Land values near Loudoun’s future Metrorail stops have grown faster than anticipated, suggesting good news for the county’s commitment to help pay to extend the Silver Line into Ashburn.
Loudoun County is paying its $273 million share of Silver Line construction costs through a $195 million federal transportation loan, $56.5 million in bonds and an estimated $21.5 million in revenues from a special tax district around the area that will be served by Loudoun’s future Metro stops. Real property owners in that area pay an additional $0.20 per $100 of assessed value in real estate taxes.
Loudoun supervisors decided in 2012 they would create the tax districts to the burden of paying for Metro on the places nearest its stations, and with the expectation that property values would be higher near Metro stops. Those revenues will be how Loudoun pays back its loans and bonds for Metro.
On Feb. 12, supervisors on the board’s finance committee heard those values are now even higher than expected.
“The tax district is doing very well, and projected to do very well through fiscal year 2020,” said Director of Management and Budget Erin McLellan. According to a county report, in the time since supervisors narrowly voted to bring Metro to Loudoun, property values across the county grew by 46 percent. In the Metroail Service Tax District, they grew by 110 percent.
From 2018 to 2019 alone, assessed values in the tax district climbed 33 percent, bringing property values about 13 percent above 2012 predictions. Altogether, the property inside that tax district is assessed at about $5.5 billion.
Nearly half of its growth in value is attributable to data centers. Another $200 million came from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s decision to sell 424 acres at Dulles International Airport, land that was previously tax-exempt.
County figures also show a clear premium on land near future Metro stations, especially within a half mile. The Commissioner of the Revenue’s office reported vacant commercial land within a half mile of the Ashburn Metro station was often assessed at more than $1.2 million an acre in 2018.
“I don’t know that we all anticipated that it would be data centers entirely that would be generating all of that revenue, but it has been happening and that’s been good news for us,” said finance committee Chairman Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), one of four remaining supervisors who voted on Metro in 2012 and one of two who voted yes.
The other yes vote still in office, Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), said he expects the tax district will outperform projections. But he warned about threats one part of how Loudoun will pay to run Metro once it’s built: gas tax revenues. Buona said, “Richmond is doing everything they can to mess that up for us.”
State legislators have considered bills to change local gas tax authority.
“We need to watch Richmond, because we had a plan. We had a plan in 2012, and we don’t need those people in Richmond to come in and goof up our plan,” Buona said. “Hey, I’m not running for reelection, I’ll say it like it is. We don’t need them to screw up our plan just because we had the foresight in 2012 to have contingencies on how to deal with this.”