|The Bailey's Crossroads Community Shelter.|
We want to inform other Fairfax County neighborhoods of what can happen while you are not looking. County government proposals pop up like whack-a-moles.
On Jan. 7, we learned about a complicated proposed land swap/acquisition among three entities: Fairfax County, AvalonBay Communities Inc., and 5827 Columbia Pike Associates LLC. In a nutshell, the county will swap land with AvalonBay so the company can develop the corner of Columbia Pike and Moncure Avenue in the Bailey’s Crossroads area for apartments.
At the same time, the county wants to buy property from 5827 Columbia Pike Associates. The cost for the purchase of the 5827 Columbia Pike property is $6.35 million, with $880,000 for the building’s demolition. The Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter is currently located on the site that Avalon Bay wants to develop. In order for the county/AvalonBay land swap deal to go forward, the county must relocate the homeless shelter.
Neighbors learned on their own that First Christian Church at 6165 Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners was approached by the county to allow the relocation of the homeless shelter to their property. Negotiations are now ongoing between the county and the church. From the church, we understand that the county will lease some of the church’s land for a temporary shelter composed of multiple trailers for a period between three to six years.
The residential neighbors nearest to the proposed temporary shelter have been told nothing by the county, despite the fact that the property of several residential property owners directly abuts the church’s property. The level of transparency regarding this whole process has been essentially non-existent.
The affected neighborhoods had two working days to prepare for a pro forma hearing by the Board of Supervisors on a land swap deal that could affect us greatly in a number of ways, ranging from security to property values. The Board of Supervisors then scheduled a decision-only vote for Feb. 2, which was deferred until Feb. 16. The deferral was not due to concern for the taxpayers or to provide residents with more information about these proposals, but merely to give the county and partners involved more time to work out details.
We have these questions and concerns:
(1) Why is the Board of Supervisors rushing this land deal through at the expense of uprooting an existing homeless shelter from county-owned property to a temporary facility at the First Christian Church at the expense of county taxpayers and established neighborhoods? According to the county, the relocation expenses for the shelter would cost $2.1 million. After that there would be the ongoing expenses to lease the property from the church and the trailers to house the homeless. All of this will become a new annual budget item in addition to the expense of operating the shelter. This makes no sense to us.
(2) An advocate for the homeless in Northern Virginia spoke during the Jan. 12 public hearing and requested the board not to ping-pong the shelter from place to place. She said that if it must be relocated; it should be relocated to a permanent location, not to a temporary one. We note that the proposed agreement with Avalon Bay allows the county to rent back the property for the shelter until March 2017. Surely, the county can settle on a permanent location for the homeless shelter before then. We have found and suggested to the Board of Supervisors at least two alternative locations that would be appropriate sites for a new homeless shelter.
(3) Finally, it is unclear what the county plans for the property it will purchase just west of the current shelter site from the land swap with AvalonBay. We understand that a new county human services building is being suggested, and possibly a new road to connect Seminary Road and Columbia Pike. But it should be noted that Bailey’s Crossroads currently has an office vacancy rate of 47 percent. So, if new office space is in the plan for this land acquisition, we would simply suggest that taxpayers need to fund the construction of a new office building like we need a hole in the head. We can all think of better ways to spend this money. In particular, the homeless in Fairfax County deserve a fully staffed and well equipped permanent location, and should not be moved to trailers in an inappropriate location.
As longtime residents of Mason District, we want redevelopment, but it makes no sense to force the removal of the homeless shelter to a temporary site that is not well suited for this purpose and at unnecessary expense to county taxpayers. As residents of the affected neighborhood, we continue to urge the Board of Supervisors to slow down and consider these aspects of the proposal at their Feb. 16 decision-only meeting.