Potomac Yard Metro funding approved

By Christy Goodman
Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a package that will fund a large portion of the construction and operations of the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station at the board's Saturday meeting.

The council approved a 20-cent special tax district for the proposed $240 million construction of the station planned to serve the 7.5 million square feet of development at Potomac Yard. The cost to build the station and debt servicing paid over a 30-year period will be about $500 million.

The more controversial second proposed tax district on the Potomac Greens neighborhood, which would be 10 cents per $100 of assessed value, will be discussed next year, officials said. The second tax district would generate about $185,000 a year.

"This is the first step in the process," said Vice Mayor Kerry Donley (D), who said the council will consider the arguments coming from Potomac Greens residents before making a decision on that portion of the funding. "The vast majority of the financing plan is from Potomac Yard and not from Potomac Greens."

James Keim, a Potomac Greens resident, told the City Council during the public hearing portion of Saturday's meeting that everyone in Alexandria will benefit from the Metro station, so everyone should pay for it. Taxing him and his neighbors to build the station is unfair, he said.

The council was considering "spot zoning earlier today. Now we are looking at spot taxing," Keim said.

Council members Alicia Hughes (I) and Frank H. Fannon IV (R) have said publicly that they do not support a special tax district on Potomac Greens residents.

"I don't think they should be set out there for existing properties. It results in spot taxation," Fannon said. "I don't think that is the way things should be done. We share in all of this as a community, but there is a big difference between existing properties" and new development.

The 20-cent special tax district will take effect Jan. 1 on developments within Potomac Yard, which is south of Crystal City between Route 1 and the George Washington Parkway. The revenue from the tax district will be added to developer contributions and a soft tax increment financing area to pay bond debt financing over 30 years.

The city's deputy manager, Mark Jinks, said the financing will cover a federal environmental review process, which could take up to three years. If the council decides the costs are acceptable, construction would start in 2013 and the station could open in 2016, at the earliest, he said. Development would be limited to about 2.5 million square feet if no station is built.

The council also passed a provision in the ordinance that the rate would go no higher than 20 cents, although the fee can be amended by future councils as part of their annual budget process, Jinks said.

In other matters, the council endorsed short- and mid-term improvements for Interstate 395, Beauregard Street and Seminary Road as part of the base realignment and closure process. No funding identified for the $20 million in dedicated turns, widened streets and pedestrian bridge plans.

"The short- and mid-term improvements are really about maximizing the infrastructure capacity that is there today. That will largely be in place by the end of 2013," Rich Baier, the city's public works chief, told the council.

Long-term improvements, including flyover ramps from I-395 directly to the Washington Headquarters Administration building, are expected to cost $80 million to $100 million and are at least 10 years out, he said.

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