John T. (Til) Hazel is the Northern Virginia developer who has interests in the Fair Oaks area of Fairfax County. His first name was stated incorrectly in a Metro section article yesterday.
Today, Fairfax County may come one step closer in its seven-year effort to build a controversial new county government complex in what is already one of the hottest development corridors in the Washington area through a trade of land to a developer who, in return, would build the offices.
At a meeting today the Board of Supervisors will consider authorizing the county to seek proposals from developers from across the country to build the new complex on 70 acres of a 183-acre tract near I-66 and Rte. 50, just south of the Fair Oaks Mall.
The board repeatedly has declined to seek voter approval to borrow an estimated $70 million to build the new center, which officials say is needed because the county has outgrown its primary home, the 12-story Massey Building in Fairfax City.
In return for what local officials estimate would be a $40 million project, the county would give the developer the remaining 113 acres of land on the site. County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert recommended last week that the county offer the developer an additional 33 acres on a nearby prime tract at I-66 and West Ox Road. Some county officials privately have expressed doubts that the initial 113 acres would be enough to attract a developer.
The 146 acres of prime real estate obtained by the successful bidder on the project would be zoned for a mixture of commercial and residential development. The value of the county's original 183-acre tract is thought to be at least $40 million and perhaps as much as $60 million.
Lambert, who has been on the receiving end of charges that the county may be giving away too much, has defended the proposed deal as the most economical way to bring about the long-planned shift of Fairfax's government offices.
"If the county can take an asset that was to be used for a government center in the first place and use it as leverage to secure a needed facility without having to go to a bond referendum or into debt, I see nothing wrong with it at all," Lambert said last week.
"This will save the people $5 million in office space rent a year and give them greater access to their government without having to bond it," added Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity, reflecting the two chief arguments of the proposal's supporters.
More than 20 developers have expressed interest in becoming the county's partner in the government center venture, according to Lambert. He said those companies will be considered once they and others respond to the county's formal notice, which will appear in several national publications.
One prominent developer who has expressed no interest in the project is William T. (Til) Hazel, the developer of most of the land in the Fair Oaks area.
"There are those who will take a shot at anything I get involved in," said Hazel. "I don't want to subject this deal to a line of attack that I've seen in the past."
Hazel said the county "will be cutting new ground to some extent" in promoting the joint venture and thus could encounter a lot of criticism. "I just think it's better if they have another developer on this one."
County officials already have been criticized for conducting some of the joint venture discussions behind closed doors.
Just how much land the county would give away has been a source of contention among the board members, some of whom argue that they should retain control of enough of the parcel to ensure space for adequate parking and any expansion.
The most vocal proponent of that view has been board Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville). Pennino said in a recent interview that the county's new headquarters should be a "model" government center. She wants enough land reserved to allow construction of a cultural center at the site.
"If it's not going to be something of quality, we should forget it," Pennino said.
"Fairfax County is one of the most affluent [counties] in the United States. I don't think we should build something that looks like a shoe box."
"I don't want to see us wind up with another Massey Building," added Supervisor Elaine N. McConnell (R-Springfield), echoing Pennino's concerns.
Herrity, however, said the county should be more concerned with negotiating the best deal. He said that "under no circumstances" would he support a bond referendum to finance the government center.
He said bond issues should be reserved for roads, schools and other, "more vital" public needs.
The chief critic of the proposed joint venture is Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale). Moore said in an interview Friday that "it would be a mistake" for the county to reserve no more than 70 acres of the 216-acre package being proposed.
Moore said she has "real reservations" about the county becoming involved in the development business. She said the public "would be taking a gamble" on the motives of the developer ultimately selected.
Moore said that as a minimum safeguard, the county should submit its final plan to the voters in a binding referendum before going ahead with it.
"This is a very big land deal," Moore said. "The public should have a right to say something about it."
Plans to move its offices have been high on the Fairfax County government's agenda since 1978. The seat of the government is on a 50-acre tract in the heart of congested Fairfax City, about three miles east of the site under consideration. Additional government offices are scattered throughout the county.
County officials have long complained about the estimated $5 million annual rent the county pays to Fairfax City, which leases the main government complex to the county. In addition, increasing traffic congestion in Fairfax City and parking shortages at the government center have made it more difficult for residents to travel to county offices