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A Ray of Hope in Fauquier County

by Kate Warzinski, Marshall District

Last week, our Supervisors adopted the FY 2015 Fauquier County budget. They took into account the needs of our schools, firefighters, and police officers as they balanced the budget with limited resources. The real estate tax rate was kept under $1.00 with a 4.1% tax increase to fund our programs. This was not an easy task but it shouldn’t have been so difficult. After all, we were ranked by the Census Bureau in 2011 as the 8th wealthiest county in the U.S.

(Source: 2011 U.S. Census Bureau, retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/local/highest-income-counties/)

Placing a premium on keeping our open green space has led to opportunity costs for Fauquier County. With conservation a high priority, the County must have a strategy to successfully fund its schools and other programs by increasing our tax base through business development within our Service Districts. Without this strategy, homeowners will continue to expect an upward climb in real estate tax rates to adequately fund our programs.

The commitment of our Supervisors to promote economic development is a ray of hope that we are moving forward to expand our County’s tax base. For the first time in Fauquier County history, substantial funding has been committed to provide the necessary infrastructure for bringing business here. There will be $500,000 initially designated for the public water supply in the Opal Service District with $5.5 million more to follow from the County’s 5-year Capital Improvement Program. Providing infrastructure here sends a message that the County is supportive of new businesses, businesses which will one day offset taxes for homeowners.

Opal is a very promising location for business in Fauquier County. The Opal Service District is an 853-acre parcel strategically located around the intersections of Rte. 15/29 and Rte. 17. There are many good reasons for welcoming new businesses to this prime location. According to 2012 VDOT estimates, more than 40,000 vehicles pass by Opal daily which makes it a perfect location for a traveler’s stop for food or convenience shopping. Fauquier County must make Opal an attractive option for capturing this travelers’ market. To do so, drivers on Rte. 15/29 must be able to clearly see and conveniently and safely navigate to businesses in the Service District. These elements in planning will help ensure that travelers pick Opal to stop instead of some other destination along their route.

Opal has been designated as a Service District since the first Fauquier County Comprehensive Plan in 1967. The plan for developing Opal has been reworked numerous times between then and now without forward progress so, nearly a half century later, a development plan has still not gotten off the ground. Forward progress has been stymied by the resistance of special interest groups and a few citizens and the lack of public water.

To get Opal development off the ground, a citizens’ committee was tasked with planning the Opal Service District. The Opal Service District Steering Committee (comprised of landowners and their representatives within the Opal Service District) began brainstorming February 2013 to provide practical solutions to Opal development. The committee members worked countless hours throughout the year and presented a very comprehensive plan to the County last fall. Their plan thoughtfully addresses concerns and impediments to moving forward with development. Within the framework of their plan, Opal businesses will be provided high visibility; safe, convenient, and easy access from Rte. 15/29; and will be guaranteed the traffic to ensure their success. Unfortunately, progress may be stalled by amendments to the committee plan by the County’s Planning Commission. These amendments would make it a challenge for businesses to come to Opal by reducing their access and visibility from the highway and creating more stifling bureaucracy.

The development of the Opal Service District into a vibrant, business-friendly community is long overdue and can be a solution to broadening Fauquier County’s tax base. With the support of our Supervisors and the adoption of the Steering Committee plan, we could see new businesses in Opal as early as in 1 – 2 years with projected tax revenues of $10 million annually at full build-out. Our County can be shown as an example, not only for a strong conservation program, but for having the ability to support our programs with robust economic development.  Let’s move forward with the Steering Committee plan. Show your support for increasing our tax base in Opal by writing your Supervisors or attending the BoS public hearing on April 10th  6:30 p.m. at the Warren Green Building in Warrenton.

 

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3 Responses to A Ray of Hope in Fauquier County

  1. Pingback: The Fauquier All-American Good Ol’ Boys Network | Fauquier Free Citizen

  2. James Demoto Reply

    April 9, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Well Madge, you just don’t understand. We the elite will decide what is fair. And we think it is fair to exempt ourselves from as many taxes as possible. Besides, we are just poor dirt farmers. I know, we don’t produce anything from our vast estates and we actually earn all our money by working outside the county, but that does not matter. As far as you are concerned we are just farmers.

    Since only 10 people in the county ever read the tripe posted here, who cares what you think. We run all the real news places and we will decide what is posted there. So you can continue whining here but since nobody reads this TEAbag blog, it won’t make any difference. And if you try to come after us we will just tell the world how you hate farmers and just want dirty air and dirty water for our children.

    Besides, we are smarter than all of you. That is why we do not allow you to vote on a budget or tax increases. That is why we do not allow you to vote on capital expenditures. That is why we do not let you have ballot initiatives. We run the Board of Supervisors and we will let them know what to do. The best news is there is nothing you can do to stop us. Even if you run your own candidates, we will destroy them with rumor and false facts. If you need any more proof, just look at how we took over the Republican Party in Fauquier with known Democrats.

    People will do whatever we tell them to because we just might drop a crumb or two for them to consume. They are just like the little piglets on that pesky farm near our wonderful estate. They all push and roll around in the mud just to get a little bit of sustenance. We count on the fact that there are no principled people left in the county and they have not let us down. They will say or do anything we tell them.

  3. Madge Eicher Reply

    April 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    As long as the wealthy people in Fauquier County put their land in easements and avoid paying their fair share of Real Estate Taxes, the small homeowner will have to pay more. Schools, Fire, Rescue, Roads, and even Tax Collectors are necessary. These are services provided to every citizen and every citizen should pay the same tax. If you do not want any improvements built on your property, all you have to do Is put a covenant on your deed. Selling your development rights and receiving a tax deduction as well as tax credits is totally unfair to other citizens who must make up for your non payment of fair share for government of the county. Madge Eicher

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