Hall Says Smyth Doing Little To Control Growth in Fairfax

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By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 7, 2007

Charles W. Hall says that somewhere along the way, Fairfax County's Providence District stopped having "a 'we' government," meaning that it stopped listening to its citizens.

Incumbent Fairfax County Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth says there have been "a whole series of 'we' meetings that Charlie seems to have forgotten about."

Those points of view establish the essential battle lines in Tuesday's Democratic primary. District primaries are fairly obscure events with very small voter turnout -- Smyth won the last one with 514 votes out of 1,367 cast. But the Providence race merits close attention this year. With no Republican or independent opponent in the picture, the winner effectively takes a seat on the 10-member Board of Supervisors in January.

Democratic politics in Providence is also worth watching because it has produced the last two board chairs: Katherine K. Hanley and the incumbent, Gerald E. Connolly, who is running for reelection. The central Fairfax district is also the center of some of the county's highest-density, and most intensely disputed, development -- including Tysons Corner, the Merrifield-Dunn Loring neighborhood and MetroWest, a planned community of 2,250 townhouses, apartments and condominiums that will go up just south of the Vienna Metro station.

The fortunes of Smyth, a Connolly protege, will also serve as a test of Connolly's political strength and the extent to which voter unhappiness with growth policies and chronically congested traffic will damage him this fall.

Smyth, 57, who was appointed by Connolly to the County Planning Commission in 1999 and enjoyed his backing in her narrow 2003 primary win, has made a specialty of environmental issues in her single term on the board. She has championed improvements in storm-water management and tree protection, which has helped her win the endorsement of the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter and the Fairfax League of Conservation Voters.

She has also taken significant heat in Providence for her support of the MetroWest and Merrifield-Dunn Loring projects. Smyth said in an interview that she worked hard in numerous meetings with residents to reshape and downsize development plans to mitigate potential problems -- meetings where she said she seldom saw Hall.

"It's easy to have a glossy generalization," Smyth said of Hall's criticisms.

Hall, 52, says newsroom policies at The Washington Post, where he worked for 20 years until 2005, limited his partisan political activity until he left. He is a founder of FairGrowth, an organization initially formed to fight MetroWest. He says Smyth has been a distant and passive leader on growth questions, especially regarding the proposed Metro extension to Dulles International Airport. The project, currently under review by the federal government, has been marked by bitter debate over its cost and the planned aboveground segment through Tysons Corner.

Hall supports a tunnel under Tysons, and he accused Smyth and the board in a recent statement of "taking a timid, dishonest approach" by claiming support for a tunnel but doing nothing substantive to reverse a decision to build an elevated segment through Tysons.

"The mismanagement of this project has been staggering," Hall said.

Smyth enjoys a considerable financial advantage in the campaign, according to the latest records, having raised $77,856 -- an amount bolstered by a $20,000 loan from her husband, Fairfax lawyer Nigel S. Smyth.

Hall has raised $3,685.

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