- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

Two area economists said yesterday that a developer looking to build on part of the Chancellorsville Civil War battlefield has overstated the positive impact the project could have on Spotsylvania County.
Economists Michael Siegel and John Adams, both hired by a coalition of historic preservationists, issued separate reports disputing claims of an estimated $11.8 million in annual revenue for the county. They said the economists hired by the Dogwood Development Group did not account for a major influx of students to Spotsylvania County's school system, and ignored other considerations including traffic impact.
Dogwood, a Reston-based developer, is looking to build the "Town of Chancellorsville," a complex with 1,995 homes and up to 2.2 million square feet of retail and office space on a site known as the Mullins Farm.
A portion of the development would sit on an area where Union and Confederate soldiers clashed at the Battle of Chancellorsville. The site is prized by historians because Thomas J "Stonewall" Jackson, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's second-in-command, was shot there and later died. The Confederates won the battle despite being heavily outnumbered.
The Dogwood report was written by Stephen S. Fuller, a professor of public policy and regional development at George Mason University and Dean Bellas, president of Urban Analytics, a real estate planning company in Alexandria.
"There are a number of problems with the report," said Mr. Siegel, an economist with Public and Environmental Finance Associates in the Distict. "If they had set out to build a bridge it would have fallen down before it was built."
In a 13-page document Mr. Siegel contended that the Fuller-Bellas report:
Underestimates local school costs by between $1.79 million and $2.83 million annually.
Incorrectly assumes that all 2.2 million square feet of office and retail development will be constructed by the time all residential units will be completed.
Overestimates property tax revenue by about 4 percent.
Incorrectly assumes that state aid to the county will remain constant, despite a budget shortfall in Virginia.
Mr. Adams, an economist at the University of Virginia and president of an economic analysis firm in Spotsylvania, issued a separate report arguing the costs of the development would outweigh the benefits. He said new employment opportunites would barely be felt because of the county's unusually low unemployment rate of 2 percent. And, he said traffic-related costs, which were not included in the Fuller-Bellas study, would total at least $5 million.
Furthermore, Mr. Adams said the value that Americans place on the Chancellorsville historical battlefield is upward of $50 million, and must be taken into account as an impact.
Mr. Fuller defended the report, saying, "People can argue with the results, but I think they are reasonable."
He said student estimates came directly from the Spotsylvania County School District, and were approved by the superintendent. Both he and his co-author, Mr. Bellas, took issue with Mr. Siegel's use of Loudoun County and Stafford County as comparisons, arguing that the counties have different demographics. They also rejected Mr. Siegel's contention that the houses to be built at Chancellorsville would attract young families with many children.
"These are higher-value homes," Mr. Bellas said. "Households with higher incomes generally have fewer children."
Mr. Fuller said his revenue estimates were conservative, and did not take into account sales tax revenue that retailers would attract.
County officials have not met with Mr. Siegel or Mr. Adams. The Spotsylvania County Planning Commission approved rezoning for the development in November. Super- visors were scheduled to vote on the plan next week, but the meeting has been pushed back until January to allow for the vote of newly elected Supervisor Robert Hagan, a development opponent.

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