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Votes

Lights Depend on Courts

Developer wants county to lighten up.

<bt>If anything, the blue and yellow neon lights on the exterior of One Dulles Town Center are bisecting, not outlining the office building, according to Ben Tompkins, partner with Reed Smith, LLP, the law firm representing Lerner Enterprises Limited Partnership.

But according to the county, the lights are part of a sign that outlines the eight-story, 160,000 square-foot building and therefore are prohibited, said Marilee Seigfried, assistant zoning administrator. The Circuit Court will decide, and in the meantime, the building will sit empty with the lights on, as it has done for the past year.

Last year, Lerner Enterprises appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Following a public hearing on Nov. 21, the board upheld the zoning administrator’s notice of violation about the sign. Lerner had 30 days to appeal to the Circuit Court, where the case still remains.

“The county came out and insisted that it was a sign. We responded that it’s part of the architectural aspect of the building,” Tompkins said about the building, which is located on Route 28 near the Dulles Town Center. “We would define a sign as something that communicates something to the public, such as the name of the tenant, the location of the building or the name of the project. Again, we don’t get their definition of outline. … This is a vertical element right in the middle of the building.”

Planning Commissioner Wendell Hansen (Dulles) does not see anything wrong with the sign either. “If those lights would help lease the building, I would say leave the lights on,” he said.

“The developer took a leap of faith to try to bring a first class office building to Loudoun County, … a building that’s more than a plain vanilla box,” Tompkins said. “To construe it as a sign because some people don’t like the visual look of it and it is not Loudoun-y enough we think is a poor way to do business.

The county issued Lerner a zoning permit in November 2000 to build a planned development office park zoning district at the site. The county has not issued an occupancy permit due to the sign violation.

—By Shelley Widhalm