Dry Clean Depot's proposed project for the Augusta Center strip mall is too large for a neighborhood center, according to Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run).
"When I think of a dry cleaner, I don't think on the scale of Dry Clean Depot," said Harris at the Dec. 2 Board of Supervisors meeting.
County planners approved Dry Clean Depot's application to build a discount dry cleaners in a 6,500-square-foot store near Route 7 and Augusta Drive in Sterling. The Westerly Homeowners Association (HOA) in the neighboring development appealed the building and zoning permit that the planners approved Aug. 5. Gene Gaines, representing the HOA, contends that the size of Dry Clean Depot does not conform with the site's proffer requirements and that the business belongs in an industrial district.
"I don't feel Dry Clean Depot meets the intent of the zoning ordinance," Harris said. "It's extremely difficult to take a guideline and specifically state all the quantifications. ... There has to be a human factor."
Mark Herring (D-Leesburg) said a neighborhood center should be designed for small scale uses. "There is no question in my mind Dry Clean Depot plans to become a large center. They are certainly going after a large market area, a high volume."
"The marketing plan is not neighborhood-oriented. It's regionally oriented," said Chairman Scott York (R-At large) in agreement. "We just can't look at the use list. ... This is not a neighborhood use," he said, referring to the 1993 zoning ordinance list of uses for a neighborhood center.
ZONING ADMINISTRATOR Melinda Artman ruled that Dry Clean Depot met the zoning ordinance requirements. The Board of Zoning Appeals upheld Artman's ruling with a 4-0-1 vote on Nov. 21. The Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 against the ruling and in favor of the HOA's appeal.
"We were supposed to be voting on whether there was anything in the proffers that were violated," said James Burton (I-Mercer), who voted for the ruling. "I don't think it will stand up in court."
The board's action will leave the storefront empty until a new tenant can be found, possibly a small restaurant or an Internet cafe, said William Bogard (R-Sugarland Run). "I think there's some things that can be put in there that would be good for the community. The people that live there want that to be a successful enterprise. They don't want an empty store sitting in front of their subdivision. It doesn't look good," he said. "I think the community has some good ideas."
Bogard said a typical dry cleaner is 1,500 square feet with one to two cash registers. Dry Clean Depot plans to operate with six cash registers. "The name neighborhood commercial is the first clue," he said. "You also need to look at physical layout. Augusta Center faces toward the residential [area]. Clearly Augusta Center is focused on the residents. Dry Clean Depot in this location furthers none of this."
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board voted 8-0-1 to endorse 3,000 spaces of Metro garage parking at the Route 772 Rail Station north and south of the Dulles Greenway. The parking conceptually will be divided into two separate locations with 1,500 spaces each.
One of the parking locations is included in the proposed rezoning of Moorefield Station to a transit development center. The commercial and residential development will be anchored by the last transit stop on the planned rail to Washington Dulles International Airport.
"Trying to settle on a number of parking spaces for an end of the line rail station is difficult. This is an appropriate level, so I'm going to support it," Burton said.