By Karen Xu
The Board of Supervisors on May 18 approved an application to build a new childcare center on Braddock Road between Loudoun County Parkway and Gum Spring Road.
The proposed childcare center would be built in the Transition Policy Area, an area designated for limited housing and that acts as a buffer between the Suburban and Rural Policy Areas. According to the 2019 Comprehensive Plan, the zoning on that parcel does not permit commercial service uses. However, the application followed every other requirement of a building in the transition area, including maintaining at least 50% outdoor space.
The 9,500-square-foot, single-story building also has an exterior design that the applicant, Sunil Vundela, said was consistent with the residential neighborhoods across the street in the Cedar Hunt neighborhood. Additionally, the lot would include a tree conservation area along Braddock Road to shield the facility from the view of the road, as well as a multipurpose trail through the area for public recreational use. In terms of traffic flow, the center would follow a right-in/right-out traffic pattern to minimize congestion on Braddock Road.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), whose district includes the project, recommended approval to stay consistent with two projects that previously were approved by the board in the area south of Braddock Road, including another childcare facility.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the project following a public hearing in January. During that session, commissioners argued whether the childcare center should be considered a commercial business or a school. Under county policies, commercial businesses are not allowed to be built in the area, but schools are permitted.
“We’re charged under the Zoning Ordinance here to give reasonable consideration to six factors and as I look at them, the factor with respect to the comp plan and a factor with respect to the compatibility, the massing and scaling of the project, I find myself coming down along the lines of Commissioner [John] Merrithew (Sterling) on this and holding firm to the comp plan, and just don’t see this as the application that I would recommend giving the special exception to under those circumstances,” said Commissioner Eric Combs (Ashburn). Combs and Merrithew were the only two commissioners to vote against recommending approval of the project.
“The comprehensive plan is a guide, we’re supposed to use it as a guide,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) during the supervisors’ May 18 meeting. “The idea that a childcare center is not a school but it’s a business—it’s such a close line that then I take a look at other things. The biggest other thing is, do we need childcare in Loudoun County? We absolutely do.”
Supervisors voted 6-2-1 to approve the center, with Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) opposed, and Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) absent.
Karen Xu is a senior at Freedom High School completing her Senior Capstone Project at Loudoun Now.