New Pr. William Arrivals Bitter

By Kristen Mack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 23, 2008

Mike Klepac was supposed to move into his three-story townhouse the day before Thanksgiving 2006. But construction did not start until two months later. Before he could unpack a box three months after that, houses were going for nearly $100,000 less than what he paid.

Even though the value of his home has dropped, his tax bill will go up an estimated 21 percent this year.

Klepac and other newcomers to Prince William County were drawn there during the housing boom because they thought it would be a cheaper version of Fairfax County, with its upscale subdivisions, good schools and plentiful shopping. Yet a year after Klepac moved in, the Potomac Club subdivision is still not completely built, and promised amenities have yet to materialize.

As their home values plummet and their taxes go up, some of the new arrivals, many of whom are 30-somethings with families, are beginning to sour on Prince William, which has the highest number of foreclosures in Virginia.

"We're stuck," Klepac said. "I don't think I would have moved to Prince William County. I felt I was getting into a brand-new community with all these luxuries. They haven't delivered."

He and other residents complain about living in a construction zone with bulldozers and mounds of dirt, and they are angry about unstaffed gatehouses and non-functioning streetlights. The county has limited ability to force developers to deliver projects on time, with the exception of public roads and infrastructure.

Nick Josties, project developer for Kettler's, the developer of the subdivision, said that there is no set-in-stone completion date and that it depends on how houses sell.

Potomac Club was the best-selling planned community in the Washington area last year, according to Hanley-Wood Market Intelligence, which tracks sales data for the building industry. Located in Woodbridge, near Potomac Mills mall, it is one of several new developments that have sprouted in the older, denser eastern end of the county, along the Route 1 corridor.

County officials say they can't be faulted for the national housing crisis, and they are confident Prince William will recover.

The Board of County Supervisors is scrambling to cope with the costs of Prince William being one of Virginia's fastest-growing counties in a time of slumping home values. The problems are magnified by the foreclosures, which are partly to blame for the average value of homes decreasing by $61,328.

To make up the lost revenue, supervisors raised the county's real estate tax rate by 19 cents to 97 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. That will push the average homeowner's tax bill up by 5 percent in the coming budget year.

"It's another slap in the face. I don't know what more I'm getting this year than I did last year," Klepac, 33, said of county services. He is worried that his federal government job will require him to move before the housing market rebounds.

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