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Votes

Board Plans for a No Vote

The Board of Supervisors directed staff Monday night to draw up a recommendation of denial for the proposed Upper Broad Run/Upper Foley Subareas Comprehensive Plan amendment, which the board and county staff have been working on for more than two years. The board will take a final vote on the amendment during its Wednesday, Nov. 8, business meeting.

The decision came during the final work session on the proposal, Monday, Nov. 6, when Supervisors remained split over the amendment. If approved the amendment would have allowed for increased residential and retail development in the area southwest of Route 621 and north of Route 50 to Route 621 and south of Route 50 to the Prince William County border.

The motion for denial originally came from board chairman Scott K. York (I- At large) who said the proposal had changed dramatically from the original plan and the amendment would not fix any of the problems facing that area of the county.

THIS SUMMER, the Planning Commission recommended increasing the residential density throughout the transition area to four dwelling units per acre, with denser development toward the east and feathering out toward the west.

The Planning Commission also recommended a large buffer at one unit per acre along the western side of the transition area up to the Rural Policy Area. Under the commission's proposal, there would be a buffer south of the area to the Prince William County border, with a 500-foot natural buffer and 1,300 feet of the one-unit-per-acre density. The recommendation would have allowed for the development of up to 34,000 homes in the area.

At the board's Oct. 3 business meeting, Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) proposed excluding any development south of Braddock Road from the proposal. At the meeting Tulloch said there appeared to be little support on the board of development in that southern area. Tulloch's proposal decreased the potential build-out to less than 27,000 homes.

George Mason University became a part of the transition area amendment when it announced it wished to build a full-service university in the area. Last fall, Greenvest LLC announced it would donate 123 acres to the school. The gifted area is located within a Greenvest development proposal north of the intersection of Route 50 and Route 659.

DENIAL OF the Comprehensive Plan amendment would put a halt to the plans for GMU's Loudoun campus, despite statements Thomas Hennessey, the university's chief of staff, made to the board last week.

At the Oct. 30 meeting Hennessey told Supervisors the school would come to Loudoun regardless of what happened to the proposed amendment, providing the ownership of the 123 acres was turned over to GMU by Greenvest.

However, a joint letter sent to the board Nov. 1 by Greenvest CEO Jim Duszynski and Hennessey said the property would only be turned over following the approval of Greenvest's Arcola/GMU rezoning.

"In the event the rezoning application for the Arcola/GMU project is not approved, then Greenvest is under no obligation to convey the property to the university," the letter said. "However, the university, for a period of six months following the denial of [the rezoning], shall have the right to purchase the property."

Supervisors were not pleased with the seeming flip on what they had previously been told and did not like the idea of the university being so closely tied to a rezoning project.

"On one hand, I want to support GMU, but, on the other hand, I don't know if your rezoning is worth [anything],"Tulloch said. "That's a problem for me."

Board members were also unhappy with GMU's assertion that it would need tax revenue from the county to help develop its campus, something some supervisors said they were "surprised" about hearing.

"GMU has a credibility problem with me," Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said. "I don't know what we are dealing with."

Tulloch, York and other Supervisors expressed support for a full-service university campus in the county, but not while the project was tied to the Greenvest proposal.

"I would welcome future discussions from them but I think it needs to happen outside of this amendment," Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said.

SUPERVISOR STEPHEN SNOW (R-Dulles) attempted to garner support for approving the portion of the amendment that surrounded the proposed campus site, which would have allowed for the development of 7,523 homes, 5,311 above what is allowed by right in that area.

"[This] minimizes the impact," he said. "It also avoids some of the by right and gains us a very strong tax base in the future."

Snow said that for GMU to be successful it would need a developed community surrounding it and approving some of the proposed development would save the county money.

"The beauty in this is we could actually have the developer pay up front so that there would be almost no burden on the taxpayers," he said.

Other Supervisors, however, still believed that the number of houses suggested by Snow were too many for the area, citing concerns over transportation and the recently approved Route 50 plan amendment.

"Until I could see some sort of match up with transportation analysis for what we have just approved, I am hesitant to throw another 7,523 on the ground," Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) said.

Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), who has largely been seen as a supporter of the plan, said he could not support Snow's proposal because it was so different than what he wanted to see in the area.

"The idea was, could you create a balanced mix of uses that supported residential, business and retail?" he said. "Everyone seems to look at this area as a planned community to serve the jobs to our east. We are slicing this off and to me that is not good planning."

Snow's motion failed 2-6-1. Only Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) supported Snow's effort, stating that "by-right development is killing us." Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) was absent for the meeting.

The Supervisors will meet again Nov. 8, at 9:30 a.m., for their regular business meeting. They are scheduled to vote on the Comprehensive Plan amendment at 5 p.m.