Market Forces Drive Va. Real-Estate Development, Not taxes.(LETTERS)

Article excerpt


I think it is unfortunate that proponents of the Northern Virginia referendum fail to recognize that market forces drive real estate development ("Sales-tax activists make appeals," Metro, Sunday). Though touted as a means of relieving congestion, new highway construction, which will occur with or without the referendum, will fuel new real estate development. Moreover, the real estate development that will transpire will not wait for new road construction. Indeed, passing the referendum will send a signal to the real estate developers that new capacity is coming. In turn, developers and consumers will capitalize this "new information" into the value of outlying real estate and trigger a new wave of speculative development on the Northern Virginia fringe.

The result will be more traffic than anticipated on the fringe and a return to contemporary congestion levels for close-in communities. The worst-case scenario is heightened congestion around existing communities as densities increase and commuting patterns begin to reorganize with new fringe development. Of course, the best-case scenario is that new tax dollars will allow the public sector to build capacity faster than the private sector can fill it with additional development. If history provides any reference for the future, however, my bet is on the capacity of the private sector to respond much faster than public sector road builders.

This having been said, it is vital to distinguish the conclusion - the referendum is not a good idea - from the evidence: that private development will occur. The problem is not that real estate development undoubtedly will keep pace with any new transportation investments. …