Fairfax County questioned in $7 Million land deal

Fairfax County Board, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. (ABC7 photo)

A $7 million land deal by Fairfax County has residents demanding answers. And the relationship between county leaders and the land owner has ABC7 On Your Side asking questions.

Finances are tight in Fairfax County. Some worry its credit rating may fall, and taxes may be increased. The county needs money, but that didn't stop its supervisors from recently approving a $7 million land deal with a big-time political contributor.

The 1.4 acres plot of land in the 5800 block of Columbia Pike, may soon belong to Fairfax County. County supervisors say they want to revitalize the area, but nearby homeowner Deborah Smith feels differently.

"Definitely thought this has the appearance of being a sweetheart deal to a big campaign donor to the board of supervisors," said Smith.

The land is currently owned by Landmark Atlantic, LLC. The company's CEO Scott Herrick has contributed more than $100,000 to six current county supervisors over the past 15 years, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Sharon Bulova: $40,500

Penny Gross: $29,000

John Cook: $14,000

Pat Herrity: $6,250

Jeffrey McKay: $8,500

John Foust: $2,500

Of those six, four voted for the deal. Two abstained - including Herrity.

"I didn't feel comfortable legally and I didn't feel comfortable with the optics," said Herrity.

Herrity also didn't feel comfortable with the price. In 2015, the property was assessed at about $4 million. The county will pay about $7 million.

"Those two numbers aren't close. This is not the right time to spend this $7 million and it could be used to offset the tax increase," added Herrity.

"It may look bad," admitted Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, when asked if it was appropriate for her to take contributions and vote to approve the deal.

At more than $40,000, Bulova has received the most political contributions from Herrick. She doesn't see that as a problem since her vote was not illegal. What she sees is a fair market offer on an investment that could payoff in a few years.

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