Fairfax County supervisors on March 5 disagreed on which areas should be established as Economic Revitalization and Redevelopment Zones and how much land would be needed to qualify, but they unanimously approved an April 9 public hearing to discuss the initiative.
Under the zones, which may be established under a 2017 state law, the county government could give developers regulatory incentives such as expedited application processing, inclusion of the applications under the county’s Land Development Services Project Management Program and site-plan-review discounts of up to 10 percent.
Private-sector builders who assembled and developed private parcels also could receive partial real-estate-tax abatements, which would apply only to Fairfax County’s real-estate tax and not to other levies, such as special-district taxes or the county’s commercial-and-industrial tax.
The zones would be established in commercial-revitalization districts (Annandale, Baileys Crossroads/Seven Corners, McLean and Springfield) and commercial-revitalization areas (Lake Anne Village Center in Reston, Richmond Highway Community Business Centers and suburban-neighborhood areas, Land Units R and Q in the Huntington Transit Station Area, the Lincolnia Community Business Center and Franconia-Springfield Transit Station Area).
County staff would overlay those areas on maps and prioritize them, said County Executive Bryan Hill.
If supervisors approved the necessary county-code amendment, the program would take effect Jan. 1, 2020, and expire Dec. 31, 2029.
To be considered for the program, developments would have to consist of newly consolidated land featuring at least two parcels and covering 2 acres, and retain or repurpose no more than 20 percent of existing development. Supervisors would have the option of modifying those requirements.
Under the initiative, county staff periodically would update the Board of Supervisors on the number of applications received, the status of qualifying projects and the program’s financial impacts.
County officials estimate the decrease in site-plan-review revenues stemming from the initiative would amount to about $100,000 over the initiative’s decade-long existence. The partial real-estate-tax abatements would not set the county back financially, as the properties still would be taxed at their pre-redevelopment value. Taxation of the redeveloped parcels’ full value would begin in 2030, officials said.
Supervisors differed over the initiative’s scope. Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield) said the board should evaluate the value of potential tax incentives.
“It is a useful tool, but one that needs to be used very surgically,” Herrity said. “It’s a little too broad of a grouping. We’ve included a bunch of areas where things are going to happen anyway.”
But Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), whose district includes the McLean commercial-revitalization district, was leery of reducing the number of potential “opportunity zones” just yet.
“It’s difficult to get revitalization in these areas,” he said. “Just sitting and waiting isn’t doing it. You need incentives.”
Supervisor Jeff McKay urged caution when crafting the tax abatements, saying a previous board had implemented a such a program that ended up being applied county-wide. The board could remove revitalization areas from the program if they were succeeding economically on their own, he added.
Consolidating lots for the minimum 2 acres could be difficult in older parts of the county, such as Annandale, said Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason).
Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) said the board would have to look at revitalization areas individually.
“Every situation will be different,” Smyth said. “Two acres in most places would be pretty small.”