Traffic Concerns Delay Lansdowne Development Proposal

Concerns about traffic have delayed approval of a plan to fill in the last unbuilt sections of the Lansdowne Town Center.

The 7-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Rt. 7 and Belmont Ridge Road sits between the new Belmont Ridge Road interchange, Harris Teeter, and Seldens Landing Elementary. Today, it is designated for office space only—a vision of suburban office parks which the county has increasingly abandoned as the office market has dried up.

The new plans include two drive-through restaurants, which Bowman Consulting’s Packie Crown said would be a new Chick-fil-A and a Starbucks relocating from elsewhere in the town center. The applicant has agreed not to build mini-storage warehouses or data centers, which would otherwise be allowed under the new zoning. The application would cut the parcel’s approved office space by 95,000 square feet and add another 50,000 square feet of retail—including the two restaurants—cutting the building footprint on that parcel by 45,000 square feet overall.

Crown said it’s an effort to keep the town center competitive.

But concerns over the traffic study on the project delayed a vote from the Board of Supervisors last week. That study was conducted before construction of the overpass at Belmont Ridge Road began—an interchange at which two of the four ramps are open now.

The study also did not consider one of what supervisors say are the two major entrances to the property. While it examined the impact of the new development on the entrance off Belmont Ridge Road onto Promenade Drive, it did not look at the entrance off Riverside Parkway onto Diamond Lake Drive. Supervisors and residents have said much of the truck traffic to the area uses that intersection. Riverside Parkway, which parallels Rt. 7 and which supervisors have worked to extend to provide an alternative to the Rt.7 rush hour, forms a northern boundary to the town center.

“We just don’t have any data on Riverside and Diamond Lake, and I’m not comfortable with it,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “Because you try to make a left-hand turn out of there in the morning, with traffic heading west to east, good luck.” He said traffic engineers also need to take a “fresh look” at the Belmont Ridge Road/Promenade Drive intersection.

Supervisors nonetheless indicated they are generally supportive of the application, and expressed concern that denying it would hurt the viability of the town center.

“Take it from somebody who’s been trying to get something like Lansdowne Town Center in my district for six years and four months: the retail apocalypse is real, and the restaurant industry as a whole is notoriously difficult,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).

Area residents have been divided over the application. Some expressed concern about traffic and litter from the property; others looked forward to the new drive-throughs and businesses.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to take the application up again at its meeting May 17.

The first application for Lansdowne Town Center was approved in 1985. Today, according to a report by county planners, all of the development’s allotted homes and 97 percent of its retail area have been built. Half of the development’s mixed-use office and retail space and 28 percent of its office space has been completed.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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