The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to set up a referendum for voters this fall on whether to issue a $30 million bond for a long-awaited flood protection project in Huntington.
Less than a year after a devastating flood swept through the county, the board voted 6 to 3 to add the proposed levee bond to a $155 million bond package for parks, libraries and public safety projects.
Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), who requested the bond for flood protection, argued that the county should fulfill a 40-year-old promise to protect the middle-class enclave along Cameron Run. He said residents in the neighborhood overwhelmingly would prefer to protect their existing homes rather than support redevelopment.
The board’s three Republican supervisors – John C. Cook (Braddock), Michael R. Frey (Sully) and Patrick S. Herrity (Springfield) – opposed the extra bond referendum for flooding.
The board also considered but ultimately rejected the idea of issuing a $50 million bond that would pay for flood protection in Huntington and other stormwater needs around the county.
Herrity said it made no sense to increase the county’s debt without first exploring private redevelopment of the neighborhood, which is within walking distance of the Huntington Metro station. He also pointed out that Fairfax County’s debt has approached a self-imposed debt ceiling that caps total borrowing at 10 percent of its general fund expenditures. Herrity also sounded irritated that the board was willing to borrow more money after telling the community that there was no room this year to float bonds for additional spending on school renovations.
Frey objected because he said the county should not be the only jurisdiction to address a problem that can be traced back to construction of the Beltway, dense development in the Cameron Run watershed and other complex causes.
But Hyland argued that it was long past due to help Huntington. The flood-prone community near Alexandria has been the subject of many engineering studies and promises for aid, at least since Hurricane Agnes flooded homes along Cameron Run and prompted federal study of possible remedies. Heavy rains again flooded 160 homes in June 2006, prompting the county to commission another study. Then came last September’s flooding, which claimed four lives around the county and flooded more than 160 homes in Huntington. No one in the Huntington community was seriously injured.
The board’s vote Tuesday sets in motion a series of steps to create four bond referendums Nov. 6 that would allow the county to borrow $25 million to renovate four libraries, $55 million for public safety facilities, $75 million for local and regional parks and $30 million for the Huntington levee.
The park bond would generate $63 million toward a 10-year, $435 million capital improvement plan and $12 million to renew a four-year plan to contribute capital funds to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
The public safety bond would raise $55 million, including $35 million to renovate three fire stations and $20 million to redo nearly two dozen courtrooms in the Jennings Judicial Center. The fire stations designated for capital maintenance are the Baileys Crossroads, Jefferson and Herndon stations.
The library bond would fund renovations at the Pohick Regional, John Marshall Community, Tysons Pimmit Regional and Reston Regional libraries.