|The Bailey's International Center.|
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.