Community News Real Estate — 02 November 2010

Potomac Greens residents wont mind seeing a new Metro station go up in nearby Potomac Yard they just dont want their taxes to pay for it alone. 

Yet if city council adopts a financial package for the new Blue and Yellow line stop first proposed in 1999, todays homeowners will carry what they believe is an undue tax burden to fund the $240 million project. And theyre planting opposition signs and planning rallies to make sure local officials hear them. 

The confrontation stems from how officials laid out plans for Potomac Yards development in 1999. Along with developer contributions and tax revenue from new buildings, officials agreed the homeowners of the then non-existent Potomac Greens neighborhood would form a special tax district and pay an additional 10 cents per $100 of assessed value. 

More than a decade later, the current residents respectfully disagree.

If its a public system have the public pay for it, said Mark Anderson, spokesman for Alexandria Citizens for Common Cents and Potomac Greens homeowner. 

If you think this is such an important Metro and needs to be built, then why dont you go and tax all of the residents for Alexandria. Tax everybody, because everybody is going to benefit from it as much as we are, he said.

While the special tax district wouldnt go into effect until 2016, when the Metro station is estimated to open, residents worry their taxes could skyrocket by as much as $2,000 annually to pay off the 30-year bond, Anderson said. He believes officials need an equitable way to pay for the project.

Their vocal opposition has city officials rethinking the financing, but the tax has been part the plan for more than a decade. Vice Mayor Kerry Donley worries about the funding gap from doing away with the special tax district. The city would need to find about $25 million elsewhere, he said. While he understands their concerns, Donley doesnt see how Alexandria can make up the shortfall without scaling back the project. 

I recognize their position and in order for us to make that happen weve got to look at reducing the cost of the Metro station in order to take them out of the district, Donley said. Its not going to be as simple as saying well take you out and everything is hunky-dory. The financing package was predicated upon their participation. If theyre not going to be part of the district then there is a financial hole.

If the city council nixes the tax district, the money would likely come from expected revenue from the Potomac Yard development, said Mark Jinks, assistant city manager. He disagrees with their tax calculations Potomac Greens homeowners are more likely to pay about $800 annually but said city staff were looking for alternatives.

Wed have to look at replacing those dollars with other dollars, Jinks said. The fact that the main alternative is replacing those dollars with other tax revenue from Potomac Yard in a sense it means less of a benefit. It means wherever those dollars would benefit in funding citywide services would go to that station.

Which is fine by Anderson and his neighbors. Theyre open to compromise and they dont mind pitching in to pay for the station as long as everyone else is too, he said.

Councilman Frank Fannon agrees. Tax rates should be balanced across the board, not divvied up across the city, he said. 

If were going to have a tax, it needs to be an equitable tax throughout the whole community, not focusing on one area of town, Fannon said. If their house is near a Metro station, [their] house value will increase as well. People are going to have added value to their property, so the city will have an additional tax revenue without the special district.

Fannon also warns creating a special tax district for the Metro station opens the door for others. Anderson believes its a very real possibility many residents arent yet worried about. Part of their campaign is educating other property owners to the potential for additional special tax districts. 

Still, hes optimistic his neighbors will iron out their differences with the city. 

We have been open, there is a possibility of coming to some type of agreement, Anderson said. Were hopeful we all can come to an agreement somewhere that special taxing is a bad idea.

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