By Gary Aiken
The history of development over the past 24 years is a series of missteps and excuses – “Gross” mismanagement.
In Bailey’s Crossroads, Fairfax County sought to perform a land swap so that AvalonBay could build an apartment development. The Board of Supervisors made the swap conditional upon finding a place to relocate the existing homeless shelter at the corner of Moncure Avenue and Columbia Pike. Gross mismanagement on the part of the Supervisors created a community uproar in Lincolnia where a temporary homeless shelter was proposed. Residents filed a lawsuit.
Miraculously, less than a week after the lawsuit was filed, Fairfax County found a new location for a permanent homeless shelter on Seminary Road. Construction is underway on a brand new “state of the art” $15.6 million homeless shelter that will provide 18 efficiency units as transitional housing. To facilitate the movement of the existing shelter, the County paid over $6.5 million for a property assessed at $4.9 million (i.e. $5.5 million fair value) to a donor group who had given substantial campaign donations to Chairman Bulova and Supervisor Gross. Supervisors Cook, Herrity, and Smyth abstained from the vote.
As of January 2017, the County estimated that fewer than 1,000 people were homeless at any time in Fairfax County. At $15.6 million for construction and $1 million to facilitate the land swap, this $16.6 million is called economic “sunk costs.” The real question is: “What can we do going forward?”
Supervisor Gross’s idea is to build a $125 million East County Human Services Center. The Center is meant to consolidate government services currently being provided in leased spaces – ostensibly chosen because they are convenient to those who need those services. Bailey’s Crossroads has a 39.4% office vacancy rate according to the Economic Development Authority. If existing county leases are not convenient to those in need, we could certainly drive a hard bargain and find better spaces to provide county services.
The $125 million East County Human Services building would take up prime commercial land on Columbia Pike – an attractive starting point for a real revitalization of Baileys Crossroads. From Moncure Avenue to Seminary Road, land is either vacant or occupied by transitional uses – an Acura dealership and a mini-storage. A Human Services building will detract from land values and drive investors away.
I am in favor of scrapping the plan for the $125 million Human Services building. Instead, we should examine expiring leases to find efficiencies. Fairfax County should either auction off its land holdings or contribute its land holdings to establish Affordable Dwelling Unit components in new residential buildings in Bailey’s Crossroads. Opening up Bailey’s Crossroads to new development will increase tax revenue, improve land values, and, importantly, improve the quality of life for the longstanding residents in Mason District. After 24 years of the same leadership, residents are tired of continuity and excuses. They deserve some action and a positive change.
Gary Aiken is a candidate for Mason District Supervisor.