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Aquia Towne Center -- A Lesson on Poor Planning and Zero Transparency

In 2008, the BOS approved a concept for ATC. This concept included 258 apartments designed to attract young professionals, including Stafford teachers, deputies and fire and rescue employees. Fast forward 7 years. The project which languished for the intervening years is purchased by Mosaic. Within a year, building ( or demolishing in the case of the movie theatre) commences - with a $6 million incentive program. The $6 million incentive is not shown as an agenda item on the BOS agenda to allow some public comment on the matter. No, it was added to the agenda after a closed door session. A deal cut in closed door session was then added to the agenda and voted on without ANY opportunity for the public to find out about it. (All current Supervisors with the exception of Ms. Maurer who was not on the BOS in 2015 voted for this $6 million incentive package without public input).

Now it is 2016, the apartment buildings are under construction BUT these are not the original apartments, these apartments are Income Restricted apartments built using federal tax credit financing. The income level is restricted to $32,000-$70,000. (Mosaic does not own the apartment land - those rights were sold to another developer). No public input or public discussion was allowed related to this housing type change in the ATC development plan. Perhaps Aquia Harbor residents would have liked to weigh in on the matter. The year 2017 arrives, the developer requests an additional $30 million in tax incentives. Why? Is the upscale plan for ATC in jeopardy due to choices made about the apartments that were built? No disrespect is meant to the residents of the Aquia 15 apartments but various Stafford Facebook pages point to a large amount of sheriff activity and complaints about various problems in these apartments in the short time the apartments have been open (Summer 2017). Also, the location of the apartment complex right off the exit for I-95 can be a benefit to its residents but can also invite unwanted guests and visitors.

Public input is important to ensure that developers' interests are not paramount to citizens' concerns. Will your next Board of Supervisors be open and transparent about their actions? With there be another multi-million dollar tax incentive coming for Mosaic and other developers whose projects appear stalled at the moment? Will you use your vote to demand transparency or will you vote for more of the same old way of doing business? No matter who is elected - Stafford citizens can ill afford to be in the dark anymore about actions taken by the Board of Supervisors. Road projects over budget, fire and rescue response times decreasing over the last 4 years (again, great job fire and rescue folks - just don't think you are getting the proper resources for the growth), school construction needs and salaries not completely funded -- where is the money going and, more importantly, is it going to fund what is best for the County's citizens? Stafford citizens -- Don't just Complain - VOTE.

Margaret Fuller