Richard A. Vigeurie, who has championed free enterprise as a leader of the New Right, has abandoned his plan to finance a new, $7 million hedquarters in Fairfax County with a low-interest loan that would be subsidized by taxpayers.
Officials of the Fairfax Economic Development said yesterday that Viguerie had informed them that he no longer intends to build an office building for his direct mail operations with a low-interest development bond authorized by the agency.
When plans for the financing became known last fall, it provoked a storm of controversy and prompted the Fairfax Board of Supervisors to insist on tighter restrictions on such proposals. Some supervisors said they were angered that the semi-independent authority, which is empowered to approve low-interest financing plans for new businesses and industries, would endorse such a loan to Viguerie, who is closely identified with the conservative political causes his direct mail empire supports.
Neither Viguerie nor his attorney, Robert G. Watt, would comment yesterday on the decision. David A. Edwards, executive director of the Fairfax authority, which approved the Viguerie proposal and later granted an extension when a building partnership controlled by Viguerie ran into zoning problems said, "Apparently they found some other financing mechanism."
Although Viguerie has long been at odds with many federal programs, he had defended his acceptance of the low-interest loan. "Not all of what government does is bad," he said at the time. "It just should be done at the local level."
Under terms of the financing agreement, Viguerie would have reaped a large saving on the costs of his new building. The loan for the structure would be made by a bank or savings institution, but the interest they would have earned on the transaction would have been exempted from federal and Virginia income taxes, a saving that would have allowed Viguerie to obtain the financing at a much lower rate than he could have received otherwise.
But even if Viguerie has found other financing, he still is facing zoning problems. He wanted to move his operations from leased space near Tysons ycorner to a 200,000-square-foot headquarters in Oakton near Te. 123 and I-66, but last April the Fairfax supervisors declined to approve the proposal.
The four Democratic supevisors who opposed the project said it did not conform to the county's master plan, but some Republicans complained privately that there were political motives in the decision.
Officials of the development authority have argued that the bonds are vital to Fairfax County's growth and are necessary if the county is to keep pace with the industrialization of neighboring communities. Fairfax Supervisor Martha V. Pennino, a Democrat and critic of the Viguerie loan, warned that if he got the financing, the same breaks would have to be offered to groups such as the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Republicans on the Fairfax board said Viguerie was entitled to the same consideration as other businesses.
The supervisors again yesterday mounted a blistering attack on use of the tax-free bonds and called on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to draw up uniform guidelines on who is eligible for the controversial financing.
County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, a Republican, said: "I despise IRBs (industrial revenue bonds). They distort the bond market. They pit one jurisdiction against another. They are a disgrace."
Supervisor James M. Scott, a Democrat, agreed. "The expansion of IRBs beyond their intended purpose has had a negative impact on the general cost of local services financed by bonds. . . . A number of board members have now seen that a good thing has been abused."
The supervisors also endorsed a staff report that urged them not to express "approval" for projects that are built in the county but financed by economic development authorities from other jurisdictions.
The report mentioned that the Prince William County Industrial Development Authority has approved bonds for a number of projects that would be built in Fairfax, among the a $4 million hotel near Springfield Mall and a $6 million hotel-conference center on Franconia Road near the Capital Beltway.
Prince William has not been alone in arranging financing for projects in rapidly developing Fairfax. For example, a Loudoun County authority is processing a bond for a mini-warehouse facility in the Shell Industrial Park near Shirley Highway and the Beltway and a Stafford County authority is processing financing for an office building on Little River Turnpike in Annandale.