Board Rejects Ridgewater Plan

Board Rejects Ridgewater Plan

Lansdowne Development Group reviewing plans for rezoning application.

The Board of Supervisors last Tuesday rejected the Comprehensive Plan amendment that would transfer more than 1,000 acres west of Goose Creek from the Transition Policy Area to the Suburban Policy Area.

After only one work session, the board voted 5-4 on the policy during its March 20 business meeting. Chairman Scott K. York (I-At large) brought forward the motion for denial. Supervisors Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), Jim Clem (R-Leesburg), Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) and Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) voted against the denial.

"What I have heard from the time the board held its public hearing was that there seemed to be five of us saying no to this CPAM," York said. "With the staff workload, if there are five votes against this then we should just set it aside and move forward."

The Comprehensive Plan amendment was created by the Board of Supervisors Nov. 21, 2006, when it directed the Planning Commission to review an amendment in the same area as a pending rezoning application from the Lansdowne Development Group, known as Ridgewater Park. The rezoning application was formally known as Creekside. Included in the development is a new 500,000-square-foot Inova L.I.F.E. center, planned to create a setting for scientists and doctors to work together on developing new practices in the health-care sciences, medical education and patient-care technology.

In recent weeks it was indicated that Ridgewater Park would include George Mason University's Loudoun campus. The campus had originally been part of a Greenvest application and the Transition Policy Plan amendment, which the board rejected last November.

The amendment covers the 736-acre Ridgewater Park site west of Goose Creek and a portion of Lower Sycolin Subarea, located just north of the Dulles Greenway and east of Leesburg. Also included in the amendment are 19 other land parcels, which make up the remaining acreage of the amendment.

AS THE APPLICATION has gone through the public process, residents, supervisors and environmental experts have expressed concerns over the impact the Ridgewater Park development would have on the Goose Creek reservoir.

At the beginning of the March 20 meeting, Hobie Mitchel, president of Lansdowne Development Group, told supervisors a second round of changes had been made to the company's development application.

"We have reduced the number of market rate to 1,325 units," he said. "We have basically eliminated the water quality issues."

During the board's first work session on the application, Mitchel announced that the number of houses had been reduced from more than 2,000 to 1,862 market rate units with 219 affordable dwelling units.

"We listened to what you said," he said Tuesday. "We are committed to this community and we will stay committed to this community. Don't kill this thing today."

EVEN WITH THE changes, however, supervisors remained unconvinced that the amendment would properly protect the reservoir.

"The current plan that governs development in this area was established over concerns of the environmental area," Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said. "Over the past month or two, I have seen no compelling reasons to change that plan. I think that this would set in motion further changes to come in and we would see a domino effect right on down the [Transition Policy Area]."

Other supervisors argued that the area in question was not truly part of the Transition Area any longer and needed to be planned properly.

"It is really helter-skelter there, like Route 50," Snow said. "I think it needs some planning. This is not an area that is going to be like Bluemont. It is going to be [absorbed], at some point of time in the future, into the suburban to some extent and I would like to have some control over that."

Supervisor Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) said he had spent the last week being lobbied by supporters on both sides of the issue, but that he was not the swing vote people believed him to be.

"I met with constituents this week and what they said, as they have said all along, was that they don't want to open any new areas [for development]," he said. "Today I am going to be voting for the motion on the table and that will end this CPAM. And whether or not this rezoning comes forward will be for Mr. Mitchel to decide."

FOLLOWING THE denial, Mitchel said he and the Lansdowne Development Group were evaluating where they should go with the rezoning application.

"We are still committed to try and do things with Inova and the L.I.F.E. center," he said. "And whether George Mason University will be a part of that."

Mitchel said that while he was "obviously disappointed" with the board's decision, that did not mean the Ridgewater Park development would not be coming to Loudoun.

"I don't give up easily," he said. "I have been doing things in this community for too long."