At its Monday night work session, the Loudoun County Planning Commission voted 5-4-0 to recommend approval of the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment (CPAM) for the Route 50/Arcola corridor to the Board of Supervisors. Commissioners John H. Elgin (Leesburg), Nancy Hsu (Blue Ridge), John D. Herbert (Catoctin) and Helena Syska (Sterling) were absent for the session.
If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the CPAM would allow for additional residential, business and retail development along the area often referred to as the “gateway to Loudoun.”
The May 1 decision came after the commission worked through the specific language of the proposal, clarifying what would be required in each aspect of the new development. Some of the changes included requiring that new road proffers be included in the initial phases of development. The original language left the timeline of road construction open.
Alterations were also made to the language regarding architectural design and landscaping in order to ensure a more uniform look to the Route 50 corridor as a whole.
Commissioner Suzanne M. Volpe (Sugarland Run) expressed concern before the vote of the residential density of the proposed lifestyle hub, which is being recommended at 24 units per acre.
“I just think 24 acres is too much,” she said. “The staff did everything based on 16 units.”
Other commissioners, however, believed that if they were going to recommend the lifestyle hub, then they had to support the idea completely.
“I think that if you buy into the lifestyle hub notion, you have to buy into it all the way,” Commissioner J. Kevin Ruedisueli (At Large) said. “It is a very dense, urban-style environment.”
“If you are going to buy into the lifestyle hub then you have to give it teeth to work,” Lawrence Beerman (Dulles) said. “This is going to the board. If they want to make it 16 and they don’t think it has the political will to go to 24 then they can vote it in at 16.”
The lifestyle hub, which would be located off of Route 50, just west of Dulles airport, is described as “a variety of upscale shoppers goods, restaurants and entertainment activities in an open-air setting.” Staff members compared the plan to Fairfax Corner in Fairfax and the Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, Md.
LAST WEEK, the commission asked Department of Planning staff members to revise the language of the proposal so that landowners would be clear about what they could and could not develop on the land.
At the Monday meeting, staff members presented commissioners with new definitions for the different types of retail development allowed in the proposed CPAM.
Documents distributed to commissioners defined destination retail as “the largest scale retail center that offers the widest variety of comparative and specialty goods.” The document also stated that destination retail must lie next to a principal artery, or road.
The documents defined employment supportive retail as anything that serves the needs of nearby businesses and their employees, such as office-supply stores, printing and mailing facilities, restaurants and day-care centers.
Corridor retail, which created the most confusion at last week's work session, was defined as a center that “provides both for convenience and routine shopping needs (such as those convenience stores, banks, gas stations, etc.).” Throughout the proposed CPAM’s policies “corridor retail” was changed to read “hybrid retail.”
“We were trying to get away from the confusion about corridor retail by using the word hybrid,” project manager Cindy Keegan said.
The new definitions for retail allow developers greater flexibility when deciding what they want to build.
“There is basically no cap on the type of retail you can do,” Keegan said. “You can do up to 10 percent [by right]. Anything over 10 percent relies on the applicant to make the argument of what is going on in the area and whether the retail can support that.”
In addition to clarifying the retail definitions, commissioners worked through the CPAM’s policies, addressing concerns over the language of general, architectural design, landscaping, economic development and transportation policies.
FOR THE COMMISSIONERS' benefit, Route 50 Task Force segment leaders and a representative of the Dulles South Transportation Alliance were asked to make a presentation to the commission regarding what was occurring in the area and what is expected in the future. In the Route 50 Task Force proceedings, the corridor was split into four segments to better serve the specific needs of the landowners and residents of each segment.
Segment one, which contains the eastern most portion of the corridor, running up to the county line and covering both sides of Route 50, is almost completely developed, segment leader Scott Plein said. The segment’s north side remains heavy and light industrial while the southern side, south of Route 50, has both residential and light business applications going through.
“Basically we are down to some fill-in pieces here,” Plein said. “We're going to figure out what the best use is and not be constrained by 'Oh, you can only have 10 percent retail here.'”
The second segment of the corridor is a long, shallow stretch of road along the south side of Route 50. The proposed CPAM would allow for smaller, hybrid retail in the second segment to accommodate the shallower parcels of land.
“It is hard to have any major retail in here because of the size of the land and you do have some access issues,” segment representative Mike Banzhaf said. “The idea was to consolidate the pieces together, so that instead of a lot of different pieces you have one big piece.”
The final segment addressed in the work session was segment three, which includes the village of Arcola and the proposed lifestyle hub.
“Today’s trends for areas that have the wealth factor say, 'we want to work there, we want to live there, we want to shop there, we want an experience there'” segment leader Bob Buchanan said. “That’s what a Main Street or a lifestyle hub, or whatever the word of the day is, provides.”
For some commissioners the proximity of the Dulles Airport to the proposed lifestyle hub continued to be a concern that they wanted to confirm had been fully addressed.
“My concern is that in the end the people will decide they do not want to shop there and so it becomes a failure and the county has this area that cannot be used,” Ruedisueli said. “I just want to make sure that this is thought of and that it is not a problem.”
Buchanan said that retail businesses have expressed a “great desire” to be in this area.
“All the people around there are going into Fairfax,” he said. “You have got a lot of people out there now that want a place to go to shop and you have got a lot of retail people that want to come out there”
AS THE POTENTIAL development of the Route 50 corridor progresses, so does the concern about transportation. The Dulles South Transportation Alliance (DSTA) made a presentation to the Planning Commission, showing where the road network currently stands.
The DSTA was created following a challenge from Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) to have the various interested parties work together to find a solution to the area’s transportation issues.
Marty Wells, the DSTA representative, showed commissioners many slides of the various problems in the road network, which roads were currently under construction and when roads had received construction proffers from developers.
“We compared [our findings] to countywide transportation plan and found there are some missing segments, but there is a lot that is either approved or being proposed,” Wells said. “There is not as much missing as I would have originally thought.”
Snow, who attended Monday’s meeting, told the Planning Commission that he has been working with developers and has found funds for some of the missing links, including sections of Tall Cedars Parkway and an eastbound lane on Route 50.
“Tall Cedars will be done all the way, which will alleviate Route 50,” Snow said. “By 2009 we will have the east bound lane of Route 50 and we will be sending a lot of people to Fairfax. Eventually we’ll have 659 all the way to Route 7. What’s come into place here is a real live actual plan.”
Wells showed that there were some stretches of road that had double proffers, but told commissioners that those issues would be worked out and the money would be spread to needed projects.
“As everyone becomes more conscious of the need to create a network, not just an individual segment the proffers will spread out,” he said.