Democrat announces supervisor bid

Democrat Gary Friedman plans to challenge incumbent Republican Gainesville District Supervisor Edgar Wilbourn in this year’s election, on many of the same Rural Crescent issues the two sparred over before.

Creation of the Rural Crescent, a 100,000-acre rural preserve in the west, was a key factor in the 1999 campaign and may figure prominently in this year’s race as well.

Wilbourn was a staunch critic of its creation and one of three supervisors who voted against it. Friedman said he wants to strengthen protections of it that have eroded since then.

Friedman ran against Wilbourn for the board of county supervisors in 1999, losing by 271 votes.

The 52-year-old 20-year county resident said he will campaign on a platform of reducing taxes, supporting impact fees, promoting the improvement of Va. 28 over proposed improvements to the I-66/U.S. 29 interchange and raising the standards for public ethics.

“I think we need a change in Gainesville and I am better qualified than anyone else to bring it,” he said Monday.

Friedman said he believes real estate taxes could be reduced below the county’s current $1.23 per $100 of assessed value if the county made developers pay more of the cost of building roads and schools created by their developments.

County taxpayers have had to pay for those costs when developers do not, or they fall short, he said.

Friedman favors impact fees, which the county could enact if the General Assembly passes enabling legislation. Impact fees require that infrastructure be in place before development occurs, instead of the current proffer system that relies on voluntary donations of cash or land by developers to ensure that impacts of their building is lessened.

None of the county’s issues will be solved until land use issues are, Friedman said, because the county is not growing in a smart way.

“We keep shredding forests, plowing down fields, and putting up massive developments when we have areas that are supposed to be developed, but aren’t,” he said.

Some county land was set aside for development in the county’s 1998 comprehensive plan, while the Rural Crescent, consisting of 100,000 acres in the Gainesville and Brentsville districts, was preserved for large estates on ten-acre lots.

However some members of the board have increasingly opted for more retail and commercial development in the west, he said. “We need to change the majority mentality on the board.”

Friedman supports keeping the Rural Crescent to the lower densities prescribed in the 1998 comprehensive plan and also stopping the erosion of transitional areas next to the Rural Crescent. Many of the buffer areas the blueprint for development sought to establish have also been compromised by board decisions, he said.

More recently, the Gainesville sector plan increased retail and commercial densities beyond what was needed, Friedman said. The committee consisted of Wilbourn appointees.

“We already have a commercial zone that is struggling to fulfill its potential,” he said referring to the Sudley area, which runs from Manassas to I-66.

Friedman said the county is not helping existing businesses there by setting up a new area in the west that will compete with them and possibly create future blight and taxpayer burdens.

On transportation, Friedman said there are better solutions for improving gridlock in the west than the proposed rebuilding of the I-66/U.S. 29 interchange in Gainesville.

“I am completely unconvinced it’s even needed,” he said. “There are cheaper and better solutions to improving gridlock.”

Instead he wants to build the Va. 28 bypass as Godwin Drive extended to I-66 and expand existing Va. 28 from Manassas to I-66 at Centreville. Included in that plan is a median strip right of way for light rail to Manassas.

Finally he said he wants to strengthen the county’s conflict of interest policies to elevate the standards for elected and appointed officials. He wants full disclosure in a timely manner of all specifics of potential interests of those serving.

Friedman is currently the director of sales and marketing for Action in the Community Through Service, where he has been for three years. Prior to that he took nine years off to raise his children while his wife worked.

He has worked in real estate brokerage and government contracting and was a business manager with Sears and Hecht’s. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in English. He is married and has three children.

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