“We make decisions on what is best for the Town.” – Councilmember John Nave
Last month the Town of Purcellville raised the town meals tax by 25 percent – from four percent to five percent. Councilmember Tom Priscilla stated that the increase was necessary due to a $1.5 million shortfall. More specifically, he cited developer defaults on public improvements for Locust Grove and Hirst Farm performance bonds, county versus town lawsuits related to efforts to block the Southern Collector Road, and lawsuits filed by Sam Brown (owner of Crooked Run Orchard) to protect his property from seizure by eminent domain/quick take.
The increase in the meals tax is not only unjustifiable … the reasons given for the increase are disingenuous.
Locust Grove and Hirst Farm Performance Bonds: While the bonds in question are the duty of the developer to secure, the town of Purcellville failed to verify that the bonds had been put in place, exposing residents to this liability.
County versus town lawsuits related to the Southern Collector Road: The town and county lawsuit in question was not about the Southern Collector Road. It was over the “out of phase” annexations that violated the town/county annexation agreement with respect to the land involved. The county lawsuit was filed when the town refused to answer any correspondence sent by the county and refused to meet to discuss the Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan (PUGAMP) about the out of phase annexations. The agreement required the town to work with the county and provide documentation that the town would be able to provide adequate utilities for any future development. (PUGAMP is a 50-year agreement between Loudoun County and the town of Purcellville that details land use guidelines for development outside the town of Purcellville boundaries, ensuring that Purcellville would not grow at a pace that would overwhelm the town.)
Lawsuits filed by Sam Brown: Mr. Brown filed his lawsuit for a temporary injunction seeking to stop seizure of part of his farm until the town/county lawsuit over out of phase annexations was resolved. The town brought the cost of this lawsuit on themselves.
Councilmember Keith Melton stated: “This [meals] tax is for people outside of town,” and “it is the least taxing option to our residents.” Vice Mayor Joan Lehr stated: “One percent is not that huge, although it may stop some people from coming into town and that will affect other businesses as well.”
The meals tax is only estimated to bring in an additional $225,000 per year. When the town was asked to detail the $1.5 million shortfall, they provided documents showing legal fees totaling just over $653,000.
Prior to the town’s May elections, Mayor Bob Lazaro said that his constituents did not want the meals tax increased, and, voted against it in committee. In last month’s final vote, the meals tax passed 6-1 with only Vice Mayor Joan Lehr voting against.
From the town’s thinly veiled arguments as to the reason for the 25 percent increase, to the Mayor’s flip-flops on the issue, it is hard to see that any of this is in the best interests of the town.