Thursday’s [September 22] 5-3-1 vote by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Kirkpatrick West Commercial Center had larger implications on whether the Board intends to retain its ability to hold developers accountable for the increase in intensity of their projects as development expands both west and south.
The vote was a strong indication that some are willing to relinquish most of the Boards rights over the future development of thousands of acres of land that is currently zoned for low-density. While housing densities have been allowed to increase, approval is subject to oversight and scrutiny by the Board and the public at hearings.
The justification for approving the Kirkpatrick West’s 30 percent increase was shocking. Several Board members indicated that after the Comprehensive Plan process, which has just begun, much of this area will be included in the higher density Suburban Policy Area which will allow by-right development. In this case, the developer was permitted to build a gas station 100 yards from residents in return for basic safeguards of increased screening, operation restrictions and lighting limitations.
The Kirkpatrick West decision also signaled that that the cost of road improvements needed to fully mitigate resulting traffic congestion will be subsidized by the residents. The 1.2-mile two-lane stretch of road that feeds the center currently handles approximately 5,000 cars per day. Centers of the size approved last Thursday require four-five times the traffic. A last minute attempt to make the developer shoulder more of the cost of widening the road to four lanes failed.
Furthermore, this area of the county has the top two most overcrowded schools. While the increased size and upscale nature of this center will be a plus for many of the nearby residents, it is of the caliber that will greatly ignite home sales in the surrounding area – The Wegman’s Effect – and will also significantly expand its original intended market.
Should a decision be made to limit board control and muzzle the voice of residents when approving an increase in housing density or commercial intensity for thousands of acres, you better start checking the cushions of your couch for a lot of spare cash to cover the need to increase taxes.
Founder, Save Braddock Road Task Force