Archives

Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

Share
RSS feed of this blog

When Will Board of Supervisors Tell Public What’s Going On With Cafaro Tax Incentives?

It has been almost one year since I wrote this story that I have pasted below. When I tried to follow up on the Cafaro tax incentives, I wasn’t given any answers.

Well, after a year, if any changes have been made to the Cafaro tax incentives deal, it has not been done in public. If it has, we missed it.

So, what is the deal? After a year, if I were to call and ask if a new deal was struck, am I going to be told that those details are still be worked out?

This is a pretty sticky situation. One one hand, you have the county that let proffers expire on this Harrison Road Connector project, which could give Cafaro the legal edge.

On the other hand, Cafaro didn’t follow through with what was promised—and asking homeowners to sign an agreement that could take away their property rights is not what was promised—so the county has an argument to make, too.

But, if the county wanted to have any weight in being able to change the tax incentives, was letting the proffers expire the best way to do that? The tax incentives were connected to $40 million in transportation improvements. Up until a few months ago, one couldn’t even drive on the mall’s ring road because it was riddled with so many holes.

There’s a lot brewing over at the towne centre, yet there has been no mention of the tax incentives since August. No public meetings. No joint meetings. No special meetings. Nothing.

Why?

Disconnecting Harrison connector

By DAN TELVOCK

Some last-minute legal advice and financial details led Spotsylvania County supervisors to cancel the Harrison Connector Road project.

The decision Tuesday night not only pleased residents who live near the proposed road next to Spotsylvania Towne Centre off State Route 3, but also was applauded by the Cafaro Co., which owns the shopping mall and had agreed to build the road.

However, the decision leaves the county without a north–south connector road between Interstate 95 and Salem Church Road. The Harrison Connector Road had been on the county’s Road Thoroughfare Plan for more than 10 years.

After the project was shelved, mall owner J.J. Cafaro was seen thanking some of the residents for their protest. He said he had already invested at least $2 million in designing a road that he never wanted to build.

In an interview this week, Supervisor Jerry Logan said: “This thing has been unfolding on an hour-to-hour basis right up to the time when we had the public hearing. One issue has been us getting out of the agreement with J.J. Cafaro .”

In 2002, several supervisors met in Ohio with Cafaro about remodeling the mall and renaming it Spotsylvania Towne Centre.

The mall continues to be the county’s largest revenue generator, but the amount has dropped since Fredericksburg’s Central Park opened on the other side of Route 3 in the mid-1990s. Supervisors wanted the mall to be more competitive.

Soon after that meeting, Cafaro presented a plan for a $90 million renovation, including an outdoor lifestyle center, an updated movie theater with bowling alley, a new hotel and more store and restaurant choices.

Eventually the supervisors added the connector road to the agreement, and wanted Cafaro to build it in exchange for the rezoning.

Ever since then, the road project has been engulfed in controversy.

GETTING OUT WASN’T EASY

A vocal group of neighbors of the proposed road alignment fought the project. One landowner hired an attorney to sue the county over the funding mechanism that had been proposed for the road. The ordinance included the possibility that some of the homeowners could be taxed to pay for the road.

The opposition dominated Tuesday’s public hearing on whether to change the funding mechanism to a Special Service District, instead of a Community Development Authority.

“Part of the problem was a previous board had gotten us in this deal, and getting out of it wasn’t as simple as walking away from it,” Logan said.

Trying to build a road through or near long-established neighborhoods is never easy, said Charlie Kilpatrick, a former Fredericksburg resident engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation. He now works for the Silver Cos., the developer of Celebrate Virginia and Central Park.

“These types of projects are highly charged, highly emotional, and people take sides pretty quickly,” he said. “You didn’t see very much support at all publicly for that project.”

Residents in Waverly Village , Governors Green and Maple Grove wanted the connector road closer to Interstate 95, with direct access to Route 3. But supervisors went with a road alignment much closer to the neighborhoods.

Homeowners also did not want to be included in any taxing or special-assessment district to help pay for the road if they rezoned their land to commercial or industrial. They also thought the ordinances the county crafted to pay for the road did not provide enough protections for residents.

The possibility of being taxed for a road they did not want focused the opposition.

AVOIDING A LAWSUIT

Supervisors are placing a lot of weight on the word of Cafaro , who told supervisors Tuesday he would not sue the county if the road is not built. Cafaro had promised future tenants that the road would be there, and he will have to rework the agreements with those companies.

Logan said that in private discussions with Cafaro there was always the threat of litigation.

Days before the public hearing, Logan said, he had a private discussion with Cafaro in which Cafaro told him that he’d be happy to lose the $2 million if he didn’t have to worry about paying for or building the road.

That opened a window of opportunity to postpone the project indefinitely—a decision that surprised the more than 50 people who protested the road at the meeting.

‘WE NEED THAT ROAD’

Some supervisors aren’t ready to forget about the 1.5-mile road.

“People can debate the road or not, but we are going to need that road,” Supervisor Hap Connors said. “We can move it around, I guess, but we have been through several alignments. We were trying to meet middle ground.”

The road remains on the county’s comprehensive land-use plan. Long-term plans show an expansion of Wakeman Drive to continue across State Route 208 to R0llingwood Drive, which would connect to Harrison Road west of Hazelwild Farm. The road would then connect with Waverly Drive and Bragg Road next to the Towne Centre.

Logan said if the project does come back, it will be presented in a far different manner. He said he would support a new alignment that avoided the residential neighborhoods.

“It doesn’t make sense to have the [road] terminate in a private ring road [around the mall],” Logan said. “I would very much like to see a more practical alignment to the road that didn’t rely on the ring road for its nexus to Route 3. I would be looking for that before I would ever consider it again.”

Connors said the Board of Supervisors has not ignored the concerns residents have raised.

“It is still our intent not to tax residential property owners, and that is what we are working on,” he said. “They have to trust us a little bit. I don’t know where this mistrust has come from, because everyone has been open and honest with these citizens.”

Dan Telvock: 540/374-5438 dtelvock@freelancestar.com

Spotsylvania officials, including the county attorney and Supervisor Jerry Logan, will meet privately with Cafaro Co. officials and their attorneys Monday to decide whether Cafaro will still get the tax incentives that were in the 2006 rezoning package.

The deal is worth up to $18.1 million in industrial development grants over 22 years. The agreement states that before collecting, the Cafaro Co. must build the $80 million open-air “lifestyle center,” spend $12 million to renovate the existing mall, and spend another $40 million on transportation projects, including the connector road.

The grants are equal to one-half of Spotsylvania ’s share of the additional sales-tax revenue generated by the new stores. Cafaro can receive one-quarter of Spotsylvania ’s share of the additional sales-tax revenue if any of the mall’s anchor stores— JCPenney, Sears, Belk, Macy’s and Costco—expand.

—Dan Telvock

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/spotsygovt/2010/05/07/when-will-board-of-supervisors-tell-public-whats-going-on-with-cafaro-tax-incentives/

  • MGWORK (Marty)

    This is an old story being resurrected by the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors, in the name of profit margins and leverage to build a road they were caused to reject, on its face, when citizens brought the TRUTH to their doorstep. The litigation and the cost of litigation became a sober reminder that the County was steeped in many bad business decisions and poor planning.

    I’m amazed that Supv.Connors would return to the same table claiming “It is still our intent NOT to tax residential property owners, and THAT IS WHAT WE ARE WORKING ON.”

    Said another way, what is it, if anything, does the public and landowners know about the return to this subject, after they rejected the proposition being afforded CAFARO and the Spotsy BOS?

    Where do WE cash in Supv. Connors’ notion that “They (WE) have to trust us (BOS and CAFARO) a LITTLE BIT”?

    What part of Supv. Connors claim that “I (Connors) don’t know where this mistrust has come from, because EVERYONE has been open and honest with these citizens” does anyone person bank on as a trust level you can put on deposit and collect interest?

    SO, with only half the story, what would/should the latest dialogue make/ produce by way of understanding the BOS’s real intentions and those associated with turning a profit on YOUR dime?

  • bhaas

    Excellent question Dan. When, indeed? That little Town Center is bustling with new businesses. Two or three new restaurants, all of which my wife and I have enjoyed.

    What really happened at that “Monday” meeting you referenced? Time for a progress report, eh?

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    The county is in a bad situation with the incentives because the county is the one who backed out of the “incentives for road” contract. no?

    I’m not sure how these things get done legally …i.e. what piece of paper does Cafaro hold that says they get a break on their taxes but I suspect they are not going to tear it up.

    I also don’t know who screwed up the connector road – that would be a story worth reading about but I suspect Dan would have to spend great gobs of time and multiple FOIAs to get the story.

    This project was a CF from the get go with VDOT pushing the county to NOT locate the road near the interstate and county personnel and leaders NOT dealing directly with those affected but allowing others to throw their weight around in ways that riled people up.

    Roads are never easy anyhow as Mr. Kilpatrick said.

    The folks in Ballantryne (?) are STILL not happy with the Southpoint Parkway – to this day… and the connection of the Spotsylvania Parkway to Smith Station Road required condemnation for a small parcel that the owner would not yield on.

    There is a concept called Official Maps in Va that gives the county the power to designate future roads – and to deny building permits in those designated corridors – PROVIDED they buy the property from the owner that seeks the permit.

    Those maps also put the other owners on notice that the county WILL proceed to build those future roads and that the landowners need to recognize that fact in their future plans also.

    Official Maps requires the county to maintain a purchase fund so that they can buy the properties in question when they have to. How to build/keep that fund? Use the taxes we pay for vehicles and the balance of the 2% gas tax would be two sources.

    The Connector road snafu .. is what happens.. in my view…when you DON’T plan…

    Official Maps is a planning discipline… worth considering in my view.

    and no.. I’m not going to blame Connors or Logan or any other BOS for that mess…. more serious mistakes were made by many others.. plenty of blame to go around….

    we screwed up.. time to learn some lessons from it ..and move on to try to do better…

    the traffic in our area is NOT going to get better on it’s own, and there will be NO MORE money forthcoming from VDOT to build/improve local roads.

    That responsibility belongs to us and to our leaders.

    Whacking our leaders up side the head is not going to move us forward.

    Any of us who thinks there are better ways to move forward has a mouth.. and the opportunity to run for office.

    All I advocate is CONSTRUCTIVE criticism looking forward rather than blame assignment looking back..

    let’s move on … and deal with things that need to be accomplished…. and let the lawyers figure out how best to take care of the arrangement with Cafaro.

  • Pingback: Lower Makefield’s financial outlook declared ‘cautiously optimistic’ | equity loans

  • Dan Telvock

    I did try to follow up, Haas and I was stonewalled. I can try again.

  • http://MAVRICKinc7@msn.com Martin (Marty) Work

    So, Larry, when you and the citizens of Spotsylvania County are being “stonewalled” by your elected officials, how far does anyone expect to move FORWARD, when they can’t even get past the wall their elected officials put in front of them, decades ago? The questions have been asked, but the parties of interest and real stakeholders in Spotsylvania County only meet behind closed doors, in secrecy, and at their FOCUS GROUP meetings, without minutes.

    You’re not invited, I was turned down flat on two separte occassions and the FLS and Dan Telvock can’t even gain admittance.

    So, just exactly what do you have in mind when YOU claim WE’RE at fault and need to join forces with our elected officials who continue to stand on the OTHER SIDE of the door, making promises and cashing checks that no one knows about and have been doing for decades. From this, you would have us believe THEY truly represent the County’s best interest. If so, why haven’t we heard from them lately, or for the past 10 years?

  • http://h Mark Meszaros

    Any deal with JJ Cafaro should be suspect the man is a convicted felon! What was he convicted of??? BRIBERY

    Now he’s facing more of the same

    http://www.tribtoday.com/page/content.detail/id/535151.html

    let’s hope he’s finally locked up

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    Oh.. it’s clear.. the Connector Road was a CF from the get go and I’ll bet all kinds of people have all kinds of ideas on what not to do next time.

    but I still say.. the reality is that we’re not going to get new roads from VDOT anytime soon and that job belongs to the county – leaders and citizens and we can look back and continue to blame any/all who failed .. and some probably do deserve some ire but at the end of the day – we have to figure out how we are going to improve our road network.

    We can go on blaming FAMPO or blaming Mr. Connors or Logan but how is that going to move us forward?

    I’m not apologizing for anyone here – just pointing out that relentless blame gets us nowhere.

  • http://MAVRICKinc7@msn.com Martin (Marty) Work

    Can’t submit a comment, that I jusrt made, when the FLS continues to play with their CAPTCHA Code, or should that be “GOTCHA Code” After following the rules to the letter the FLS comes up with an error flag code and when I return to the “Submit Page” my comment has been erased by the FLS. If I’m being targeted by the FLS, I wish they would say so, and I’ll take my business elsewhere. OR, let me know how best to submit my comments without moderation?

  • bhaas

    Marty…I found that if I hesitate long enough while preparing a comment I sometimes get a return that tells me the “captcha” is invalid. However, if I put in the new code my comment is posted.

    Don’t know if that is the same as you describe.