Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, who has said he had not been informed that a business associate was involved in a controversial rezoning case, told a resident prior to the rezoning vote that he had a business relationship with the president of the development company, the resident said yesterday.
Another resident said Herrity appeared at a meeting on the issue where the developer was present.
Brian Nakamura, one of the Fairfax residents who objected to plans by Hersand Builders Inc. to build a 137-unit town house project in Springfield, said Herrity told him of an association with Hersand's president, Herbert L. Aman III, in a telephone conversation in November during the height of the zoning debate.
Aman was seeking the county's approval of a zoning variance to allow him to exceed local density requirements.
Herrity voted against the application, which was approved by the board, 6 to 2, but later supported a motion granting several waivers of county zoning standards.
"We had contacted him [Herrity] to try to get assistance" in reducing the impact of Aman's project, Nakamura said in an interview yesterday. Nakamura said Herrity "indicated that he was hesitant to get involved because he had a business relationship with Mr. Aman."
Herrity's role in the zoning controversy is under investigation by Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. Horan is looking into whether Herrity violated state or county ethics laws in failing to publicly disclose his relationship with Aman while participating in the county board's four-month review of the case and then voting on it.
Herrity owns a one-quarter interest in a Fairfax City office condominium unit. Aman and his wife Sandra, the sole stockholder in Hersand, own a 50 percent interest in the unit, according to a letter Herrity wrote to Horan and later released to the press.
According to Horan, Herrity issued a $10,157 check to Hersand for his interest in the condominium on Dec. 8, about midway through the zoning review period.
In the letter to Horan, Herrity said he participated in the Hersand case because the developer did not say in an affidavit accompanying the application that he had a financial relationship with him or with any other Board of Supervisors member.
Hersand's original and amended affidavits, Herrity said in the letter, "state that none of the relevant participants in the rezoning application had had any business or financial relationship with any member of the Board of Supervisors" during the preceding five years.
"Accordingly," Herrity's letter continued, "when the rezoning application came before the Board of Supervisors, I had no indication from the affidavits that there would be any problem in my participating in the board's proceedings on the matter. I therefore participated in the proceedings before the board and voted on the application."
In a subsequent statement, Herrity reaffirmed his position that the burden for disclosure partly falls on developers.
Herrity and Aman did not return telephone calls yesterday to discuss the issue.
Herrity's attorney, Richard E. Dixon, was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Fairfax Police Chief John E. Granfield confirmed yesterday that, at Horan's request, he has assigned a member of the department's Criminal Investigations Bureau to assist in the investigation.
The Virginia conflict-of-interest law prohibits supervisors from voting on a land use application if, during the preceding year, they had any business or financial relationship with persons connected with the project.
Under the Fairfax County law, supervisors must disclose such business or financial relationships going back five years; the Fairfax law permits board members to participate in the county's review of the case after disclosing the relationship.
Nakamura, a legislative aide to Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), said an investigator interviewed him this week about the case.
Another homeowner, who also said she has talked to an investigator, said Herrity appeared briefly during a meeting on Jan. 27 that was attended by Aman, Supervisor Elaine N. McConnell (R-Springfield) and three homeowners moments before the county board's public hearing on the case.
Herrity told McConnell, who said she was undecided about how to vote on the issue, that he would support her eventual position on the zoning application, according to Debra Rawlins, a West Springfield resident who attended the meeting in a small conference room adjacent to the board chambers in the Massey Building.
"He looked at Elaine and said, 'Whatever you want to do, I'll support you,' " said Rawlins. McConnell did not return a telephone call yesterday to discuss the issue.
Rawlins said Herrity also spoke at a community meeting concerning the zoning application on Jan. 15. She said that although he did not urge residents to support the project, Herrity "was certainly letting us know that we couldn't stop it."
"It was a case of something will be built there, and here was a builder who was offering" highway concessions in return for higher density development, Rawlins said in recounting Herrity's remarks to the residents at that meeting. "He had told us it was impossible to stop."
When the case came up for a vote on Feb. 10, after several postponements, Herrity and McConnell voted against the application. But the six other supervisors attending the meeting supported the rezoning request and it passed.
After the rezoning was approved, Herrity and McConnell joined the rest of the board in accepting Aman's request for several waivers to county zoning regulations to facilitate development of the town house project.
Rawlins said yesterday that she and other residents were "stunned" when the two supervisors, after indicating for four months that there was no way to stop the project, cast dissenting votes.
"They [Herrity and McConnell] didn't make any comments about [why it should be] defeated," said Patricia L. Pitts, another homeowner and second vice president of the Hunt Valley PTA. "They kept telling us . . . that it would cost the county more money to fight [Aman] in court.
"I feel absolutely that they didn't want it defeated, that they wanted to go for the builder."
Supervisor T. Farrell Egge (R-Mount Vernon), who sponsored the Hersand application at the Feb. 10 meeting, said it represented the first time that he sponsored a development vote that went against the wishes of the supervisor in whose district the proposed development was to be built.
Egge said he interceded because the developer's plans for roads in the vicinity of the project would benefit residents in his district.