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Friday, March 25, 2016

Is Fairfax County paying too much for Bailey's Crossroads building?

The Bailey's International Center.
The Southeast Quadrant land swap has been approved but there are lingering questions about the deal and why Fairfax County has agreed to spend a lot more for an aging office building than its assessed value.

The real estate exchange approved by the Board of Supervisors Feb. 16 calls for Fairfax County to gain ownership of an office building at 5877 Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads for $6.35 million from  Landmark Atlantic. The building would eventually be demolished to make way for a county human services center and the extension of Seminary Road.

AvalonBay would acquire an adjacent county-owned property occupied by the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter for where it plans to build a 375-unit apartment building. The project is contingent on Fairfax County finding a new site in the vicinity for relocating the homeless shelter.

Lake Barcroft resident Kay Cooper recently wrote a letter to BoS Chair Sharon Bulova and the other supervisors questioning why the county is paying $7.2 million for the Landmark property while Fairfax County tax records list its assessed value as $4.87 million for 2016. Cooper is also concerned that the assessed value has risen sharply from $3.851 million in 2015 while the building has not undergone any improvements.

“The Board of Supervisors has a fiduciary responsibility to its citizens to ensure that we get good value for our money,” states Cooper’s letter, which is based on input from other local residents. “Spending almost double the assessed value for a dilapidated building on a neglected lot does not reflect sound financial reasoning.”

Tax records show that other nearby properties have actually decreased in assessed value since last year. Radley Acura, which is next door at 5823 Columbia Pike, has gone from a valuation of $3.43 million in 2015 to $3.22 million in 2016, for example, while the retail center on the other side of Columbia Pike (with Trader Joe’s) has gone declined from $26.15 million in assessed value in 2015 to $26.01 million in 2016.

To Cooper, “it certainly appears that the county has manipulated its property valuation for the Landmark property to justify the exorbitant purchase price.”

The letter notes that Landmark Atlantic CEO Scott Herrick has contributed more than $100,000 to the election campaigns of six supervisors, including over $40,000 to Bulova and over $30,000 to Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, both of whom voted in favor of the land swap.

While the supervisors didn’t violate the law, Cooper says, “this deal does not seem to be in the public’s best interest.”

Bulova’s email response to Cooper explains how the purchase price was determined but doesn’t address the huge increase in assessed valuation.

“The purchase price of the Landmark Atlantic property was negotiated by county staff – not the Board of Supervisors – and is based on what both the county and the property owner believe to be fair market value,” Bulova states.

“The assessed value of any property is typically below what that property may be worth in the market,” Bulova continues. The county hired two private certified appraisers who conducted four appraisals during 2014 and 2015. Those appraisals ranged from $5.75 million to $7 million, with an average of $6.14 million. Another appraisal conducted for the property owner came in at $9.2 million.

“In negotiating the purchase price, county staff was figuring plus or minus 5 percent of the average as a fair range, given the inexact nature of appraisals,” Bulova says. “The $6.35 million the county agreed to pay is 3 percent more than the average of the appraisals conducted by the firms contracted by the county. This process is consistent with how the county purchases property.”

The funds for the purchase are from “a roadway capital improvements reserve fund, which is in turn funded by commercial and industrial property tax revenue and revenue from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority,” she continues. “These funds can only be used for transportation projects, such as the purchase of the building to provide right of way as part of this revitalization project and does not compete with other county needs.”

“I support the purchase of the property and the revitalization project because I believe it has the potential to be a catalyst for redevelopment and revitalization of the surrounding area,” Bulova writes. “I would, however, not support it if I thought we were putting at risk some of our most vulnerable residents, those that receive services at the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter.”

Bulova says she and Gross are working with the county’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and the Fairfax-Falls Church Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness to identify a suitable future home for the shelter.

28 comments:

  1. really surprised that Bulova would cover for Gross.

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    1. You are JOKING!? Gross would not still be around if she wasn't tied to the tails of Bulova...

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    2. yes this was 100% a joke. of course she covered her. she always does.

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  2. Yes, they are paying too much. Penny Gross et al. are corrutp - that is why.

    This "land swap" should not even be happening. Sell the entire property to Avalon Bay.

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    1. Corrupt**. The county appraisals are not THAT low.

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  3. I would love to see those appraisals and to identify who the appraisers were, the extent of their experience and expertise, as well as their role/relationship to the players in this malodorous land sham (aka swap).

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  4. I did not recall that extending Seminar Road was a part of this land swap proposal. So in addition to the development construction, we will now have even more cut-through traffic and longer lights in this short strip of multiple lights?

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    1. Exactly. Traffic on Columbia Pike between Carlin Springs and Blair Road is a nightmare as it is; it is going to be completely untenable after this.

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    2. And now there's a new traffic signal at Powell Lane ~ 1/2 mile away from Blair.

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  5. don't question Penny. you are going to be on her enemies list!

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  6. Meanwhile in Springfield District you have a company investing its own $$$ in a parcel of land for a huge development that is needed and will be a plus to the residents and county tax roles as well.

    That's what good leadership provides!



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  7. I'm sure there is no conflict of interest. $40,000 to Bulova and over $30,000 Penny Gross. BS!

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  8. Mohad - The lack of ethics in the "PUBLIC SERVICE SECTOR" is a disgrace. See earlier article "County employee charged with larceny".

    It's sad because county employees are well payed, compared to many private sector jobs.

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  9. how hard is it to recall a Supervisor? this seems like an offense that could lead to one?

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    1. good question Anon 1151.
      Anybody out there have any ideas?

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    2. Fairfax County supervisors cannot be recalled. I did ask the county attorney once. He did not find my question at all amusing.

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    3. Look we need this development so drop all the noise. We are stuck with an outdated archaic government structure in Fairfax and surely if things don't change Fairfax will continue its spiral decline. Even more the reason for new development, a new road that will connect the two commercial retails centers (Seminary and Baileys Crossroad-btw it was part of the Comprehensive Plan). We need the new blood in Mason and hopefully it will help bring new ideas, and inspired and youthful visions.

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    4. there must be a way if a supervisor becomes incompetent and is unable to mental serve?

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    5. Do I need to draw you and the supervisors a map, 10:39? Columbia Pike is already connected to the Seminary Rd; there is an underutilized clover leaf exit further down the road. what purpose does this extra, very close, connector serve?

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    6. Anon 6:32,why did he/you expect to find the question amusing? Criminal behavior on the part of elected officials is no laughing matter.

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    7. Mr/Mrs Know Nothing Urban Planner 4:03PM. The street connection is for pedestrian access from the Baileys Crossroads Shopping center to the other shopping center on Seminary Rd. This provides the opportunity for street level retail to develop along the new connector streets which would provide an active pedestrian way with some street life. Get out of your car and go to Clarendon or Mosaic, walk around, get some exercise it may help with your brain.

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    8. While I appreciate the sentiment, a recall effort just doesn't make any sense. I don't think there is a path to do so, and even if there was one, it is politically unfeasible.

      This is ethically questionable by all counts, but the fact is that it is legal. I hate that it is legal, but as long as the supervisors didn't break laws, there is no way there would be any traction for such an effort.

      Efforts are best served in petitioning other branches of government to further strengthen ethics laws to prevent this from happening in the future. For instance, there was an effort a number of years back to require disclosure of contributions regarding land use decisions, such as comprehensive plan amendments. For instance, during the comprehensive plan changes in Jan 2015 that targeted the southeast quadrant, the donations from Radley and a few others in the area would have had to be disclosed. That law was nixed and instead a competing law that actually loosened disclosure rules was passed.

      My 2 cents.

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    9. Jeff, please don't ask for reform. When gangsters are making the changes, every effort at reform makes our political systems more and more corrupt. Some think that making it legal changes the nature and effects of corruption, but legal or not, it further unravels our already shaky democracy just the same. It is still stealing what was ours and giving it to others so they can fill campaign coffers. We the people are no longer in charge here. That is what we have to deal with. Bribery is now everywhere in the last best hope of earth and disclosure alone is not the answer.

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  10. This is what happens when you can tax and spend with no oversight. Fairfax County needs some type Inspector General since we are almost a major city with a population of over 1mill. Seems like the board of sups is stuck in 1984.

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  11. The pricing and assessment adjustment is so clearly and plainly nefarious that it is unbelievable that the supervisors have gone through with it when there is a clear paper trail of the property's assessments and the surrounding properties' assessments. They needed to adjust all of the assessments of the properties surrounding this dilapidated dump upward to make this transaction look somewhat equitable and authentic.

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  12. Comments on some above comments

    Radley Acura was looking to have a traffic light installed. It was and is a good idea. It is the light in front of their building and the ingress/egress from Trader Joe's.

    Sup. Herrity pointed out at the last BOS meeting that the transportation funds could be returned to the general fund. From the general fund the money could be distributed for other purposes. For Bulova to continue to say the funds can only be used for transportation is twisting the truth.

    The 2007 Comp Plan created and supported with community involvement did not include a road to Seminary. Penny used an out of turn plan amendment back in 2009 to insert a road so that she could buy land from her campaign benefactors Scott Herrick and John Thillman. She did not include community input in this plan amendment process. Since 2009 she has employed out of turn plan amendments (with no community input) for changes to the SEQ. And, we are stuck with the results of her inept planning.

    FFX Co. set aside $3M for work on Seven Corners Interchange while it waits for state funding. I would like to see the $7.2 for Penny's purchase of her crony's property used for Seven Corners. That would be very helpful.

    Just give the entire SEQ to AvalonBay and let Mason District have something it can be proud of.

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    1. Just when I think PG can't possibly get more corrupt, I learn more.

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  13. Contrary to the posting claiming that the road proposed is only for pedestrians. WRONG!
    It is for cars to ease the terrible congestion, Chairman Bulova's word, that exists at the traffic light on Columbia Pike and the clover leaf two blocks away.

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