County supervisors have signed off on a proposal for a development that will span most of the length of the railway in the median of the Dulles Greenway between the Ashburn and Loudoun Gateway Metro stations.
The 158-acre, 3,706-home Silver District West, proposal allows the construction of up to 381 townhouses and 3,325 apartments, and more than a million square feet of commercial development. It is proposed by Detroit-based Soave Enterprises, the developer of Brambleton, and will include some of the tallest buildings in Loudoun, including in many areas a minimum four-story requirement. And it is planned to be built out over decades.
It also includes a county-estimated $84.6 million for infrastructure, including roads, bus shelters, and land for an 8.33-acre elementary school site and 23-acre Broad Run trail park. Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said accounting for inflation and interest, by the time the county would have gotten to those projects, those projects are worth more like $131 million.
That includes building a section of Shellhorn Road between Barrister Street and Lockridge Road, Barrister Street between State Street and Shellhorn Road, widening Loudoun County Parkway from Ryan Road to Shellhorn Road, and triggering a commitment by the Dulles Greenway to build a Barrister Street bridge over the Greenway.
All of that work must be complete before the 600th residential unit opens in the southern portion of the development, which includes the planned townhouses. Loudoun County Parkway must be expanded before the 350th residence is open.
On top of the infrastructure projects, and with development in the county’s Metrorail Service special tax district, county planners expect the project to be fiscally positive for the county budget overall.
Most supervisors held up the project, which has been the subject of three years of committee and public meetings, as well as an 11th-hour citizen petition in opposition, as an example for future projects.
“I did not think that I would get to the point where I could support the application, quite honestly,” Letourneau said. “But we have seen, over the last several months, tremendous progress on the proffer package to the point where we are now addressing each and every point that the residents have made.”
“To be quite honest, the easiest thing for us to do politically would be to vote this down, because what we know is going to happen is the outcry from the public is going to be huge,” said Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). But, she said, that would be “irresponsible.” “At some point you have to do the responsible thing regardless of what would happen in your election.”
Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) disagreed.
“It would be hard for me to go to Brambleton, and Willowsford, and Loudoun Valley Estates and all of those residents and constituents of mine who are sitting in traffic every single day and tell them I voted no on widening Loudoun County Parkway,” Buffington said.
Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), one of the two remaining supervisors who voted to bring Metrorail into Loudoun along with Letourneau, said “this is exactly what we envisioned when we cast that yes vote back in 2012.”
“At the same time that we cast that yes vote, in order to fund the construction, the capital costs of Metro, we came up with a novel idea and voted to implement the Metrorail Service tax district, so that the developers who would profit from Metro coming were paying to build Metro,” Buona said. The county estimates the development will provide $48 million in additional tax revenue over 25 years in the Metrorail Service District, where property owners currently pay an additional $0.20 per $100 of assessed value over the regular county real estate tax.
Even with Silver District West’s planned improvements, a consultant’s traffic analysis shows many intersections in the area will be congested failing 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 a Virginia Department of Transportation standards for “high-density flow in which speed and freedom to maneuver are severely restricted and comfort and convenience have declined even though flow remains stable.”
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, 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.”
Still, supervisors said, the project will improve traffic flow in the area compared to denying the application.
Letourneau said he hoped the applications will set a standard for how the county evaluates similar applications in the future, pointing to that fiscal and transportation analysis, which was commissioned by the county rather than the developer.
“It gave the Board of Supervisors the credible data we needed to then negotiate with the developer, understanding exactly what it was going to take for this project to be positive, and going into that, as it was proposed, it wasn’t,” Letourneau said. “So therefore that is, I think, a way that we can approach big difficult land use applications like this in the future.”
Only supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) voted against the project, saying, “I wish I could have gotten there.” She cited a number of concerns, including fiscal impact, its dependence on the developer’s ability to negotiate a private contract with the Dulles Greenway, and the increased burden on the school system.
“I am troubled by the fact that this may well require the acceleration of a new high school, so I’ve got concerns about the school impacts of this application,” Umstattd said.
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) claimed credit for the project during Thursday’s meeting, calling it “the culmination of more than three years of work by my office” and issuing a press release the night of the vote subtitled “Supervisor Meyer Leads Negotiations on Metro-Area Development.”
“The reason why I’m proud to have led the board’s negotiations on this is simple: it’s because it’s time for developers to pay their fair share and to do infrastructure first, and this deal does this,” Meyer said.
“With all due respect to you, Mr. Meyer, the heavy lifting on this as done by Mr. Letourneau’s office, it really was,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “… Everyone did their part, but Mr. Letourneau lifted heavy on this application, and I think that should be said.”
Supervisors voted on the application the same night they received the latest draft of the county’s new comprehensive plan from the Planning Commission. The Silver District takes up much of that plan’s new Urban Policy Area and, together with Loudoun Station and Moorefield Station, sets the first stakes for the county’s planned transit-oriented, Metrorail-adjacent urban developments.
Supervisors approved the application 8-1, with Umstattd opposed.