Approval of four in-fill projects in Brambleton would mean the completion of Loudoun County Parkway from Route 7 to Route 50, a project that senior transportation planner Art Smith calls "the most important existing road network gap in Loudoun County."
That gap came one step closer to being filled Monday, July 30, when the Planning Commission recommended approval of Brambleton’s active adult community, town center's residential component, Brambleton Brandt and Brambleton Corner applications.
"We have already done the design of this road and it is sitting in building and development," Antonio Calabrese, attorney for the applicant, said. "I think that shows our commitment to get it done."
While staff members had reservations about some aspects of the four projects, many commissioners said the biggest priority was completing the north-south connector, a project estimated to cost $28.5 million.
"The biggest issue to me is the transportation," Commissioner Barbara Munsey (Dulles) said. "It’s, how are we going to get the roads in there, and that’s with all four [applications] together. The whole reason to get all four together tonight was to get the roads in there."
INCLUDED IN THE active adult community are up to 1,502 residential units and up to 140,000 square feet of nonresidential and retail uses. The plan also includes a 3.75-acre library site, which the applicant could give to the county or could work with the library board to create a facility similar to what is being developed at the Gum Spring Library in the Stone Ridge community.
"The library is trying to look at different options than us just giving them the site," Calabrese said. "We want to have the ability to talk to the library board in the future to make it a more mixed-use building."
The application originally called for funding to be allotted for the library within 12 years, or the land would go back under the control of the applicant, but requested that the timeline be extended to 15 years.
"In reality, I just don’t think 12 years is long enough," Commissioner Teresa Whitmore (Potomac) said.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM county planners had with the town center residential proposal, which will be located across the street from the new Brambleton movie theater, is the proposed density.
"The plan calls for a density of four units per acre," Michael Elabarger, the project’s manager, said. "The applicant is asking for 7.6 units per acre, which is almost double."
Calabrese maintained that the community was needed to support the new town center.
"We spent a lot of money to make the town center attractive," he said, "and frankly we need the critical mass around it. Had this been integrated with the original Brambleton plan, nobody would have blinked at it."
Calabrese said the feel would be similar to the Reston Town Center, not in density, but in its set up.
"There is a very nice synergy there and that’s what we’ve envisioned here," he said.
The commission asked the applicant to take a look at the pedestrian walkways between the residential component and the town center and figure out how to streamline the design so it would be more conducive to walking. While Brambleton has proffered crosswalks at every traffic light, commissioners were concerned that people would continue to cross in the middle of the street.
"If this were a normal density, we would look for these crosswalks," Julie Pastor, director of planning, said. "So since there is the added density, we’re looking for more."
Elabarger suggested a pedestrian bridge or underpass to move people across the roads, but commissioners said they would rather see more pedestrian trails or landscaping that flowed people toward the controlled intersections.
"We’ll look again at the trail system and trying to punch out something at those intersections," Calabrese told the commission. "We’ll take some time to look at in between here and when it comes before the Board of Supervisors."
NO ISSUES WERE RAISED by the commission with the Brambleton Corner project, which would develop 49 town houses on 3.93 acres, but some commissioners questioned the phasing of the Brambleton Brandt application.
The southern half of the application is planned for an approximately 26,000-square-foot retail center, which lies within the Dulles International Airport noise contours, and 109 single-family homes and 127 town houses in the northern portion.
"We want a commercial and retail center," Calabrese said. "We have a lot of interest down there and we’ve had some great support from the Brambleton community. Brambleton residents have had an interest in a service station there."
Due to the need of Brambleton residents for services, commissioners asked for the commercial proponent of the application to be built earlier than the residential portion or for the applicant to guarantee the completion of both sections as they were laid out in the proposal.
"This is a true in-fill proposal and my concern is at some point the residential gets done and this little commercial piece somehow wants to get converted to residential," Commissioner Nancy Hsu (Blue Ridge) said.
While Calabrese said the applicant could not commit to a completion agreement, he said they would look at starting the commercial component sooner rather than later.
"We don’t think these uses are going to be fed just by this development," he said. "It is going to be serving the entire community. Our goal is to get the infrastructure in."