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Monday, November 16, 2015

Fairfax Water plans to use eminent domain to take property in Merrifield

8515 Lee Highway [Google Maps]
The Fairfax County Water Authority is planning to use eminent domain to acquire a property at 8515 Lee Highway in Merrifield for a new maintenance facility.

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.  

11 comments:

  1. (Cue all the Trump-types on this board losing their minds)

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  2. I am confused how Fairfax Water has complete control over using Eminent Domain. How were they given this authority and by whom? If this is the case they can come into any land and take it over.

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  3. I believe Fairfax Water is actually part of Fairfax county, so it can use eminent domain. The idea that they aren't paying full price is a bit of a rub though. I doubt that land lost value between 2014 and 2015, so I'd think the current owners have a case in saying that they arent being compensated fairly. But I dont know the specifics of that parcel - it just seems questionable that it would loose 25% of its value in a year.

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    1. Mr. Longo, the FC Water Authority AND the FC Park Authority are just what their titles say: they are "AUTHORITIES" established by Virginia State law. They are NOT part of the FC Government per se, as they operate under state laws which for BOTH of these authorities grants the power of Eminent Domain. Yes, either of these NON-elected groups can steal your property and the best you can hope for is to get reasonable payment for it.
      Our tax dollars pay for FCPA employees as well as most of the cost of running the FCPA. FCWA pays its way by water use fees, etc.
      The BOS signed away their control over the FCPA in a MOU some years ago - the MOU basically grants the FCPA FULL license of the Virginia state code for Park Authorities. Hopefully that seemed reasonable at the time as it sure looks stupid today to give away all control.

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  4. What exactly is a maintenance facility?

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  5. Sounds like the BoS is useless again; a hapless group. I think their only purpose is to pick up a pay check and do nothing. They are more like BS than BoS.

    As for the Water Authority, another rogue county/state agency like DMV bullying its way into a neighborhood where they are not wanted.

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  6. Quite a bit of the Mosaic district was built through eminent domain. This is how Merrifield was revitalized. FFX County isn't opposed to playing that game to accomplish its end goal.

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    1. Don't doubt you, just curious how you know that?

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    2. I would like more information on that as well. Just curious as well I find that interesting.

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    3. A call to Superivsor Linda Smyth's office would help clear this up.

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  7. Eminent Domain is a collectivist concept that presumes that the state (society) owns all land and may take back at will, under the fig leaf excuse of the "common good" - which actually means for the benefit of some (majority) and at the expense of a minority. Will the court properly uphold the "highest and best use" valuation ($7 + Million)? Depends on whether then judge is a partisan Democrat (screw private property) or not. Welcome to the New Left's Socialist Paradise. So much for their claim yo be for the Little Guy. or against Profit (the County's !!)

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