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Lawmaker Steps In on Va. Growth

Congressman Plans to Block Land Sale Near Vienna Metro

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page B01

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III said he will intervene in a contentious local issue by proposing legislation to scale back a massive development planned next to the Vienna Metro station, a project he acknowledges is near his own neighborhood.

The Northern Virginia Republican appeared at a community meeting this week that attracted many opponents of the project. He said he attended as a homeowner. But the crowd of about 500 broke into applause when Davis announced that he would amend a Metro funding bill to block the sale or lease of land the agency owns next to the Orange Line station in Fairfax County.

MetroWest: Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said he will introduce legislation to intervene in a large development proposed next to the Vienna Metro station. Davis lives nearby.
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Pulte Homes is negotiating with Metro for 3.2 acres on which the developer plans to build three 12-story residential and office buildings as part of Fairlee-MetroWest. The property would be the densest swath of a planned mini-city that would include offices and 2,250 homes on the Metro land and 53 additional acres. Without Metro's property, the developer could be forced to replan the project.

But the congressman's pledge to use his chairmanship of the House Committee on Government Reform to control the fate of Metro's land led several county supervisors to accuse him of abusing his power by meddling in a local land-use issue.

"All of us need to be careful in public life that we're not legislating our personal pet peeves just because we can," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D), a MetroWest supporter who used to represent the area on the board. "I think it's unfortunate that there would be a threat from Congress to interfere with local land use. . . . Is Congress now going to pick and choose what Metro may or may not develop?"

While supporters, including planners, environmentalists and the county board, embrace the project as the kind of dense, transit-oriented development they have long sought in Fairfax, Davis said so many new homes would overwhelm local roads, burden the train system and bring dense development to existing neighborhoods like his.

"He's got the right idea, and the public agrees with him," Mark Tipton, chairman of Fairfax Citizens for Responsible Growth, said of Davis's plan. "He's doing it as both a resident and a congressman, which is even better."

Davis said he is intervening in a case the community has debated for months because, as a new homeowner in the area, "I have a unique perspective."

Davis and his wife, state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax), bought a house in spring 2004 on Aryness Drive, a few miles from the MetroWest site.

"Living out there, I understand how bad this is," he said.

He also said his constituents oppose the project. "There is no support . . . in the Vienna area," he said.

The county board, on the recommendation of a task force of residents, voted unanimously in December to change the county's land-use plan on the 56 acres, opening the door for MetroWest. Pulte's rezoning application is scheduled to go before the planning commission and supervisors this fall.

Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who also serves as chairman of the Metro board, said Davis's plan "might get him short-term points" with opponents of the project. But prohibiting development on land close to the Metro station, he said, will defeat the goal of so-called "smart growth" -- to get people out of their cars.

Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence) who represents the area, said Davis is denying needed revenue from the land sale to Metro's partners in Maryland and the District. "We have one congressman from Virginia who is intervening in a regional body," she said.

Davis said his legislation will be tucked into a $1.5 billion capital spending bill to be taken up later this year. Without the Metro land, the Board of Supervisors would be forced to reconsider Pulte's proposal, he said.

Responding to the criticism, Davis said he is "on the side of the citizens.

"I'm sorry, but unfortunately, the Congress of the United States has jurisdiction over Metro. The Board of Supervisors doesn't."

Other members of Congress have maneuvered to have a say in local affairs, such as the renaming of National Airport four years ago to Reagan National Airport.

Pulte Vice President Stan Settle said he is "still in shock" at Davis's proposal to intervene.

"We're in the business of building houses," he said, "and the project's going to be built."

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