Supervisors are a month way from voting on a 158-acre, 3,706-home development that would stretch most of the length of the Dulles Greenway between the Ashburn and Loudoun Gateway Metro stations.
The Silver District West proposal by Detroit-based Soave Enterprises, the developer of Brambleton,would cut in half the commercial square footage already approved in the area, to just under a million square feet. It also would allow almost six times as many homes as the existing approval, including 381 townhouses and 3,325 multi-family units, such as apartments and two-over-two homes. It also comes with an 8.3-acre site to make room for an elementary school and another 23 acres for a Broad Run Trail public park.
If approved, the developer will also be obligated to build more than a hundred million dollars worth of road improvements, including widening Loudoun County Parkway to six lanes between Shelhorn Drive and Ryan Road, work on five intersections on Loudoun County Parkway, building Barrister Street between the Dulles Greenway and Shellhorn Road, and extending Shellhorn Road from Barrister Street to the Dulles Airport property.
But a consultant’s traffic analysis shows even with those improvements, many intersections in the area will be congested and fail to meet the county’s standards at expected full buildout in 2040. That includes serious problems along Loudoun County Parkway at Westwind Drive/Charitable Street, Barrister Street/Centergate Drive, the Dulles Greenway, and Shellhorn Drive, and at the intersection of Barrister Street and Landmark Court/State Street, which today is mostly surrounded by vacant land south of the Greenway. The intersections along Loudoun County Parkway are already performing below county standards today.
County policy is to keep intersections at or above the Virginia Department of Transportation’s level of service “D,” defined as “high-density flow in which speed and freedom to maneuver are severely restricted and comfort and convenience have declined even though flow remains stable.” It is the third-to-lowest rating, before “unstable flow at or near capacity levels with poor levels of comfort and convenience.”
In particular, according to a county consultant’s traffic projections, the Loudoun County Parkway intersections at Westwind Drive and the Dulles Greenway are expected to get VDOT’s lowest rating, F, with “forced traffic flow in which the amount of traffic approaching a point exceeds the amount that can be served,” “characterized by stop-and-go waves, poor travel times, low comfort and convenience, and increased accident exposure.”
County staff members and some supervisors say the development plan isn’t quite ready for a vote yet, after years of government meetings.
“We’re not Arlington,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “People who live in these places are still going to have cars. Now, I hope they get on Metro at least to go to work, but they’re still going to have cars, and there’s still going to be traffic, so that’s what we’ve really got to worry about here.”
County staff members have raised concerns about the developer’s proffer agreement, which they say as written includes unenforceable commitments, vague language and the possibility that the developer would pay a cash contribution instead of building Barrister Street and Shellhorn Road south of the Greenway if the county cannot secure property for the project in time.
Letourneau said he’s concerned that if road projects were delayed, the developer could keep building thousands of homes anyway while “the county would just be sitting there sort of helplessly while units and units and units are packing up.”
He and other supervisors wanted limits on the number of homes that could be built before the road projects were done.
“It’s a pretty bleak picture from a transportation standpoint,” Letourneau said. “Even with all these improvements, we’re still looking at failing intersections throughout this area. It almost doesn’t make a difference, which is pretty depressing.”
Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) had a number of concerns, including that the developer has not committed to building small apartments. For larger units, such as three-bedroom apartments that could accommodate families with children, he said, the “fiscal impact analysis just totally breaks down” and the school system could feel a much larger impact.
And Letourneau and County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) also raised concerns about how residents on the south side of the project would get to the nearest Metro stop, Ashburn, across six lanes of traffic on Loudoun County Parkway.
“If we can’t get the people access to Metro from the south side, we need to fix that, because that’s the whole point of them being there,” Randall said, asking for more information about the possibility of offering a county-funded shuttle to the Metro station.
But despite those concerns, Randall was ready to stump for the project, encouraging other supervisors to start selling their constituents on the idea.
“When the public sees this, what’s being proposed, let alone approved, they’re going to go ballistic unless we tell the full story,” Randall said, pointing to the 2040 timeline, road improvements, and proximity to Metro stops.
“We need to start messaging this,” Randall said. “We haven’t at all, and we really should start.”
“When we agreed to bring Metro here, this is the type of development we signed up for,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run).
Supervisors are expected to vote on the project March 21.