BALLSTON-VIRGINIA SQUARE

Civic Association Newsletter

March/April 1997 - Volume 20, No. 5



STUART PARK PUBLIC COMMENT ON FEBRUARY 8, 1997

ACTA President Timothy Wise: Madam Chair, members of the County Board, my name is Timothy Wise, and I am the president of the Arlington County Taxpayer Association (ACTA).

On June 29th, last year, I came here to express my concern about the County's forthcoming sale of its property at 4251 Wilson Boulevard, better known as the Kolaitis property, in Ballston. I said it would be charity for the rich. Although there has been discussion about other aspects of this deal, I want to talk about the price of the deal, a deal you later approved -- the sale of the land on August 3rd for $365,000, land the taxpayers spent over $3 million for, in [1990]. [This property was acquired by the County Board on March 28, 1990, using condemnation actions (Case Number 89-463), for a total sales price of $3,010,250, or $194.19 per square foot of land.]

In responding to your questions at the June 29th meeting, staff asserted (1) that no independent appraisal was needed on that property, because there was a contract for the sale of a comparable property which had not yet been recorded; and (2) staff believed the County would be selling the property at the right price. Let's go back and see if it was the right price. There are three important dates here.

Date No. 1, August 3rd, that was when you finally approved the sale of 4251 [North Wilson Boulevard] for $365,000, 13,296 square feet, at a price per square foot of $27.45.

Date No. 2, three weeks later--August 20th, sale of the comparable property, the Crestar Bank site, at 4259 North Wilson Boulevard. Crestar Bank sold that to Fidelio Properties for $885,000, square feet -- 9,490 square feet, equivalent price $93.26 [per square foot].

Date No. 3, November 15, 1996, sale of 4250 North Fairfax Drive, that's the other half of the Stuart Park site in Ballston [the commercial component]. Fidelio Properties sales it to First Security Bank of Salt Lake City, Utah, for $6.4 million [$6,409,800], square footage -- 80,580 square feet, per square foot -- $79.55.

In conclusion, my grade school arithmetic says if the County received the same comparable price that Crestar Bank received, the County would have been paid over $1.2 million for its property [at Stuart Park rather than $365,000 (even less since the County gave the developer several credits)].

I know my time is over, but there is a December 16, 1996 article in the Arlington Journal, where County officials were still defending the sale of the Kolaitis property, insisting the Crestar Bank property was sold for a comparable price.

Before I leave you, I need to note that three members of the ACTA Board of Directors met with Mr. Gardner on October 17. Unfortunately, much of the above information [the speaker is interrupted here.]"

Madam Chairman Bozman: "Mr. Wise, this is not a new item."

ACTA President Tim Wise: "It is a new item, Mrs. Bozman." Madam Chairman Bozman: "Many times you've had the explanation, you had the meeting. If you want to leave more papers with us, we will respond again. But I ask you to respect your time limits and the fact that this is not a new subject to come before the Board. I will be glad to have the information you've got there in your statement given to the clerk and we will read it all again."

ACTA President Tim Wise: "There was no final disposition of it. I am trying to bring closure to that."

BVSCA RESPONSE TO STUART PARK UPDATE

In the BVSCA Newsletter dated September/October 1996, the Association reported on page 28, under the article "Board's Actions Result in Major County Controversy," that members had previously expressed concerns about the apparent lack of competition for the sale of County land at 4251 Wilson Boulevard and related properties (4253, 4255, and 4257 Wilson Boulevard, Real Property Codes 14050024 and 14050026). Also, many members were confused or troubled by the County's explanation of how and why they sold the property so cheaply, considering the fact that these properties were assessed in 1996 by the Arlington County Real Assessment Office for $970,900 and that these properties were approved for sale by the County Board on August 3, 1996, for a material 85.9% reduction in price, for only $27.45 per square foot.

Also, in our Newsletter dated September/October 1996, page 35, the Association reported that County staff stated at the June 29, 1996, County Board Meeting, on the Stuart Park Site Plan, that "We did not believe that an outside appraisal was warranted because there was a recent contract for the sale of a very comparable property which is not yet recorded. And so we cannot comment on it, but which made us believe that this was the right price."

In light of ACTA President Timothy Wise's above finding and testimony on the Crestar "comparable property sale" at $93.26 per square foot, which is $65.81 per square foot higher than the County Board's approved sale at $27.45 per square foot, we suggest that the County staff, County Attorney, and County Manager not recommend sales of County property at certain prices in the future, unless outside and independent appraisals are conducted first to validate the recommended price. The Association thanks Timothy Wise for bringing this sensitive matter to the forefront and encourages the Board to initiate action to resolve this critical weakness in the county government's system of internal controls.

STUART PARK FOLLOW-UP ON FEB. 22, 1997

ACTA President Timothy Wise: Good morning Madam Chair and members of the County Board, my name is Timothy Wise. I am president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, commonly referred to as ACTA.

Two weeks ago, on February 8th, I discussed the sale of the Crestar Bank property at 4259 North Wilson Boulevard. We found the transaction was publicly recorded when we looked on the real estate database on January 27, 1997.

In searching the real estate database, however, we could not find two Stuart Park property codes associated with the properties which were approved for sale, that is 4251 - 4257 North Wilson Boulevard, under the property numbers which existed when you approved the sale. Since then, we found the two parcels, but under a new number (specifically 14-050-035) and with an address of 0000 Wilson Boulevard. Especially interesting on that was a comment for this property in the record that says "the buildings were demolished prior to the sale."

You may recall that former Board Member Ben Winslow told you on February 8, at your last meeting, that the building had been demolished with no asbestos abatement. He asked if you had sought a refund of the $125,000 credit, which you had approved for the demolition and asbestos abatement.

ACTA would like to know who paid for the demolition of the building. Did the County do the demolition work or did the County hire someone to do the work?

Since no asbestos abatement appears to have been done, did the County hire an environmental firm to determine the extent of the asbestos in the building? If not, why, since that was part of the terms of the sale. Thank you.

Madam Chairman Bozman: "Thank you Mr. Wise. Mr. Manager would you bring us up to date on this?"

County Manager Gardner: "I can assure you that the asbestos was in fact removed from the building and it was done in the appropriate way, according to all the rules and regulations. And the building was demolished according to the arrangements that we had in the contract."

Madam Chairman Bozman: "So the asbestos was removed before the building was demolished."

County Manager Gardner: "Yes, indeed."

Madam Chairman Bozman: "In accordance with all federal, state regulations. Thank you."



Return to the March/April 1997 Newsletter-Index


The BVSCA Home Page