Water’s board of directors could vote on Nov. 19 after the hearing, the agency says, “to adopt a resolution approving the proposed public use and authorizing and directing the acquisition of the property for the public use by condemnation or other means.”
Smyth met with both parties but Fairfax County Board of Supervisors don’t have the authority to stop the project. Fairfax Water is an independent agency with the power to use eminent domain to meet a compelling public need.
The Greater Merrifield Business Association (GMBA) is urging its members to testify at the hearing against Fairfax Water’s use of eminent domain to acquire land for a maintenance facility. Fairfax Water denied GMBA’s request to delay the hearing.
A letter from GMBA board member Karen Hammond to Merrifield businesses says: “members of the original task force which helped pave the way for the current exciting development in Merrifield are strongly opposed to this use of this four-acre parcel of land. We have talked to Supervisor Linda Smyth and she too is opposed. She has encouraged anyone in the community that wishes to voice their concerns to come to the hearing and also sign up to testify against the project.”
According to Wing, the county’s Comprehensive Plan for Merrifield allows industrially zoned properties, like the one at issue here, to be redeveloped for office uses, but that would require a consolidation of at least 10 acres.