The Fairfax County supervisor looked mad, boiling mad. Stalking down a corridor after a public hearing Monday. He said, "If Ted Lerner sticks by those conditions, he can shover."
The subject of the supervisor's biting comment was Theodore Lerner, the best known of a group of developers who want to build a second shopping center at Tysons Corner, Fairfax's downtown in the suburbs. If built, the center, together with the present Tysons mall, would create the largest shopping complex in the Washington area and one of the largest in the world.
T"This property has sat there for 14 years," John T. Hazel Jr., the Lerner groups zoning attorney, told the supervisors at Monday's hearing. "We cannot continue to delay development."
But that is exact's what the supervisors chose to do: delay development - the fourth time, according to Hazel, that the county has put off a decision on rezoning the prime, 107-acre tract, which even in its present unused state, brings the county $147,000 yearly in real estate taxes.
To Hazel, the years of delay are a typical example of bungling by timid bureaucrats and politicians who can't make up their minds.
But in Fairfax County, well timed delays are one of the most important tools in the planning process.Paradoxically, delays get things done.
By delaying the Tysons II shopping cener, Fairfax County officials hope to solve, or at least ease, the massive traffic problems that already beset the Tysons Corner area.
Nearly 50,000 cars are funneled through the congested crossroads at Rte. 123 every day. Half of the traffic doesn't stop at the stores or offices clustered at Tysons, but it still has to squeeze through the funnel because there is no other way to go.
A first-year planning student could quickly draw some solutions on a solution of paper: shunt the commuter traffic from north western Fairfax onto new lanes paralleling the Dulles Airport Access Road from Rte. 7 to the interchange that will connect the Capital Beltway with the proposed extension of I-66. Second, build a freeway entrance to Tysons II to handle the 35,700 cars the new center is expected to attract.
Both solutions have been proposed, and there is broad agreement that they would unravel at least part of the transportation tangle that exists in the Tysons area.
But all the planning skills in the world won't turn sketches on a piece of paper into concrete and steel. What's needed is money - in the case to Tysons, perhaps $15 million - and Fairfax County officials say it isn't there.
The county gets its road construction money from the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation under an allocation formula drawn up in 1921. Although Fairfax is an urban center of about 570,000 people, as far as the highway department is concerned it is still part of the Culpeper Construction District. The head office of the district is in Culpeper (pop. 18,218).
Fairfax supervisors claim the formula isn't equitable in meeting the needs of the fast growing county. It has been estimated that if all the construction permitted under the county's new comprehensive plan were undertaken $500 million in road construction would have to be undertaken.
With inadequate funds to build all the improvements needed in Fairfax, county officials rely on the tactic of delay. Negotiations over Tysons II and its transportation plans have consumed four years.
Delaying tactics serve two purposes: They postpone development that will aggravate traffic problems, and just as important, they exert pressure on a developer to provide money or land for road improvements.
Developers often go along with the delaying tactics because their projects are often planned years before they will be built.
But for developer Lerner, the delays finally became unacceptable. At least that's what zoning attorney Hazel told the supervisors.
According the Hazel, Lerner would have difficulty getting big stores to lease at Tysons II if key elements of the center's transportation plan were not definitely funded.
So, while Lerner put up $1 million as the developer's contribution to the interchange on Rte. 123, he attracted two conditions: The interchange must be designed by 1980 and constructed by 1981 or he would take back the $1 million.
But, as the angry reaction of the supervisors on Monday indicated, that is not how planning-by-delay is practiced. The developer doesn't set conditions - he accepts them.
So there will be more negotiations to stretch out the deadline that had been set by Lerner. The talks will resemble a big-stakes poker game.
Lerner may threaten to build the apartments and offices permitted under present zoning - without the elaborate interchange on Rte. 123 that county planners say is vital to solving Tysons' traffic problems.
But, as county officials know, the market for apartments is soft. If Lerner wants to proceed with the shopping center and sign up department stores, he may have to move ahead by agreeing to slow down.