It was billed as a debate on economic development in Fairfax County and ended as expected -- with Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. Herrity and Annandale Supervisor Audrey Moore in opposite corners.
The debate, sponsored by the county Federation of Citizens Associations, brought together Moore and Herrity to discuss the benefits of economic development to county residents. About 50 people attended the debate at Fairfax Hospital.
Herrity used the opportunity to stress that "it is of paramount importance" for parallel toll lanes to be built along the existing Dulles Access Road and then linked to an extension of I-66. The Virginia General Assembly has approved the sale of revenue bonds to build the lanes which, Herrity said, are essential for the county's economic development.
If the project is not under way in four years, Herrity warned, the county's "industrial heartland" (6,000 acres zoned for industrial use in the Dulles-Reston area) would be "downzoned" and developed for residential use.
Moore criticized the proposed lanes and said, "A residential boom the likes of which nobody has ever seen" -- not economic growth -- will be the result of opening up the Dulles access corridor to commuter traffic.
According to Moore, "residential development has accelerated even faster than commercial," despite the efforts of the development authority. In 1975, commercial and industrial property accounted for 16 percent of the county's tax base, while today it accounts for 11.6 percent, said Moore.
"You can't just stop the world and get off," said Earl Williams, chairman of the county's Economic Development Authority.
"You cannot argue that you're going to stop population growth" by stopping commercial and industrial growth, said Williams.
"Development is coming. I say the houses are going to be built anyway," said Williams, giving assessment figures from neighboring jurisdictions. In Fairfax City, where almost 31 percent of the tax base is commercial and industrial, the tax rate is $1.40 for each $100 of assessed value. In Fairfax County, where about 13 percent of the tax base is commercial and industrial, the tax rate is $1.54, said Williams.
The higher the percentage of a tax base is commercial and industrial, the lower the residential property tax will be, concluded Williams.