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Route 50 Plan Draws Concerns

Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) envisioned a graceful gateway to Loudoun County from the east along Route 50, complete with environmentally friendly landscaping, aesthetically pleasing businesses and well-marked historical sites. It sounded great, until Snow selected four "segment leaders" for the task force to help coordinate property owners along the corridor Ñ and all of them were representatives of developers.

Selecting Packie Crown, of Greenvest, Bob Buchanan, of Buchanan Partners, Scott Plein of Equinox Investments and Bill Gilligan, of Toll Brothers, as leaders led some residents to wonder at the true nature of Snow's proposition.

"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," said Robert Kott at a Sept. 22 public input meeting on the project. "I would suggest that discussing this project under the rubric of a gateway is Orwellian at best and deceitful at worst."

Kott's was the most literary of a series of statements by property owners along the eastern portion of Route 50. Many expressed concern that the presence of developers coordinating efforts was an act of putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

"We're one of the families that have been here more than 100 years waiting for something like this to happen," said Thomas McKay, noting that he approved of the idea of improving the entrance to Loudoun. "We're not in with one of the big developers that have their own agenda. The developers are looking into their own interests."

"I don't see any public voice on your task force," said Valerie Kelly. She then gave Snow a copy of a disclosure form for each segment leader to fill out so the public could find out more about them.

SNOW DEFENDED his selections, saying that working with developers was essential to making his vision for Route 50 a reality. As landowners, developers had rights too, he added.

"Stakeholders are stakeholders," Snow said. He stressed that all interests Ñ from businesses to homeowners Ñ would be heard.

Crown, vice president of planning and zoning for Greenvest, said she was sensitive to residents' concerns.

"I can understand that their first reaction is that it might not be appropriate," she said, adding that she has worked on several projects in the Dulles south area in the last decade. "I think Steve Snow asked me because of the history I have."

Crown also pointed out that her experience as a planner would be vital to the task force.

"I think we bring an expertise to developing issues that can be helpful in trying to identify solutions that someone who's not in the planning profession doesn't have," she said.

The issues at stake for the Route 50 corridor are familiar to anyone who lives in the rapidly growing area: traffic and safety. Businesses report that delivering goods along the corridor takes twice as long as it used to, thanks to congestion, while residents worry about protection from cars zooming by.

"A gateway to the county would look green and have many trees and invite slow traffic," said Margaret New, a member of the Middleburg Town Council.

Preventing the sprawl of box businesses Ñ like the ones that reside along the corridor east of the county line Ñ is going to be tricky for Snow and his task force. The area is currently zoned for light commercial use, and according to Snow, it won't be long before the corridor is characterized by structures like the huge public storage facility just inside of Fairfax County if no action is taken.

"We can control our destiny, not be victims of it," Snow said.

Property owners along the four segments of the Route 50 corridor in Dulles south can expect a letter from their respective segment leaders announcing a public meeting in the near future.