By Carla Branch
The Alexandria City Council took the next step necessary to build a Metro Station at Potomac Yard by approving the first Special Services District.
Revenue from this Special Services District will represent 85% of the $194 million needed from two proposed Special Services Districts or $164.9 million. Property owners in Land Bays F, G, H and a small portion of I, have agreed to pay an additional 20 cents per $100 of assessed value, beginning in 2011, to bring MetroRail to Potomac Yard.
“I am in the unusual position of advocating that my client pay more taxes because a Metro Station at Potomac Yard will enhance the value of all property here,” said Jonathan Rak, the attorney who represents the primary owner of North Potomac Yard, where the shopping center is located.
Special Services Districts have been used to pay for transportation improvements throughout the country. “There are about 75 Special Services Districts in Virginia, most of them in Northern Virginia,” said Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks. “They have been used in Fairfax County and in Arlington, so they are nothing new.”
The Metro Station will cost an estimated $240 million. “Borrowing that money over 30 years will cost around $500 million in all,” Jinks said. “About $224 million will come form our existing tax structure; the owners of the property in Potomac Yard will pay an additional $72 million and $194 million would come from the two proposed Special Services Districts. We are asking Council to approve the Tier 1 Special Services District today, where there are no residential properties at this time.
“Tier 2, which includes Potomac Greens, will be considered early next year and, at this time, we are proposing ten cents of additional taxes for every $100 of assessed value. Should Council decide not to approve the Tier 2 Special Services District, we believe that the current financing plan could still sustain the building of a Metro Station at Potomac Yard,” Jinks said.
Residents of Potomac Greens object to the imposition of additional taxes. “A Metro Station will benefit everyone so why should only a few property owners pay for it,” said one Potomac Greens resident.
To proceed, the City must undertake a complete Environmental Impact Study, which must begin in the next year for the new Metro Station to open in 2016. “If Council decides that the development does not justify the Metro Station, we could re-fund the money to the property owners. Without the Metro Station, developers could proceed to develop about half of the approved space. The additional development would only happen if the Metro Station is built,” Jinks said.
Council approved the Tier 1 Special Services District unanimously.