Fairfax County Supervisor T. Farrell Egge, declaring that the county still supports construction of a controversial retirement complex on surplus land at Fort Belvoir, has warned developers that the county board may veto plans for other projects on the 107-acre site.
"Anybody else who has the property in mind is a risk-taker," Egge, a Mount Vernon Republican, said in an interview.
He said that county officials have endorsed the plans for a retirement home for military officers and would require other developers to go through time-consuming planning and zoning reviews that he said could discourage interest in the property.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. General Services Administration abruptly abandoned its plan to sell the tract -- valued by the agency at more than $3 million -- to Fairfax County. The county, which had agreed in April 1984 to act as an intermediary for the retirement project, planned to turn the property over for the same price to a private, nonprofit group of retired Army officers from the Washington area.
The House subcommittee on government activities and transportation objected last month, taking Fairfax to task for promoting what it said was an exclusionary facility and questioning whether the GSA was getting a fair market price for the surplus land. By placing the land up for public auction, it could receive substantially more than the $3.1 million offered by an officers foundation, according to a subcommittee staff report.
The group, the Army Retirement Residence Foundation, had won the county's approval to build 285 apartments, 39 one-story cottages and a 120-bed health care center on the site, at Rte. 1 and Telegraph Road in southeastern Fairfax.
The foundation had entered into an agreement with the Marriott Corp. to develop the site.
Asked if he welcomed a large number of bidders at the GSA sale, Egge said: "Not necessarily. I was prepared for the retirement home to go in there."
Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the House subcommittee, said the arrangement "amounts to the county's being able to provide a favorable real estate opportunity to a particular private developer that it happens to prefer."
The GSA called off the negotiations with the county and the officers within days after Collins' statement. The agency has set March 4 as the date it will accept bids for the Fort Belvoir property. The foundation has said it will bid for the site, but GSA officials declined to say Friday whether any one else has expressed interest.
Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert said he is not aware of any plans for the county government to bid on the land.
Egge said he was miffed at the House subcommittee's criticisms, and he expressed confidence that the retired officers foundation will gain control of the land. "I think the project ought to go," he said. "They still want the facility and are working very hard to get it."
The supervisor said the one beneficial thing to come out of the GSA's decision to seek bids is that it "takes the issue out of the congressional purview."
Egge said the county "needs facilities like that in the worst way," and he disputed the House subcommittee's assertions that the development would benefit "a select and narrow group."
"Generals and colonels get old, too," he said. "This was ideal for military types. It serviced a population that needs it."
Retired Lt. Gen. Frank A. Camm, the foundation president, said the minimum fee for those eligible to live in the apartments would be $90,000 plus an additional $1,000-a-month charge. He said the officers would not own the units but would have lifetime use of them.
Egge said he has asked the county's legal staff to review the episode, but he said he doubts that Fairfax can do anything to dissuade the federal government from proceeding with the auction. "We're not going to fight Congress," he said.
But Egge said he had no qualms about taking a position that he acknowledged could "discourage" potential bidders for the tract.
"If anybody else buys the property, they're looking at the county having to go through an evaluation on use, master plan hearings and rezonings," he said. "That would take time. It would be a while before an alternative use would be acted upon and given a go-ahead. The Army people already have basically gone through that. There isn't any uncertainty on where the staff stands on their proposal. And they know the board is amenable to their project."
One county official who has backed away from the original plan is Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale). Moore said Friday that she was "embarrassed" at having supported the idea when it first reached the Board of Supervisors two years ago.
"It's not like this is for poor people or anything," Moore said. "This is a luxury project being built for well-to-do people, and I don't think the county should have anything to do with it."
Board Chairman John H. Herrity said he has taken a wait-and-see attitude on the project. He said that although he remains in support of the Army foundation's plan, he would consider alternatives if any are submitted.