What happened at last Wednesday night’s public hearing with Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors defied the common wisdom about Loudoun County politics. Groups such as Voters for Loudoun’s Future have held that a major reason that four Republican supervisors were ousted in the Nov. 6 elections was that the board, particularly its Republican members, consistently voted for development that county residents did not want.
However, the majority of the 21 people who showed up to speak at Wednesday’s hearing supported a rezoning application for the construction of a town center on 425 acres, which the board then voted to deny. Plans for the Kincora development, to be located along Route 28 near the Dulles Town Center, had been in the works for more than two years, and the developer, Dulles Real Estate Investor LLC, submitted its application 18 months ago.
Following extensive debate, the board voted in support of Supervisor Bruce Tulloch’s (R-Potomac) motion to deny the application, with Chairman Scott York (I) and Supervisors Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) and Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) abstaining. Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) was absent.
Waters, in whose district the development would have been built, seemed to be taken by surprise.
"I just don’t understand why there’s not a willingness to have a discussion," she said. Her three motions to continue talks about the proposal failed.
THE CENTER WOULD have included nearly 5 million square feet of office, hotel and commercial space and up to 1,068 "residential multifamily units" at a density of about 16 units per acre. One of its major selling points was a 550-seat performance venue, of which there are none in Loudoun County, as well as $75 million in road improvements, including two bridges over the nearby Broad Run that would aid in the completion of the local road grid.
However, it also would have required 27 ordinance modifications and the revision of an open space easement. The Planning Commission, in a divided vote, had recommended approval of the project. County staff, on the other hand, did not support it, citing conflicts with land-use policy, the timing of road construction, the protection of Broad Run and the construction of residential units on land designated for "keynote employment," defined as office or research and development centers, with only the necessary retail and personal services for employees.
SEVERAL LEADERS in the arts community turned out to support the project on account of the proposed performance venue, although they expressed concern over its size.
"I applaud any proposal to meet the needs for a performing arts center," said Steve Spaseff, chair of the board for the Loudoun Ballet Company, although he said the plan was "not there yet," with a venue that would be "simply too small."
Jim Sneed of Ashburn said he wanted the roadwork that would allow local residents to avoid the traffic on Route 7. As it is now, he said "there’s no escape" from heavy traffic on that road. "It seems like Kincora’s giving us some options." He was also one of several speakers who supported the project because of its town center approach, combining living, working and recreation space. "Everyone who lives and works there is not going to be in the parade out on [Route] 7," he said.
"Young professionals can’t afford, nor do they want, to live in Loudoun County," said Matthew Hogan of Arcola, adding that Loudoun is known as "the suburb of Fairfax County." He said he supported the proposed center’s appeal to younger citizens. "I look forward to finally being able to invite my friends from Fairfax County to Loudoun," said Hogan.
However, Gigi Robinson of Leesburg worried about the development’s impact on the road and school systems, and Ed Gorsky of the Piedmont Environmental Council threatened to take legal action if the proposal was approved.
ALL OF THE BOARD members agreed that the project was problematic and that if it moved forward, it would be the next board that would make the final decision on its viability.
"I’ve been pretty much opposed to this project since day one that I saw it," said York. He said he was leery of the fact that the development would rely on a Community Development Authority (CDA) to finance road and other improvements. He also wondered whether another development was necessary in the area. "I’m not ready to pimp out Loudoun County just for an arts center," he said, adding that he was willing to continue discussing the project but not eager to rush it.
"I hoped by the time it got to the board some of these fundamentals would no longer be issues," said Kurtz, although she said she was not yet prepared to deny the proposal.
Waters acknowledged that it would take months to make the project acceptable. After her first motion — to send the proposal to the transportation and land use committee and have staff work with the developer on creating the Community Development Authority — failed to get a second, she said she would offer "whatever motion will continue the discussion." Her subsequent motions to send it to the same committee after the next board was inaugurated and to send it back to the Planning Commission for more work also could not gain the board’s support.
"It’s interesting that we don’t even want to have the discussion," she said, emphasizing the development’s benefits to the local roads.
SUPERVISOR JIM BURTON (I-Blue Ridge) said he appreciated concerns for road construction, but he noted that the development would end up "sandwiched between two other town centers next to a sewage plant." The Broad Run Water Reclamation Facility will be running next year next to the site proposed for the project, which lies between the Dulles Town Center and the site of the planned One Loudoun
"How many mixed-use projects do we need in a row?" wondered Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run).
Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said he lacked confidence in the proposal and was disappointed to hear that the performance venue would be inadequate.
Attorney John McGranahan, representing the applicant, implored the board to continue to work with his client. "What’s happening tonight is unfair to the applicant," he said. "You’re not even giving us a chance."
"I come to a hearing for an up-or-down vote," said Burton. "I see before us months and months of negotiations."
Tulloch, who had moved to deny the application, had the last word. "You say you’re a little dismayed," he said to McGranahan. "Don’t be." The residents of his nearby Potomac District, he said, had consistently told him the proposed development was too large, too dense and poorly timed. Tulloch said he opposed the project out of respect for his constituents, as well as his planning commissioner, who would have had to help hone the proposal over the coming months. "It’s fortunate for the taxpayers of Loudoun County that we’re not going to have a discussion on a CDA for this site," he said.
OTHER MOTIONS at Tuesday and Wednesday’s public hearings included:
* Forwarding an application to rezone 312 acres for the construction of the Arcola Center mixed-use development to the transportation and land use committee. The center, to be located between Route 50 and Evergreen Mills Road, west of the Loudoun County Parkway, would include up to 1,169 residential units and more than 2.5 million square feet of commercial and industrial space.
* Sending an application to rezone almost 150 acres for a residential development to the board’s Dec. 4 business meeting. The neighborhood would include 860 homes, a swimming pool and, as incentive, a middle school. It would be located on the south side of Braddock Road, east of Lightridge Farm Road, and just within the county’s Transition Policy Area, which requires a density of one dwelling unit per three acres.
* Placing a proposal for a development at Glascock Field on the agenda for the Dec. 4 board meeting. The project would include 276 residential units, more than 1.3 million square feet of office space, a 20-bed hospice and a heliport on almost 100 acres. The project requires special exceptions for the hospice and heliport and another to waive setback requirements. It would be located northeast of the current intersection of Route 50 and Gum Spring Road. Gum Spring would be rerouted through the development.
* Placing an application to rezone 32 acres for the construction of the Morely Corner development on the agenda for the Dec. 4 board meeting. The project would include 128 multifamily dwelling units and 260,000 square feet of retail and office space, and it would be located northwest of the intersection of Ashburn Village Boulevard and Waxpool Road.
* Forwarding an application to rezone 10 acres for a commercial center to the transportation and land use committee. The center, to be located east of Gum Spring Road at the intersection with Tall Cedars Parkway, would include two banks, a pharmacy and two retail/office buildings.
* Placing an application for a special-exception permit to allow the construction of a gas station, convenience store and restaurant on the agenda for the Dec. 4 board meeting. The businesses would be located on about three acres northwest of the intersection of Route 50 and Pleasant Valley Road.
* Placing a proposal to move a bus shelter off the Potomac Terrace development property on the agenda for the Dec. 4 board meeting. The proposal would remove a requirement that the Potomac Terrace Homeowners’ Association maintain the shelter and would relocate it, due to nuisance and vandalism complaints.