Kingstowne Developer Gives $35,000 to Fairfax Candidate
Saturday, November 3, 2007
The Democratic candidate for the Lee District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has received $35,000 from the developer of a project expected to come before the board early next year.
Jeff C. McKay received the money in six contributions over the past six months from companies with ties to Warren Halle, a Silver Spring developer with extensive holdings in Maryland and Virginia, including Kingstowne, the giant residential and commercial center in the Alexandria section of the Lee District.
His firm, the Halle Companies, and Boston Properties are asking the board for changes in their agreements with the county that would allow them to build four office buildings, instead of the two now allowed, at Kingstowne Towne Center, the commercial heart of the southeastern Fairfax development. The proposal has drawn criticism from some neighborhoods near the site, whose residents say they were not consulted by community or county leaders.
Halle did not return two phone calls yesterday seeking comment. McKay said yesterday that Halle's contributions were immaterial, because if elected he would adhere to the position of Lee District's Land Use Advisory Committee, which has approved the proposal. Had the committee rejected it, he would vote against it as supervisor, he said.
"I would rather have a roomful of citizens vote on a land-use case than one supervisor," said McKay, longtime chief of staff to incumbent Lee Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D), who is retiring.
Lee supervisors traditionally follow the findings of the land-use panel. McKay said he didn't know why Halle, presumably aware of the practice, would contribute so much.
"You'd have to ask him," he said.
The proposal, intended to capitalize on demand for office space triggered by the 12,000 new jobs coming to nearby Fort Belvoir in the next four years under the federal base realignment and closure plan, would also increase the maximum height of two of the buildings to 200 feet.
The board was scheduled to vote on the proposal Oct. 15 but deferred action until the newly elected board is seated next year. The delay was prompted by the belated discovery of a campaign contribution to Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) from a Boston Properties employee. Applicants in land-use cases have until 10 days before a public hearing to file affidavits listing campaign contributions to board members. The late disclosure caused incumbent Kauffman (D) to request the deferral.
Campaign finance reports show that four days later, on Oct. 19, McKay received $5,000 contributions from two Halle subsidiaries: Metropolitan Homes, the company's real estate brokerage arm, and VA 95 Properties, listed on the company Web site as under the control of Comar Management, Halle's property management arm.
These donations followed four others to McKay between April 22 and Sept. 12: $10,000 from Comar Management and $5,000 each from National Waste Managers, Odenton Management and Naples Manor Townhomes, all managed by Comar.
There is nothing illegal about the frequency or size of these contributions. But they represent a significant proportion of McKay's financing: $35,000 out of a total of $170,000 raised. An analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) shows that 57.8 percent of McKay's contributions come from real estate and development interests -- the highest proportion of any board candidate.
McKay questioned VPAP's methodology, pointing out that much of the total comes from property management firms, which do no development.
But the fragmented contributions under different corporate names drew criticism yesterday from McKay's Republican opponent, Douglas R. Boulter.
"I am confused about why Mr. Halle would be making this kind of a contribution," he said. "The presumption is you're trying to hide something, isn't it?"
Boulter has largely self-financed his campaign and taken no money from developers, although his financial disclosure statement shows as much as $700,000 in stock in real estate companies that do business in Northern Virginia. He trails McKay in fundraising in the solidly Democratic district by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.
Boulter also sits on the district land-use panel that, along with the County Planning Commission, approved Halle's application.
Kauffman said he was ready to move for approval Oct. 15, were it not for Connolly's disclosure problem. But he and McKay said yesterday that the delay will afford Kingstowne area residents an additional chance to voice concerns raised by the plan, including traffic and shadows that could be cast by the buildings.