County supervisors had strong words Wednesday night for an application to allow a 10-acre outdoor vehicle storage lot l at the intersection of Rt. 28 and the W&OD Trail.
“I’ve never read an application where the applicant, just in writing, appears to be so uncooperative,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn).
The parcel, now called Guilford Station North, sits across Rt. 28 from a CarMax lot and the Dulles 28 Centre shopping center, and across the bike trail from Orbital ATK’s campus. It would serve as a storage lot for a car rental company. Supervisors have said the applicant needs to offer more green screening from Rt. 28 and agree to restrictions on any future plans to build data centers on the property.
“You are not going to have my vote if you do not proffer out data centers,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run). “Or you could provide design standards for a data center.”
The applicant, B.F. Saul, has rebuffed county planners’ requests that, among other things, they create tree conservation areas and agree not to build data centers on the lot or agree to design standards if they do.
B.F. Saul Company Senior Vice President Todd Pearson said preserving the trees already there is impractical because his company will have to grade the entire site for the parking lot.
“We have to redirect the water on the entire site, so I can’t conserve trees when I’m grading the site,” Pearson said. Instead, the company plans to build trails on the site and a pavilion near a stormwater pond.
As to data centers, he said the company can’t proffer out what may be the highest and best use for the site.
A previous rezoning in 1985 changed the land from a residential to an industrial district, which resulted in an agreement to build the Rt. 28 interchange and Atlantic Boulevard, and not build some industrial uses like a dry cleaning plant or radio and TV broadcast stations.
But the site has remained mostly undeveloped, and since then the county has adopted the Rt. 28 corridor policies, which call for higher design standards on development. County General Plan policies in that area call for high-intensity office cluster or mixed-use development. The applicant has requested to convert the parcel to a more recent version of zoning ordinances, but some of the permitted uses that come with that zoning would conflict with Rt. 28 planning policies.
Gem Bingol of the Piedmont Environmental Council, also pointed out during a public hearing this week concerns that the development could further damage waterways in the area, like the Broad Run. She noted that it is already below state and federal standards for water quality, and is scheduled for more studies and costly cleanup.
Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) said he and the applicant have had many meetings with residents in the area, and said those residents were supportive of the car lot. But he said they likely would not support a data center.
The car lot is planned as an interim use until the area is ready for more intensive development. But Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said it is also “a fairly uninspiring application,” and said “there could be some much more interesting things happening here than this.”
“We’ve got a lot happening in this corridor in a relatively short timeframe, and I think the applicant may be being very, very shortsighted,” Letourneau said.
Only Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) openly defended the request, saying, “I don’t have a lot of heartburn with this application, and I certainly wouldn’t want you to proffer out a data center given the tremendous revenues that they provide the county, which we are going to need.”
Supervisors voted unanimously to send the application to their Transportation and Land Use Committee for more work. That committee will take it up March 26.