When Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) formed the Route 50 Task Force last year, the fledgling group was met with skepticism.
Snow had stocked the leadership positions with developers, and residents jumped to protest what was perceived as putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
He quickly instated residents alongside developers on the board, and with an air of celebration on Tuesday, the group formally presented its final recommendations to improve Route 50 to the county.
"It started off a little bit rocky, probably a little more from disbelief," said task member Bob Buchanan, of developer Buchanan Partners. "The mood had shifted from doubt to conviction if we didn't do something now, it would never get done, and I think we did."
Route 50, as any resident knows, suffers from major traffic issues. It also lacks any defining characteristic. Meanwhile, it's a swiftly changing area with a host of historic sites from Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church to Arcola's slave quarters that could suffer from haphazard by-right development.
Snow's effort is intended to create an aesthetically pleasing, business- and tourism-promoting gateway to Loudoun County not dissimilar to the George Washington Parkway along the Potomac. And if Tuesday was any measure, he's well on his way to his goal.
"In my opinion, it's a historic day in Loudoun County," Snow said. "This project is special because it gave people along the corridor a choice."
SNOW and his task force held dozens of meetings with residents and business owners along the corridor from the county line to Lenah Run. The recommendations, then, reflect what residents told the task members, rather than being a product of traditional county staff reports.
What the county will eventually accomplish, according to the recommendation's hopeful cast, is a gateway to Loudoun County complete with welcoming signage and way-finding systems to neighborhoods, businesses and historic sites.
The road itself, meanwhile, should have a pleasing, well-landscaped boulevard look. Businesses should follow guidelines for a general aesthetic theme that will be implemented by an as-of-yet unformed architectural review board.
Besides looking pretty, Route 50 should have major traffic improvements — something that Snow has begun discussing with Fairfax County. Traffic jams begin in Chantilly and stretch sometimes as far as South Riding in Loudoun.
In addition to working with Fairfax, some pressure will, ideally, be taken off Route 50 by a parallel road system to its north and south.
But the roads in particular will be tricky for the task force to change; that's a very long-term solution to the traffic problem. The south collector road, Braddock Road, is not prepared to handle large amounts of traffic, and there is no north collector road. The Dulles International Airport also presents a roadblock for road construction.
Implementation of the task force's recommendations will take resident, developer and county approval over many years, but on Tuesday, Snow made the first big step.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to allow Snow to initiate a comprehensive plan amendment for Arcola, amend the Countywide Transportation Plan to reflect the task force's recommendations and create a volunteer architectural review board.
The voice from the public was unanimous as well on the recommendations.
Eric Rodgers has lived in Dulles south for 34 years. His family owns the land where Dominion Saddlery is located. The tack shop has been denoted in the recommendations as one of the businesses that promotes Dulles south's "sense of place."
"I'm 37," Rodgers said Tuesday. "I've watched this discussion my whole life. It's our desire that it is done right with this growth, and the flurry of activity does not remain disjointed as it has been up and down this corridor."
To read the entire report, visit www.loudoun.gov/bos/route50/report.