Although it was far from unanimous, the proposed changes to the phasing of Dulles World along Rt. 28—to accelerate construction of the development’s residential units—have passed the muster of the Transportation/Land Use Committee and are headed to the full Board of Supervisors.
The committee voted 3-2 Friday to forward the application with a recommendation of approval. The action signaled a change from the discussion at the full board last month, when supervisors called the plan a “bait and switch” from what was promised by the developer and a majority of the board indicated they were unlikely to support the changes.
With only three supervisors in support during the committee meeting, approval from the full board is far from certain, but it seems some supervisors were pleased by a decision by the developer to commit to build at least 30,000 square feet of retail uses on the ground floor of the multi-family units. The developer also would be required to finish construction of the interchange at Rt. 28 and Innovation Avenue before the first occupancy permit is issued.
Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) noted that many decisions were made before this board took office, including the adoption of new Rt. 28 development policies and approval of several rezoning in the area. Those items, along with the impact of the tax districts designed to pay for the construction and operation of Metro’s Silver Line in Loudoun, create a situation where the county has to work with the landowners in the area.
“One thing I know my constituent are looking for is for the tax districts to be successful. And that it not falling on the backs of people as far away as Lovettsville, Bluemont and Lowes Island,” Volpe said. “We have to look at the realities, we have to get road infrastructure built, and we have to get buildings on the ground to have this tax district be successful or it will fall on all of our backs.”
Volpe, Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) and Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) supported the application during the committee’s review, but Higgins noted he was “reserving final judgment” until the application came before the full board.
Dulles World was approved by the previous Board of Supervisors for more than 3 million square feet of office space; a hotel; more than 400,000 square feet of retail; and 1,265 multi-family units. It was pitched as a premier commercial development project that would capitalize on the proximity of the Metro rail stations, with residential units that would appeal to the young professional, thereby limiting the impact on schools and other county resources.
The 1,265 units are planned to be 900 square feet each and are estimated to create approximately 235 new school children for the county.
The proposed changes would not alter the development totals—only the order and timing of construction.
Under the new request, Dulles World is seeking to break the phasing of their development into several parts. As proposed by the Planning Commission, the first portion of development would allow for up to 475 multi-family residences with only the newly promised 30,000 square feet of retail required. Then developer would be able to build another 275 residential with 500,000 square feet of non-residential space, of which 250,000 must be office. Once the developer reaches 1 million square feet of non-residential, 500,000 square feet of which must be office development, it will be able to build an addition 275 residential units. Finally, once 1.5 million square feet of non-residential development is constructed, the final 240 residential units may be built. The remaining development on the property would be non-residential to meet the final build out numbers.
Supervisors Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) repeated concerns expressed last month that the requested changes were coming too soon and would not guarantee the delivery of the commercial-based development promised by Dulles World.
“It’s only been two years [since the development was approved],” Clarke said. “I just cannot understand why now suddenly you need this change. The economy is picking up. Metro is a great attraction.”
Clarke said she had been told that “you need residential before you can attract the retail,” and noted that was a familiar refrain recently. But she pointed out other developments that are being successful in the current market. “This is just too many residential units being moved up too soon.”