Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) sent a harshly critical letter to George Washington University President Steven Knapp in the wake of a study the university conducted about development around Loudoun’s future Metro stations.
Letourneau wrote he was “surprised and disappointed that George Washington University would author such a misleading and blatantly incorrect analysis.”
The study was authored by the George Washington University School of Business Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis and presented to the Board of Supervisors by Cooley LLP, a land use law firm representing one of the largest landowners in Loudoun’s future Metrorail area. It compares the fiscal impacts to the county of allowing mixed use development rather than strictly data center construction on 202 acres of DuPont Fabros’s land north of Shellhorn Road and on both sides of Loudoun County Parkway.
Under the latest draft of the county’s proposed zoning for that area, residential development would not be allowed east of Loudoun County Parkway on that property.
The George Washington study estimated that, based on current tax rates, developing the entire property with only data centers would generate $2.4 million for the county in property tax revenues in 2040, compared to $8.7 million from mixed-use development. Between 2020, when Metro is expected to start running, and 2040, the study says the county would see $133 million more in revenues with mixed-use development.
Letourneau said the report misses several important points—not least that it doesn’t consider property taxes, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of tax revenues from data centers in 2015.
It also assumes the parcel can only have one type of development, either data centers or residential. Under the latest plan about 90 acres of the property west of Loudoun County Parkway would be zoned for mixed-used development.
“It seems clear that it was commissioned by a developer seeking a particular outcome by excluding key data,” Letourneau said. “Such an effort is never commendable, but is especially egregious when it is done by an academic institution.”
Knapp wrote back to Letourneau to say the university would look into the matter, and that he or a senior member of his staff would reply as soon as possible. At press time, the university has not yet responded to a request for comment.