Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
More Opposition To Harrison Connector Road
I attended a Waverly Village property association meeting Tuesday and the members voted to create a committee that will consider hiring an attorney to fight the Cafaro Company’s Harrison Connector Road project near the Spotsylvania Towne Centre.
We already know at least one property owner has hired an attorney to fight the Community Development Authority’s taxing powers and the agreement Cafaro wants a little over a dozen landowners to sign. You can read an article here for background. That property owner, Susan Tait, was present at this HOA meeting. The agreement basically says if homeowners sign it, they won’t be included in the CDA or be charged the special assessment to pay for the road. The CDA is expected to last for at least 40 years and will sell bonds to pay for the estimated $58 million 2-mile road. But they are not expected to change the use of their property during that timeframe to remain out of the CDA. That’s a sticky subject for these people.
Under the preliminary methodology, the CDA would want to charge landowners in the CDA about $6,718 an acre if they were included in the first year. Supervisors have not approved this methodology or the assessment amount, but an attorney told me supervisors cannot change it just because they disagree with the amount. If the numbers add up to $58 million, there is nothing they can really do to vote it down. The amount per acre increases as each year passes. Only two property owners, the Gonzales family and Hazelwild Farm, have signed. Some argue that Hazelwild will never be charged because it is a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity, but according to an attorney I talked to, he said nonprofits can be assessed the rate. There is one other nonprofit that has yet to sign the agreement, New Life in Christ Church. A representative with the church hasn’t discussed this with me.
The CDA agreement stipulates that if a property owner changes the use of his land to take advantage of the road, such as seeking a rezoning from residential to commercial, then the assessment would automatically kick in. Cafaro argues the property owner would just wrap the assessment into the sale price of the property if it is rezoned. Cafaro says property around this road will jump in value. Draft county land-use plans have the area around the mall marked as a high-growth, high-density, mixed use Urban Development Area, where people shop, work, live and play. Developers will certainly have their eyes on vacant land around the mall after this road is built. And if the comprehensive land-use plan shows a vision of growth here for mixed-use developments, then the rezonings have a better chance of getting approved. That’s how it works.
There are some drastic differences of opinion on the two sides of this agreement. It’s likely to end up in court.
Although the official alignment of this road has not been approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation or presented to supervisors, the Waverly Village residents say it will be within 300 feet of their development. Waverly Village is one of the older subdivisions in the county, off of State Route 3 and Bragg Road behind the mall.
Supervisor Jerry Logan and Rep. Mark Cole attended the meeting. Cole was pretty silent during the discussion of the road. Logan was not. He said the proffer agreement the county signed with Cafaro in 2006, before he was elected, shouldn’t have been ratified. The agreement basically left the county powerless, he said.
"It was a flawed agreement from the very beginning," he said. "Those flaws are coming back to haunt the county big time."
He said this CDA project is a learning experience for supervisors because they never have encountered one before. He said Cafaro plans to present at least 60 percent of the design of the road to supervisors in late May or early June.