Dear Gov. McAuliffe:

Pardon, Sir, but if your intent is to restore the trust that Virginians no longer place in state government, the proposed composition of the proposed “Ethics Review Commission” renders it DOA.

From the standpoint of most Virginia residents, the people least likely to uphold high ethical standards are those who’ve spent years under the influence of corrupt cronies who forced them to compromise their personal ethics to survive in politics. Years of conditioning render them incapable of seeing government as taxpayers do.

Judges are state employees who live and work in localities completely free of oversight other than appeals courts. As a result, many taxpayers rank them first on the list of ethically compromised government employees whose salaries and pensions they nonetheless pay.

Had you considered a commission composed half of lay people with no political baggage at all? How about including a volunteer from an HOA, a representative from the non-profit sector, and a community activist from an economically deprived area such as The Triangle in Leesburg?

You know, people from the Real World who pay state taxes. Do what companies do in the private sector, where profitability and continued employment are tied to performance.

Ask the customer.

Ethics Commmission members

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Leesburg Today

 

Posted in All, Loudoun Board of Equalization, Loudoun Circuit Court, Va. Del. Randy Minchew, Va. Del. Tag Greason, Virginia Ethics Commission, Virginia FOIA | Tagged | 1 Comment

National Conference Center gets capital infusion as debt trades hands

by Rebecca Cooper, Staff Reporter

Washington Business Journal

March 21,2014

The National Conference Center is about to get an infusion of capital after a California-based real estate investment company purchased an unpaid loan balance of $36.9 million for the Leesburg property. PCCP LLC purchased the debt from Trimont Real Estate Advisors in a deal brokered by NGKF Capital Markets. The loan had been nonperforming for about 18 months, according to Lisa Benjamin, a senior managing director with NGKF. PCCP, with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Sacramento, Calif., intends to invest millions of dollars in the Loudoun County conference center to increase its occupancy, Benjamin said. That capital will finance cosmetic and infrastructure improvements, as well as efforts to diversify the conference center’s customer base.

Occupancy has decreased in recent years as a result of sequestration and a lack of government meetings. Former General Manager Kurt Krause told the Washington Business Journal last year that government gatherings represented about 60 percent of the facility’s business. Krause left in September.
“Its biggest users were federal agencies, especially for training,” Benjamin said. “And over the past few years, occupancy has suffered largely as an impact of sequestration and movement away from that kind of training.”
The conference center has been working to bring in more corporate clients in recent months. “Over the next couple of years, I don’t think there will really be pricing changes on the packages they offer, but there will be a concerted effort to broaden the base of groups using the center,” Benjamin said.

Two particular areas of potential growth will be in bookings for the National Ballroom, which at 16,000 square feet is one of the largest in the region, as well as in nonovernight training sessions for corporate and other clients.

The center, originally built as a training center for Xerox Corp., has 250,000 square feet of meeting space and 546 guest rooms.
PCCP intends to work with the facility’s existing operator, Aramark Conference Centers, according to Benjamin. Neither PCCP nor the conference center’s owner, Chicago-based Oxford Capital Group LLC, responded to requests for comment.
Rebecca Cooper covers retail, restaurants, tourism and the arts.

Posted in All, BOS Chairman Scott York, Lansdowne Sports Park, Loudoun Board of Equalization | Leave a comment

Loudoun BOE: then and now

The General Assembly in 2013 unanimously passed Senate Bill 1356, introduced by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel.

It changed Virginia law to permit the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, rather than Circuit Court judges, to appoint the five members of the Board of Equalization, which reviews appeals of real estate tax assessments and has the power to adjust them:

” … the board of supervisors of Loudoun County may elect to appoint the members and alternate members of its board of equalization of real estate assessments,” the new law reads.

In 2011, the five members of the BOE in Loudoun were Scott Littner, Chairman; Ed Maurer, Michele Ferriera, Peter Kehoe, and James Ryan. After Maurer resigned in 2012, Dennis Hanrahan was appointed.

In 2013, with the terms of Littner, Ferriera and Kehoe to expire at year’s end, Ferriera and Kehoe applied for reappointment. The Board of Supervisors made its first three appointments to replace them with Subba Kolla, Michael Krueger, and Jeanette Newton, who now comprise the BOE with Chairman James Ryan and Dennis Hanrahan.

Littner, Maurer, Ferriera, and Kehoe, the four BOE members who voted behind closed doors on June 28, 2011, to reduce the National Conference Center’s assessment by $6 million, no longer serve on the Board of Equalization in Loudoun County. Ryan was not present for that vote.

On Nov. 2, 2011, the Democratic-majority Board of Supervisors refused, by a vote of 7-1-1, to approve payment of $25,000 for legal fees for the BOE’s defense against a FOIA lawsuit filed in General District Court after their illegal vote. The Circuit Court judges then triggered payment from state funds held in the county treasury.

After the BOE’s attorney sued the Board of Supervisors for an additional $35,000 in legal fees, on Feb. 1, 2012, an all-Republican Board of Supervisors voted to settle the case by approving that payment, but only after harsh comments from several supervisors:

“Rare in the history of our county has there been an abuse of … trust as in this case.”

— Eugene Delgaudio, Sterling District

“I have supported this settlement because it is the right thing to do. We have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers. [But] like Supervisor Delgaudio, I am absolutely appalled by the actions of the BOE. This action should never gotten this far. If this had happened in corporate America, folks would have been fired and shown the door. A simple apology would have saved many, many, many, many tens of thousands of dollars and instead, the BOE chose the irresponsible path, and I think the taxpayers need to be aware of what they have cost us.”

– Ralph Buona, Ashburn District

“It is time for the Chairman of the BOE to apologize to Ms. Bradford and settle the case and get done with it. Just so folks are aware, this does not necessarily stop any further payment from this board. There is still the pending case between the BOE and Ms. Bradford, and we as the county can be on the hook for Ms. Bradford’s attorney fees should they win the court case.

“And quite frankly, while I don’t want to pay Ms. Bradford’s attorney fees, I hope she does win in court, because what the BOE did was simply wrong.”

– Scott York, Chairman

 

Posted in J. Scott Littner, Loudoun Board of Equalization, Loudoun Board of Supervisors, Loudoun Circuit Court, Virginia FOIA | Leave a comment

NCC’s price tag

The National Conference Center in Lansdowne was built in 1974 as Xerox Training Center, later Xerox Document University with small guest rooms sharing a bathroom. The Whitehall Funds (WXIII/Oxford DTC) purchased it from Xerox in June 2000 for $37.7 million, taking out a $60 million loan secured by a deed of trust. Oxford spent $23 million on renovations the first year, converting 919 guest rooms, 800 with shared baths, to 951 guest rooms, just 192 with shared baths. A decline in the Dulles area high-tech industry that began in 2001 was exacerbated by terrorist attacks that same year.

In 2005, Oxford borrowed $50 million from GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corporation’s hospitality industry division to construct a 16,000 sq. ft. ballroom, the largest in Northern Va. other than the Ritz Carlton in Arlington. The property was managed  by Aramark Harrison Lodging, a division of Aramark Corporation.

Then in 2007-08, the real estate bubble burst, and even the federal government had to cut back on spending, reducing the per diem allowance for overnight stays at the NCC for training. As the effects of the real estate bust continued to reduce revenue for the NCC, payments on its mortgage(s) continued.

In late December, 2010, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York and Broad Run Supervisor Lori Waters announced the county would construct a high school to relieve overcrowding in the Ashburn/Lansdowne area. But they were coy about revealing the location until Spring of 2011, when they announced that land for the high school would be purchased from the NCC rather than other proposed sites.

In March, 2011, Thorne Consultants Inc., with then-NCC General Manager Kurt Krause present, appraised the NCC acreage to be sold to the county at $12,650,000 million. The appraiser, Oakleigh J. Thorne, added an extra $6,425,700 million to offset “damages” for building a parking deck to replace 723 rarely-used surface parking spaces that would be used not for the high school building itself, but more likely for ball fields associated with the new school. Three months later, in June 2011, Krause and the NCC’s financial and legal representatives went to the Board of Equalization to have its assessment reduced by $6 million at a public meeting on June 28 2011 that exploded in a controversy over the BOE’s secret, unrecorded vote that lowered the assessment three months after the appraiser had raised it.

The Whitehall Funds / Oxford had borrowed $60 million to buy the NCC in 2000 for $37.7 million and spent $23 million on renovations in 2001. In 2005 Oxford had borrowed $50 million from GMAC to construct the ballroom. The NCC was sold in 2014 for $36.9 million, $800,000 less than the price paid by Oxford 14 years earlier. The math:

  •  – $60 million loan in 2000
  •  – $50 million loan in 2005
  • = $110 million invested in 14 years
  • + $20 million paid by Loudoun County to purchase 45 acres for HS 8 in 2012
  • = $90 million invested by Oxford
  • + $36.9 million (2014 sale price)
  • = total loss of $53.1 million in capital investment over 14 years (irrespective of year to rear revenue loss or gain.)

Cost to Loudoun County: $20 million paid by Board of Supervisors to purchase 45 acres of unbuildable land at the NCC under the pretext of building a high school.

Permanent loss, after proffer abandonment, of Lansdowne Sports Park and $300,000 in improvements funded by parent volunteers from “club” sports leagues.

Inestimable loss of full market value in 2013 sale to Raging Wire of 75 acres, intended as a high school site, at Waxpool Road and the Loudoun County Parkway. Once known as the “ISA site.” The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors sold this parcel direct to Raging Wire for $20 million after removing it from a special tax district for Metro and without offering it on the open market.

Costs to Loudoun County Public Schools: Road improvements to widen Upper Belmont Place and construct a 2-lane roundabout to serve both the high school and the NCC. Extra cost of construction to build HS8 on unstable infill land.

Meanwhile, Va. Del. Randy Minchew (R-10th), a land use attorney for the Loudoun office of Walsh, Colucci, et. al.,  was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2011 and immediately proposed an “Outer Beltway” crossing on the Potomac River near the NCC. In one scenario, such a crossing would extend from Upper Belmont Road across the Potomac River to suburban Maryland to deliver traffic and business direct from I-95 to the NCC entrance, then south to I-95 via a proposed north-south connector to I-95 in Prince William County.

This “Outer Beltway,” according to proponents, would make it easier to deliver cargo to Dulles International Airport. Those who oppose it object that it would open all of Loudoun County west of U.S. Route 15 to residential and commercial development.

 

Posted in BOS Chairman Scott York, J. Scott Littner, Lansdowne Sports Park, Loudoun Board of Equalization, Loudoun Board of Supervisors, Loudoun School Board, Outer Beltway, Riverside High School, Va. Del. Randy Minchew, Virginia FOIA | Leave a comment

Milking the herd

“Total revenue of $11,372,741 was slightly higher overall than the prior year, and the highest in our 40-year history.  Membership revenue remains strong with a 3 percent increase over the prior year…”

– Community Associations Institute annual report.

Posted in All, HB 791, Virginia Property Owners Association Act | Leave a comment

You did?

“I came to the conclusion that this piece of legislation provides new protections to homeowners, most of which had not been available previously…”

– Sen. Jennifer Wexton’s (D-33) post-vote comments on HB 791.

Posted in All | Tagged | Leave a comment

Thank you, Tea Dems!

Thank you, House pit bulls David Ramadan (R-87) and Scott Surovell (D-44) for defeating the Senate version of HB 791 on Feb. 27. The 55 House of Delegates members who voted Nay were:

Adams, Anderson, BaCote, Bell, Richard P.; Bell, Robert B.; Berg, Bloxom, Byron, Chafin, Cline, Cole, Comstock, Davis, DeSteph, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Fowler, Gilbert, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Hope, Hugo, Joannou, Kilgore, Landes, LaRock, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Mason, McQuinn, Morefield, Morris, Morrissey, O’Quinn, Orrock, Pogge, Ramadan, Ransone, Rasoul, Robinson, Rush, Scott, Surovell, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright. (NoVa delegates in bold)

Half of Lansdowne on the Potomac got hosed by 10th District Del. Randy Minchew’s predictable “aye” vote in response to the Community Associations Institute (CAI) lobby inspired by groupthink leader, Texas state Sen. John Carona. The other half did not show up because Tag Greason (R-32) is trapped in a leadership void and did not vote.

Egregious acts of betrayal generated by this bill were committed by the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations and some misguided members of both parties. But thanks to independent thinkers ranging politically from Surovell to David LaRock in House District 33, the bill now has a chance of being scuttled as it so well deserves to be. Barbara Comstock (R-34) gets a shout-out too, and Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-25) cast the only Nay vote when the bill came out of committee.

The bill’s backers can always bring it back next year, assuming they are willing to emerge in public. That makes time for the senator whose 33rd Senate district includes the largest concentration of HOAs that abuse power, Jennifer Wexton, to hold town meetings in Sterling, Dulles, Ashburn and Leesburg to actually ask thousands of HOA-dwelling voters what they think of this bill.

Gosh, in a year, even Leesburg Today and Loudoun Times Mirror editors and reporters would have time to read it!

If Wexton actually believes this bill offers “new protections” to homeowners, she is reading something other than HB 791. Her amended bill sounds lovely but has no mechanism for enforcement. First session, first vote, late start, so she gets a pass. One time.

Posted in HB 791, Va. Del. Randy Minchew, Va. Del. Tag Greason, Virginia Property Owners Association Act | Leave a comment