For its new headquarters, General Dynamics Corporation executives wanted a “jewel box in the woods,” said attorney Mark Looney.
They examined sites across the country before deciding upon a 21.69 acre property in Reston for its new home. “They wanted the environment to be private,” he said, “and want to be the sole occupier and owner.”
Looney said they intend to keep the site on Sunset Hills Road 84 percent open space, with trees preserved even to keep the parking area forested.
Fairfax County Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the project at its public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to make its decision whether to approve the application on Sept. 20, 2016.
In 1991, The Board of Supervisors had originally approved the site for an office development on 15.76 acres, and the remaining 7.7 acres was to be dedicated to the county for an 850 space park and ride facility. In 1992, the Board determined the park and ride facility would not be needed with the construction of the Wiehle Avenue Park and Ride Facility.
IN 1999, the Board approved “development of three office buildings containing a total of 357,694 square feet and associated surface and structured parking, none of which have been constructed,” according to Planning Commission documents.,
Instead, General Dynamics Corporation seeks to build one single office building to developed in two phases on a secure site.” Instead of a total of 1,187 parking spaces permitted currently, General Dynamics seeks a total of 250 spaces.
Instead of the three office buildings containing a total of 357,694 square feet that the Board approved in 1999, General Dynamic plans a 160,000 square foot building for its headquarters to accommodate 175 employees; a second phase could add a 30,000 square-foot addition, but General Dynamics only plans for a total of 200 employees.
“The redesign of the site at a lower intensity provides for a significant increase in open space and tree preservation with a decrease in vehicular traffic through the accompanying parking reduction request. In staff’s opinion, such proposal is an improvement over the current approvals,” said staff planner Mary Ann Tsai.
“We don’t want to be visible from Sunset Hills Road, and want to be as unobtrusive for people who live across the site or are driving by,” said Looney. “We want to try to hide that area as much as we can.”
Dranesville Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder asked what would happen should General Dynamics seek to move in the future, such as Exxon Mobil.
Exxon Mobil left its 117-acre property in Merrifield for Houston by the end of 2015, but leased the property to Inova Health System Hospital.
Like Exxon, “this is being designed for a unique user,” acknowledged Looney. “The decision of General Dynamics is to establish permanent roots in the county.”
HUNTER MILL Planning Commissioner Frank de la Fe referenced testimony of neighbors, who said they bought their dream homes unaware that a major corporation would be moving across the street.
“I appreciate the neighbors that came in and expressed their concerns, which primarily deal with concerns over increased traffic,” said de la Fe.
“Given what is currently approved, this is a much better plan for traffic, for preservation of trees, vegetation, so it is a preferable application that we have lived with for a long period of time,” he said. “It is certainly a heck of a lot better than the parking, park and ride, building that was originally proposed.”
The Park Authority is to conduct an archeological analysis of the property, according to proffered conditions agreed upon.