Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
| 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.