More transportation dollars for NoVA to come with higher “Grantor’s Tax” on home sales

March 26, 2013 — Under legislation Gov. Bob McDonnell is set to sign into law, the Grantor’s Tax property sellers must pay will go up July 1, 2013 from 10 cents per $100 to 35 cents per $100.

The upshot: If you’re selling your home this spring as two of my clients  are, try to close before Tuesday, June 30 in order to pay at the the existing rate of 10 cents per $100. Keep in mind there could be a rush to close on that Monday and Tuesday so best to aim for that week beforehand.

This 250% increase — ouch! — does come with the projected benefit of more state transportation revenues funding road improvement projects in Northern Virginia, including Metrorail’s Silver Line extension to Dulles airport and Loudoun County.

For the sale of a $500,00o home, the Grantor’s Tax in a settlement in June is $500. After June, it will be $1,750.

VA general assembly logoThe Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR) “applauds” the efforts of Gov. McDonnell and the General Assembly for what would be the “first meaningful infusion of transportation revenues in nearly 27 years.”

The soon-to-be-law, aka House Bill 2313, reportedly provides close to $900 million a year in statewide funding and more than $300 million annually for Northern Virginia. We certainly could use it!

“In a perfect world,” said NVAR in a statement here, “we would prefer not to tax real estate transactions at a time when the market is on the verge of recovery. However, NVAR has honored its commitment to be part of a transportation funding solution so long as other industries are also part of the solution.”

Jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads will have the ability to collect additional funds dedicated soley to road and transit projects. Of course, that would mean higher local taxes, albeit with the peace-of-mind that those monies would stay ‘home.’

Working closely with NVAR were Delegates Dave Albo, (R-Springfield) and Jackson Miller (R-Prince William), and Senator Janet Howell (D-Reston). This trio succeeded in reducing the initially proposed Grantor’s Tax increase of 40 cents per $100 to the 25 cents per $100 in the bill.

Among the alternatives to the Grantors’ Tax increase was a local income tax increase of 1%. In the end, the Gov. McDonnell’s highly-touted transportation funding bill raised revenue from several sources including an increase in the sales and use tax, car titling fees and hotel occupancy taxes. All of those taxes are still said to be lower than those in D.C. and Maryland.

Loudoun residents: keep an eye on location for proposed Hounds baseball stadium

December 5, 2012 — Are you as surprised as I about plans by developers to re-locate a planned minor league baseball stadium to the southwest corner of Leesburg Pike and the Loudoun County Parkway?

It would be a defining feature of the “One Loudoun” town center development that once envisioned something similar to the Reston Town Center. To some some of my clients, it just about destroys the very concept of a town center. Others say ‘bring it on!’

What do you think?

This is where One Loudoun developers want to locate a minor league baseball park at the southwest corner of Leesburg Pike and the Loudoun CountyParkway. CREDIT: One Loudoun

This is where One Loudoun developers want to locate a minor league baseball park at the southwest corner of Leesburg Pike and the Loudoun County Parkway. CREDIT: One Loudoun

Residents of the nearby Potomac Green neighborhood have organized “No Stadium on 7”  to take on the project which may include a soccer stadium. At the same time, several area residents are looking forward to that location hosting a minor league team, the Hounds.

According to this report Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 in The Washington Post the stadium would replace an office building and move from its originally-planned location as the centerpiece of the Kincora Village Center on Route 28. that is where the Loudoun Board of Supervisors first approved the stadium in 2009.

The would-be owner and operator of the stadium, VIP Sports and Entertainment, says its committed to being a good community neighbor. We’ll see.

At the center of the emerging debate is Supervisor Shawn Williams, R-Broad Run. Based on the report in the Post, Williams seems poised to support it. If all questions about noise, traffic and lighting can’t be worked out, he said he’ll withdraw that support.

Look for traffic and environmental studies by Friday, Dec. 14. If officials approve, construction could begin very quickly.

Here’s a sample of how each side sees the problem, or the opportunity:

One commenter about the Post’s story, ‘Mammaof4,’ said this:

Won’t the stadium raise property values? Isnt’ the intersection already busy? It’s not like this is going in the middle of a quiet little neighborhood or a thriving forest. I don’t get the opposition. Celebrate it – Loudoun the land of single family house upon single family house is getting some real mixed-use to go with its metro. This is awesome for the community. Time to rally around this and be thankful. If you want quiet, you move out to western LoCo away from mass transit and major roads.

And then there was the opposite point-of-view from ‘Revo1’:

A stadium is a terrible idea. Where are all these people going to park? Oh, that’s right. In the places where people going to the Alamo Draft House and other more welcome businesses in One Loudoun would be expecting to park. The last thing Loudoun needs is professional sports. It is a joke of the worst sort to say with a straight face that a stadium that can hold 10,000 people (or even 5,500 seated) will cause less traffice than a 4-story office building.  STOP THE STADIUM NOW!!!

Existing E-ZPass holders escape fee increase, until the battery dies

July 10, 2012 — One has to wonder if the E-ZPass “transponder” many of us use to navigate toll collections on the Dulles toll road / Rte. 267 in Northern Virginia and I-95 in Maryland on up to New York City isn’t becoming a means to increase tax revenue even though no such increase is justified by relevant costs.

The Virginia Department of Transportation July 9 announced its new policy on charging for E-ZPass accounts effective Sept. 1, 2012: Customers who have accounts as of Monday, July 9, 2012 won’t be charged a monthly fee until they replace transponders or add a new one.

Commuters who share rides on Virginia’s toll roads will need a “Flex” transponder starting Sept., 1, 2012. This is different from the standard transponder, pictured. CREDIT: Gothamist.com

Here are the highlights:

  • The current account holders are okay till they get a new transponder or add one to their accounts. At that point, they will be charged 50 cents a month per new standard transponder.
  • A driver who opens a new account with Virginia after today will be subject to the 50-cent monthly fee for each standard transponder.
  • The existing $25 deposit will no longer be required for new transponders. Account holders who already paid that deposit will have have it converted to prepaid tolls when they replace transponders. Or they can get a refund if they return a transponder and close their accounts.
  • New customers still be be required to make a pre-payment covering $35 in tolls when opening an E-ZPass account.
  • There is a new type of transponder: “Flex transponders”. You don’t need one of these specialized units if you don’t plan to carpool in the express lanes. People who plan to travel three to a car and get the free ride need to get one of the Flex transponders with a carpool setting.

You can read more at this report by The Washington Post. And here is a Q&A that some of my clients have inquired about; it should answer just about any question you have.

See my blog post here May 31, 2012 about making your views count.

Approval of Phase 2 of Metro’s Silver Line to Dulles Airport should boost property values

July 7, 2012 — It was oh sooooo close but the all-Republican Board of Supervisors in Loudoun County, Virginia approved the second phase of the Metro subway system’s extension into Loudoun County, including Washington-Dulles International Airport.

The vote all but ensures that the Washington Metropolitan area has one of, if not THE, most accessible and cleanest commuter train / subway systems in the world.

While the extension will come with costs to the county and construction inconveniences, one now can reach the region’s three airports using public transportation, without an expensive taxi ride.

With his decision to support the Silver Line after strongly opposing it, Supervisor Kenneth D. Reid (R-Leesburg) delivered the fifth and deciding vote for a project that supporters and at least a few of my clients predict will have a lasting impact.

“This is a huge investment in Loudoun’s future,” Tony Howard, president of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, told The Washington Post. The Chamber represents 1,200 businesses. “It’s important not just for our economy in the next quarter or the next year, but for a payoff that will be generational. . . . The chamber is absolutely elated.”

Read this assessment of the vote and what it means by The Washington Post here.

Phase 1 of the Silver Line to Wielhe Avenue near Reston is to be complete in late 2013. Phase 2 is supposed to be complete by 2018. CREDIT: Washington Post

Willing to pay another $1 per month for each Virginia E-ZPass transponder?

The states in purple accept the E-ZPass transponder, which is headed for a $1 per month, per transponder fee increase. CREDIT: Virginia Department of Transportation

May 31, 2012 — In case you missed it, comments are being accepted through 5 p.m, Tuesday, June 12, 2012 by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to add a $1 fee every month for each E-ZPass transponder to help pay for a “new business model”, according to VDOT.

Below is the text of the email (emphasis added) that circulated recently seeking comments, which can be emailed to vdotinfo@vdot.virginia.gov.

“With Virginia’s E-ZPass program doubling over the next several years as new toll roads open, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is proposing a monthly fee of about $1 per transponder to pay for administrative and operations costs.

“VDOT has the utmost understanding that E-ZPass operations brings convenience and efficiency to toll operations.  E-ZPass allows for electronic toll collection at Virginia toll facilities and lessens the need for manual collection. However, there is a cost to providing the service to the participating toll facilities, most of which are not operated by VDOT.

“The Virginia E-ZPass program is being expanded to support several new toll facilities scheduled or expected to be opened over the next few years.  The cost associated with the enhanced distribution and specialized services for the new facilities and additional transponders requires a new business model.

The proposed monthly fee would cover costs for:

•    Buying nearly one-half million transponders

•    Implementing a retail program where transponders can be obtained at various stores in Northern Virginia and eventually Hampton Roads

•    Providing service at select DMV locations

•    Upgrading information technology to accommodate the expanded program

•    Account management and processing of toll transactions (managing billing of all transactions)

•    Customer service and the operations of three customer service centers

The fee would also help control costs and manage the selection and demand for E-ZPass transponders.  My clients who drive the Dulles corridor frequently hope the fee will be regularly evaluated to ensure that the charge is generating just enough revenue to maintain and operate the program without generating excess revenues above expenses.

“VDOT is accepting comments on the proposed monthly fee through Tuesday, 5 p.m., June 12, 2012.  All comments will be reviewed and taken into consideration prior to the final decision on the proposed fee structure.

“You can go to www.virginiadot.org/e-zpass for information on the proposed monthly fee increase and provide their comments online.  You can submit your comments directly to vdotinfo@vdot.virginia.gov or mail them to:

“Office Communications – Third Floor/Annex Bldg. Virginia Department of Transportation 1401 E. Broad St. Richmond, VA 23219.”

VDOT expects to have a final decision in June.

If you support the Dulles Metrorail line, be sure your elected officials know it!

The second phase of Washington, DC-area’s “Silver” Metrorail line from Reston Parkway to the Dulles airport and Loudoun County deserves the  support of everyone who wants it and/or can benefit from it.

While the first phase  from Falls Church through Tysons Corner to Wiehle Avenue is on schedule and on budget (can you believe it!), the state of Virginia and Loudoun County reportedly are balking at committing the needed financing. See map, below.

Fairfax County recognizes that not only is the complete line integral to the economic growth and improved commutes for Northern Virginians, it stands to elevate the entire region internationally, along with its home prices.

This editorial in the Sunday, April 22 editions of The Washington Post  — “Dulles rail could go off the tracks” — sums up who needs to do what to keep the Silver Line ON track.

Stephen S. Fuller, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, told the Post that extending the Silver Line into Loudoun would make the difference between the county continuing mainly as a bedroom community that exports workers into neighboring jurisdictions and transforming part of it into a employment magnet for highly educated and well-paid professionals.

In fact, Fuller said, if Loudoun turns its back on Metro, the county would sacrifice more than $55 billion in potential economic activity, and some 40,000 jobs, by 2040, and its rate of growth would be 10 percent slower.