It may be too late to create a pedestrian-friendly urban center in the heart of Loudoun County, but Lerner Enterprises wants to give it a try.
The company was looking to rezone 34 acres of land at the Dulles Town Center from light industrial use to residential in order to build 599 luxury residential apartments at Monday night's Planning Commission meeting.
"There are two plans for Dulles Town Center. One is for an urban center and the other is keynote employment," said Benjamin Tompkins representing Lerner. "The revised general plan calls for urban centers to be able to change based on their environment.
"The Reston Town Center core and the Dulles Town Center core are roughly the same size. We need to surround the core with residential [similar to Reston] to make it viable as an urban center."
Members of the Planning Commissions, however, think it will take more than residential housing to turn the Dulles Town Center into another Reston Town Center, Clarendon or even Annapolis, Md.
"I'm very much against PD-IP [planned development-industrial park]. I don't think it is appropriate for this site, but I think what you have put forward is boring …" said Commissioner Helena Syska (Sterling). "The design is not there. Look at Reston Town Center, Annapolis, Clarendon and Frederick, all places I frequent with my spending dollars. The difference is Dulles Town Center is like an island surrounded by blacktop. That is not the core. I cannot conceive of somebody walking across what is it, a half-mile parking lot? … There's no dynamic. I don't want to associate Dulles with dull."
Instead of rejecting the proposal outright, the commission opted to refer it back to a work session slated for June 7.
SOME CITIZENS CAUTIONED against granting Lerner's request.
"Lerner Corp. changed the zoning on the property [to build our townhouses]. It's been three years since construction was completed and the proffers have not been fulfilled," said Vicki Adamson, representing the Colonnade Board of Directors. "We already have the Parc Dulles [a 393-units apartment complex] going up next to us. … We really don't want to see this. We are so against these apartments."
Troy Bidstrip, also a Colonnade resident, feared with Parc Dulles at Dulles Town Center apartments already approved, green lighting the Falls at Dulles Town Center would result in residents suffering through at least five years of constant construction.
"Dulles Town Center is a campus. … We can't forget it's a proffered vision. … If we're going to change the proffer, change the promise, we need to include the existing residents. Not just one meeting days before this hearing," said attorney Doug Fleming, on behalf of the Colonnade. "Make the application involve the citizens already there. … I don't think this is good now … it can be good."
It wasn't just the neighbors expressing concern over the proposed apartments. The Countryside Homeowners Association, representing the residential community directly across Route 7 from the Dulles Town Center, is also opposed to the plan in its present form.
"This will have a large impact on Countryside. At this moment in time, we strongly oppose this proposal," said David Barrie Sr., president of the HOA. "Everyone seems to think they [the new residents] are not going to use Countryside Boulevard. It's become a small freeway. Many of the schools [that will serve the apartments] are in Countryside. We're extremely concerned about the density coming out of this project."
THE LAND is now zoned for light industrial use and has been envisioned as a keynote employment center, defined by the comprehensive plan as a corporate headquarters campus in the scale and scope of AOL or Worldcom. In 1996, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution that prohibits the residential conversion of non-residential properties in keynote employment areas, said county planner Ginny Rowen. In addition, the revised general plan also projects this area to develop into an urban center, which would integrate a mix a services, retail, office and residential uses that would serve as a type of walkable downtown.
"The Dulles Town Center is a suburban pattern, it is not pedestrian friendly," said Rowen.
In addition, she said policy spells out the required minimum and maximum of each permitted use in an urban center and the amount of residential and office at Dulles Town Center already exceeds the recommended percentages.
According to the staff report, Dulles Town Center, at build out, is approved for 1,068 residential units; 3.3 million square feet of office space; 1.5 million square feet of retail; and 1.5 million square feet of flex/industrial uses. Currently the center has 506 dwelling units; 185,000 square feet of office; slightly more than 1 million square feet of retail — in the form of the 1.2 million square-foot shopping mall; and 99,000 square feet of industrial.
Tompkins, by contrast, called the town center, "a vibrant mixed-use community" and said there are plans to make the entire area more walkable.
"We'll put into place a pedestrian network to serve the entire Dulles Town Center property," he said.
The commissioners disagreed, saying they would like to see the plan include more of a mix of uses as well as a long-term vision for the entire town center rather than dealing with individual land bays. As presented, many of the commissioners expressed concern that Dulles Town Center would be another Tysons Corner, and along with it, the traffic and inability to be pedestrian friendly.
"You're starting from scratch. There is no precedence there. Use your imagination," said Commissioner John Elgin (Leesburg). "I don't do what someone else did. Do something new. I think you can do something great here. It's not there yet."
THE PLANNING COMMISSION took the following action on other applications presented Monday night.
* Approved: Steeplechase, the rezoning of 6 acres from planned development-industrial park under the 1972 zoning ordinance to planned development-industrial park under the revised 1993 zoning ordinance. The property is located in the Steeplechase Industrial Park, just south of Severn Way and on the west side of Atlantic Boulevard.
* Sent to work session: Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park, a special exception to permit a regional park with active recreational uses on 405 acres on the east side of Sycolin Road and on the north, south and west sides of Cochran Mill Road, just south of the Town of Leesburg.
* Approved: Bank of America at Stone Ridge, a special exception for a bank drive through. The bank is located on the south side of John S. Mosby Highway.
* Approved: Centergate Business Park, a special exception for a bank with a drive through. The property is located at the northwest intersection of Loudoun County parkway and Centergate Drive.
* Sent to work session: Masira, a request to rezone 53 acres from single-family residential to planned development housing to permit the construction of 180 units — 59 single-family detached homes, 64 duplexes and 57 townhouse. The property is located on the east side of Gum Spring Road, north of Braddock Road, south of John S. Mosby Highway and west of the South Riding subdivision.
* Approved: Belmont Glen, to rezone 143 acres from single-family residential to planned development housing to permit 196 dwelling units. The property is located on the west side of Belmont Ridge Road and the east side of Goose Creek.
* Approved: Goose Creek Village South, to rezone 32 acres, 14 of which are buildable, from single-family residential to planned development housing to permit 100 townhouses. The property is on both sides of Sycolin Road adjacent to the south side of the Dulles Greenwa