County Supervisors Talk Schools, Homes in Massive Development Proposal

The Board of Supervisors’ Transportation and Land Use Committee has taken another look at the Silver District West proposal to build a 3,706-home mixed-use development at the intersection of Loudoun County Parkway and the Dulles Greenway—and at the work that lies ahead.

During a meeting Tuesday, county planners laid out a work plan for the committee that stretches into September. That schedule is set by a four-month traffic study, although Planning Manager Marchant Schneider said county staff members are looking for ways to accelerate that work.

The committee also discussed the development’s impact on schools—a topic county planners are having to figure out as they go along, as the proposal is out in front the county’s work to get ready for urban planning. The school system has never built an urban school before, and school and county planners are working to figure out how many children are likely to come from the smaller, urban-style residences in the development and into the schools.

Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) was skeptical the smaller units would yield fewer students for Loudoun to educate.

“Because if they’re Irish and Italian and Catholic, trust me, there’ll be kids, even if you put them in a 400-square-foot place, right?” Volpe said. “So how are we trying to determine what is the ideal parameter?”

For the time being, the developers and county leaders are guessing high, assuming similar numbers of students as the larger, suburban homes to which Loudoun is accustomed. But even that, Schneider said, has its problems. He said the county needs to be able to make accurate predictions to avoid building more school space—and spending more money—than it has to.

School system Planning Supervisor Beverly Tate told supervisors, “we are learning about the urban impact on schools just at the same time as you are.”

The developer has offered to provide an 8-acre school site, much smaller than what the school system has built on in the past, and it is not yet clear that the school system can use the site. According to a letter from school system Land Management Supervisor Sara Howard-O’Brien, there remain concerns about the nearby floodplain, stormwater management already on the site, and that the site only has enough room for a little over half of the parking the school would need—meaning the school will need either more space, or a costly parking garage.

The smallest lot the school system has built on before is 10.5 acres, at Frederick Douglass Elementary School.

The school system only anticipates needing to build one extra school building to accommodate the development, an elementary school.

The developer is also offering $58 million to $89 million to offset the development’s impact on county facilities, a 100-foot-wide park along the Broad Run for a trail, widening Loudoun County Parkway to six lanes between Shellhorn Road and Ryan Road, and providing bus transit service from the area through 2030 or until public bus transit is provided, among other considerations.

The proposal, by SA Associates South LLC, would put the mixed-use development on 158 acres along the Dulles Greenway between Loudoun’s two future Metro stops, with nearly a quarter-million square feet of office space, 240,000 square feet of retail space, a site for an elementary school, a public park, 381 townhouses, and 3,325 multi-family units.

It would be one of the largest developments in Loudoun’s history, rivalled in scope only by communities like Brambleton, or planned developments like Waterside, with nearly 2,600 homes; or Moorefield station, which envisions 6,000.

Although Silver District West resembles what county planners and committees have discussed for the future of development near Loudoun’s Metro stops, those discussions at the county are still ongoing, and the existing county policies for the area hearken back to an older, suburban vision for the area.

“The challenge here is we have plans that exist today that don’t support this, we have new Envision [Loudoun plans] that hasn’t been adopted, we’re in the middle,” Schneider said. “What we’ve conceded is it has a lot of the elements of what we would expect.”

This article was updated May 18 at 3:04 p.m. to correct an error regarding Marchant Schneider’s title.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

Leave a Reply