Two years ago, the Purcellville Town Council rejected an application to annex a property that could have provided the town with millions of dollars in revenue. Now, the council is considering annexing that same property—but this time with different proposed uses.
JK Moving Founder, President and CEO Chuck Kuhn proposed to the Town Council Tuesday night an idea that could see the town annex 250 acres of property adjacent to Purcellville’s corporate limits and rezone it for commercial and light industrial uses, such as for warehousing, distribution, light manufacturing, gyms and automotive businesses. About 130 acres of that land borders the town to the west and 120 acres is the former Warner Brook property, which the Warner family previously sought to have annexed into the town but later sold to Kuhn after the Town Council denied their annexation application.
In addition to selling space to industrial businesses, Kuhn said he could also build one or two 100,000-square-foot buildings on the properties for his company. “JK Moving Services could use a remote storage facility out here,” he said.
Kuhn said he would like the properties to be zoned similar to the county’s Planned Development – Industrial Park zoning designation, which allows for data centers to go in by-right. Kuhn, however, emphasized that he was not proposing to bring data centers to western Loudoun. He did, however, assert that data centers would help to bring broadband to the rural west—an issue frequently discussed among the Board of Supervisors, especially as thousands of school students are attending class online.
Generally speaking, Mayor Kwasi Fraser said he was not opposed to data centers going up in western Loudoun, as long as they could be built to look like barns or mansions and their pollution could be mitigated.
“I don’t want to take data centers off the table,” he said. “We just have to make them be built uniquely. … We need to innovate.”
Kuhn also said it was not his intention to build homes on the properties.
“It’s a blank canvas,” he said about the project. “I don’t have a driving agenda that I’m trying to push down the council’s throat.”
In noting that the town’s existing industrial park is “very successful,” Kuhn told the council that annexing the properties and rezoning them for industrial use would help to clean up Main Street by moving existing industrial uses out of that area of town.
“I don’t think the main street through our prime town is the best use of industrial uses as a whole,” he said. “We do not need more rooftops in western Loudoun. I feel we need more commercial, we need more employment, we need more tax base.”
Financial Benefit to the Town
According to Kuhn’s business partner, Hobie Mitchel, the proposed industrial park would have an assessed value of $101 million at buildout. He said that could provide the town with $1.8 million in utility connection fee revenue, $224,000 in annual tax revenue and $140,000 in annual utility usage fee revenue.
Kuhn said “economically, the Town of Purcellville is in trouble”—referencing the town’s shrinking water and sewer funds amid no utility rate increases in Fiscal Year 2021 and an absence of utility connection fee revenue. “Change has to happen.”
Fraser acknowledged that the town had “significant debt” that is entirely attributed to the purchase and upgrade of the Basham Simms Wastewater Facility—a treatment plant that can treat 1.5-million daily gallons of sewer water, but treats only 575,000 daily gallons, according to the town website.
The town upgraded that treatment plant in 2010 for $30 million, $5 million of which came from a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality grant, $24 million from Virginia Resources Authority bonds, $285,500 from Bank of America, and the rest from town funds.
Fraser said that was “an asset that can be monetized” by bringing in a large sewer user.
“This is an opportunity for us to look at ways to again monetize our assets and also ways to partner with other entities within and outside of the town to drive economic growth,” Fraser said. “[In] the recent election … the message was loud and clear that we would look at innovative solutions and solutions that would not require us raising the taxes significantly or raising water and sewer rates.”
The Town Council in October 2018 voted to deny a request to annex the same Warner Brook property that Kuhn is now asking the council to annex. Two years ago, the Warner family proposed to develop 160 single-family homes, 15,000-square-feet of office space, an outdoor recreational area with a soccer field and trails, a commercial village with a small town center, 70,000-square-feet of retail space, and an indoor recreation center with a 120,000-square-foot soccer field on that property.
According to estimates made by the Warner family’s consultant, that development could have provided the town with nearly $11 million in utility connection fee revenue and about $1 million in net annual tax revenues.
Fraser and Councilmen Ted Greenly, Joel Grewe and Tip Stinnette were on the council for that vote. All of them aside from Grewe voted to deny the annexation.
Kuhn ended up purchasing that property from the Warner family for $3,250,000.
Kuhn’s Tuesday night proposal drew some concern from area residents.
Some of that concern came from Wright Farm resident Lydia Clark, who insinuated that the proposed 50-foot buffer between the industrial park and the residential neighborhood was not enough space because of the noise and light pollution and increased traffic the park would bring.
Kuhn said that buffer could be negotiated.
When Clark asked Kuhn why he wanted to move to, and develop, western Loudoun, Kuhn said that desire was driven by “purely land cost.” He said an acre of commercial/light industrial land in eastern Loudoun typically goes for $500,000 to $2 million.
“It’s getting too expensive down there in my opinion,” he said.
Kuhn also noted that there exists a “major heavy industrial park” next to a Toll Brothers neighborhood off Old Ox Road in Sterling where kids get on school busses next to dump trucks and tractor trailers.
Clark said that example proved her point—that industrial uses don’t fit next to residential neighborhoods.
“They don’t want it in Ashburn or Sterling, I’m pretty sure that people are not going to want it out here in Purcellville,” she said.
Kuhn specified that he is not proposing to build a street through Wright Farm neighborhood to access the industrial park.
He said he would like to meet with town leaders again in 30 to 60 days to discuss the feedback the town receives from residents. “This is one conceptual idea,” Kuhn said. “If there’s a better idea that better serves everyone we mentioned, let’s get back in front of one another 30 days from now, 60 days from now and let’s strategize on that opportunity.”
This story was updated Oct. 13 at 4:15 p.m. to reflect the $3.25 million Kuhn paid to purchase the Warner property, which Kuhn clarified on Tuesday.