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Incumbent challenged in Lee Hill District

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Two retired Marines with different philosophies on taxes are running for the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors Lee Hill District seat.

Incumbent Supervisor Gary Skinner, 63, an independent, is being challenged by Mark Shigley, 51, who has dubbed himself a “conservative independent.” Skinner is a program manager for a defense contractor, and Shigley is a civilian Marine Corps employee working in officer distance education programs.

Skinner has been a supervisor since 2008 and was previously a member of the School Board.

One of Shigley’s primary platforms is his opposition to tax increases during what he calls a “flat economy”—a position that puts him in line with the conservative majority on the board.

“I’m running because I believe the county has no right to take more money from the people who live in it when they’re not making any more money,” Shigley said at a recent candidate forum hosted by the local NAACP and the Spotsylvania Education Association.

He said he would not vote for a tax increase, at least until the economy clearly recovers.

Supervisor Gary Skinner, who unsuccessfully proposed advertising a 1-cent increase to the real estate tax rate this year, asked the audience at the same forum: “Would you give up a pack of cigarettes each month to educate your children properly?”

Skinner, who is endorsed by the Spotsylvania Education Association, said in an interview: “We shouldn’t be looking at taxes, we should be looking at transportation and education right now.”

The owner of a home worth $259,167—the average selling price in Spotsylvania in September—would pay almost $26 more a year if the tax rate were a penny higher. Skinner noted that Spotsylvania’s rate of 88 cents per $100 of assessed value is 19 cents less than Stafford County’s levy.

Shigley has also differentiated himself from Skinner on the issue of new development. He stressed that he is not against growth—which he called essential for a strong economy—but he does oppose a proposed development in the Lee Hill District, off U.S. 1 near Cosner’s Corner.

That development, called Heritage Woods, is expected to be voted on in November and would have 1,060 homes, townhouses and apartments.

The developer has offered about $15.7 million in cash proffers, which are voluntary fees to offset the cost of schools and other infrastructure needed for new development. The majority of those proffers are designated for roads and schools.

But Shigley, citing county staff, says the new homes would create a traffic nightmare. The staff noted in a report that intersections are already struggling in the Massaponax area.

“I’m hoping my opponent will be a lame duck voting for that in November,” Shigley said at a recent candidate forum.

Skinner, who has spoken favorably about Heritage Woods, says cash proffers allow the county to receive additional state money for road improvements.

He’s referring to a revenue-sharing program in which the Virginia Department of Transportation will match the amount of money localities spend on a particular road project.

Counties must apply for those state dollars and can receive up to $10 million a year.

“We’re not going to get transportation problems solved unless the developers are here to help us,” Skinner said. “Because it’s their money that we’re going to use for revenue sharing.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402