For years, a sign has stood in front of 62 undeveloped acres, announcing Lexington 7 to Rt. 7 traffic. After the sign, development stopped.
The land is situated between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Blue Mont Nursery, and the Potomac Farms neighborhood. It’s zoned and planned for commercial development, but the developer, Meladon Park LLC, has twice tried to rezone the property to allow at least some residential development. The first attempt two years ago fell flat.
The latest application, which won a narrow endorsement from the Planning Commission, includes roughly one-third residential development, fast food restaurants, a gas stations, a restaurant, a continuing care facility for the elderly, and some age-restricted housing. The developer would also offer $3.1 million to extend Riverside Parkway from Howard Hughes, through the property, behind Blue Mount Nursery, and behind Spring Hill Suites Dulles North and DC Prime Steaks, where it would connect to Loudoun County Parkway near its intersection with Rt. 7. The developer would also proffer $3.5 million in cash, and has proffered not to build any data centers. Although data centers are permitted on the property without county approval, supervisors don’t want to see data centers along the highway.
County planners continue to oppose rezoning any land in that area from commercial to residential, and some supervisors are wary of the idea.
“It’s much better than the application you brought last time, but, again, it’s commercial to residential,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) during this week’s public hearing on the application. “I think staff said it best in our staff report.”
The report reads: “The County’s future economic growth relies on the adherence to a long term perspective rather than conceding to short term market conditions or ownership circumstances.”
The county Department of Economic Development opposes the application for the same reason.
The area around Lexington 7 is designated for keynote employment, although the developer’s representative, Cooley LLP partner Colleen Gillis, said keynote employment is “an antiquated planning designation.” Members of the county’s own Nighttime Economy Ad Hoc Committee have said the same in the past.
The developer is also asking to reduce a previously proffered 300-foot building setback from Rt. 7 to 200 feet. Other properties along the corridor in that area also have the 300-foot setback, although there are exceptions, such as iFly.
Some supervisors say the county needs to hold out for strictly commercial development.
“I’ve seen it happen in other jurisdictions where boards just go with whatever the most popular zoning for the time is, and almost always that’s residential taking over land that had been long planned for premier office,” said Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg). “I think it’s a mistake to rezone land along Rt. 7 for residential, because you begin to eat away at your corridor, and the more you do that, the fewer high end office users you will be able to attract.”
Others say Meladon Park’s plan is the best the county can expect.
“I personally believe that this is probably going to be the best application that we could get for this property,” said Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian). “It is an unusually shaped property, and to be honest, the adjacent neighbors to the east [the Potomac Farms subdivision] would not want commercial.”
Supervisors voted to send the application to the next meeting of the Transportation and Land Use Committee, which Volpe chairs, in September. This represents a time extension from the developer.
“I will say as plaintively and fervently as I can that we want to hear what the concerns are so that we can address as many of them as we can, and resolve as many of them as we can, and we don’t waste your time in September,” Gillis said.