After Lansdowne Outcry, National Conference Center Application Changes Again

Only hours after a room full of Lansdowne residents gave county supervisors an earful about a proposal to build 101 townhouses around the National Conference Center, and only a week before a scheduled vote on the project, the National’s owners have proposed “quite significant” changes to their application.

“We got the word this morning, about 12 noon, that they wanted to change the application again,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) on Friday. “I have not yet talked to them.” She said her staff has handled that change while she has been in other meetings, and “as soon as I get them I will send the information on to the residents so they can see it.”

Randall and Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) hosted a meeting at Lansdowne on Thursday night to hear from residents about the application, which has seen increasingly strong opposition from neighbors.

The applicant has offered a number of concessions, including agreeing not to build certain other things on the property like data centers, constructing public spaces like basketball courts and a dog park, and keeping the average size of the townhouses at or above 4,000 square feet—and, notably, an offer to build age-restricted the housing that the Lansdowne HOA rejected.

But those offers have not satisfied the people living nearby in Lansdowne. The meeting between residents and county supervisors Thursday evening got contentious several times.

And those offers could be out the window, depending on what’s in the revised application. That has not yet been publicly released, but is expected to be shared with residents early this week.

At the meeting, residents complained not only about the potential visual impact, but raised concerns about safety and traffic on their streets. Many were skeptical of the traffic study conducted by the applicant, which both supervisors the applicant’s representatives in the meeting acknowledged did not encompass some intersections in Lansdowne. Buona said the county government has begun work to conduct those required traffic studies in the future itself, rather than rely on developers’ reports.

County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall and Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) talk with Lansdowne residents about plans to build townhouses on the National Conference Center property during a Feb. 15 community meeting.

People in the meeting also complained they had been left out of the conversation around the project until recently. Randall said she would work on improving public outreach.

“It’s on our side. We’re the elected officials, we’re supposed to be the ones to do the reach out,” Randall said. “But I wouldn’t mind some ideas of what to do in the future.”

Both supervisors entered the meeting saying they were undecided on the National’s application.

“If the same application were anywhere else, with the affordable dwelling units, it would be easy for me,” Randall said. “But the location is a tough location.”

After seeing the community’s unanimous opposition to the project in that meeting, Randall hinted she was leaning toward opposing the project, but cautioned that would also take away proffers that would restrict what the National could build on its property in the future.

“If you’re saying no to the homes, something’s going to be a yes,” Randall said.

And Buona encouraged residents who were concerned about the application to send their concerns to the board and other individual supervisors.

The application was scheduled for a vote Thursday, Feb. 22, but is likely to come off the board’s agenda for that evening.

Loudouners can contact the county Board of Supervisors by email at bos@loudoun.gov, or find contact information for individual supervisors at loudoun.gov/bos.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

2 thoughts on “After Lansdowne Outcry, National Conference Center Application Changes Again

  • 2018-02-19 at 11:51 am
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    1. There is no legitimate reason to rezone this land and build more townhomes.
    2. Townhomes would only benefit the current landowner. not the citizens of LoCo.
    3. I carefully studied and relied on the current zoning when i bought my home. To change it now to add traffic, densification, put more kids in the schools would be an outright fraud.
    4. Why are Randall and Buona shilling for the developers?
    5. As for Ms. Randalls comment, there’s going to be a “yes” on something, fine. let them build whatever they want that is “by right” according to the current zoning. I am fine with ALL OF THE BY RIGHT USES but why enrich the NCC property owners at the expense of hundreds of citizen? (i.e. VOTERS)

    WHAT BENEFIT DOES LOCO GET FROM REZONING AND ADDING TOWNHOMES????

  • 2018-02-19 at 7:48 pm
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    Folks need to understand the history here.

    1. This is not the first time the BOS has basically given NCC $M’s in benefits. When NCC sold some land for Riverside HS, they forced LCSB to pay $6M more than it was worth to build a “garage” (LCPS paid $19M when property was appriased at $13M). After the sale, LCPS couldn’t even build on the proposed site and had to consume the Lansdowne sports park to build the HS (land that the Lansdowne homeowners had originally proffered).

    2. Each of the homes in Lansdowne had about $40K in proffers built into the price of their homes to pay for the land for 2 (count them – two) LCPS school sites. In 2012, Lansdowne’s own school board rep supported a plan to move a large chunk of Lansdowne residents out of the elem school they had helped personally pay for so new townhomes who had not contributed to the elem school could attend. Think about that.

    3. In 2014, NCC was sold via a short sale. Basically, the old owners could not manage it profitably and the new owners entered with eyes wide open. Nobody owes the new owners a dime for taking that risk. The site is currently tax positive (more tax revenues than services provided). Any of the currently allowed uses would be tax positive.

    4. Now, the new NCC owner thinks they can swindle both the county citizens and the residents in rezoning their newly purchased land to high-density housing. Let’s see the costs:

    a. In Survivor or more appropriately Hunger Games fashion, the new NCC townhomes will get to attend the neighborhood elementary school pushing longtime residents who paid for the elementary school land to another school outside the neighborhood. This is true even though the new NCC townhomes will have paid nothing toward that school via proffers. This is why Lansdowne will never support any residential rezoning that forces its own kids from the neighborhood school.

    b. Commercial landowners are not entitled to have their property rezoned to high density residential. This is especially true when the rezoning will result in net costs to the county (lower taxes paid vs services provided). This is what NCC wants to do simply because it benefits them financially. The new townhomes cost everyone in the county money. Landowne residents don’t mind any of the uses currently allowed including the threatened “zoo” that the disingenuous land use attorneys suggest.

    In fact, Lansdowne residents (and county residents likely) don’t mind age-restricted housing. Those are tax positive for the county, won’t displace current residents’ children in the school, and wouldn’t overburden the community amenities. But the newspaper story about made a gaping error. NCC didn’t propose ALL age-restricted housing but merely 1/4 of the 100+ townhomes to be age-restricted. Now, NCC has modified its application to propose ~70 townhomes but no age-restricted ones. That is not an improvement since all the problems still exist. In the original Lansdowne development, such homes would have provided $3M in proffers to the county. NCC is offering nothing. NCC wants to reap all the profits of such a rezoning with no proffers and an eternal tax bill to the county via school costs. If you are going to rezone land and make someone rich, at least give it to some farmer whose land is already residential rather than a business who bought NCC hoping to capitalize on corrupt relationships with some BOS members.

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