Recently the Board of Supervisors received an application to rezone a parcel of land off of Sycolin Road from Transitional Residential, which is one house per ten acres, to a Planned Development Industrial Park. By making this change, it allows the development of up to 4.9 million square feet for the building of a data center and also non- data center use of this land. The planning commission voted to deny this application and the commission permit forwarded the zoning and special exception application to the board with a recommendation of denial.I agree with Supervisor Burk's analysis. The proffer, or lack there of, regarding vehicle trips on Sycolin is particularly galling. The paving of Sycolin has greatly improved the quality of life for many residents of Leesburg who commute to Ashburn and Dulles for their jobs every day, keeping those trips off of Rt 7 in the morning and evening.
I did not support this application. In my opinion, this has received special treatment by coming before the board before a CPAM. The application did not go through the transportation land use committee and there was a special committee of the whole meeting just for this application. The handling of this application does not pass the “smell test” for me as a supervisor.
My first issue is with the location of the application. The transition zone was created to protect and guide sprawl. Development of any kind would be less dense than the land in the east but denser than the land in the west. By allowing such a huge complex in this area we are saying the transition area does not matter. If you think that saying yes to this application will allow you to say no to another large application in the transition area you are fooling yourself. There is nothing unique about this application. It is an office complex with data centers. These types of developments are located all over Loudoun County. The application is not unique because of the power plant. One must remember that the applications are separate and not related. The power plant does not come online until over one-half of the office complex is built.
Transportation is the next important issue for me. Sycolin Road is an important road for the residents of Leesburg. The county’s guidelines indicate when car trips reach 8,000 a day then it will need to be widened to accommodate the additional traffic. Right now it is estimated to have two to three thousand car trips a day and the applicant has proffered that at 7,930 daily car trips they will stop building. That is just 70 car trips short of having to contribute much more money to help defray the cost of widening Sycolin Road. So who will have to pick up the estimated $17 million cost of that road widening project? Loudoun taxpayers. Even though this application will be the main reason it needs to be widened.
Another issue is that the height and scale of the buildings are way too big. This application will be the beginning of allowing the transition zone to become one high rise after another. There is nothing wrong with high rise buildings in the right place, but this is the wrong place. There are almost 4 million square feet of office and data center space in the project, not a small development within the transition zone. In fact, it is a huge commercial sprawl insinuating itself into the area where it is not supposed to be.
This project does not support the comprehensive plan. The plan is the guide on what and where building occurs. This application has major environmental issues between trees, wetlands and water quality, none of which are being addressed. We’ve had speaker after speaker come before the board and many emailed us, asking us not to support the plan and deny this application. They suggested that if it were to go forward, it should be smaller, less dense, have lower heights, and move the linkage of the power plant to lower square feet of the office complex. The developer should also be asked to pay for transportation costs that it creates. These are hardly minor details; yet this board approved the application and allowed it to happen. The developer even made a point of saying that when completed, in twenty or thirty years the project would have contributed $50 million dollars in taxes. Yet, when I added the numbers they did not come even close to that much. However, it was approved without getting the numbers checked and substantiated.
What does the town get out this application? No taxes and no money for water. It is important to note this application is not served by Leesburg Water Utility. The Stonewall Secure Office Park will be served by Loudoun Water, not Leesburg Water Utility. Any water money coming from the Energy Plant, which was a project approved previously but on the same site, will go to the utility enterprise fund and not to the town general fund. Another important point is that data centers do not employ many people, so there will not be many jobs created from this application. What the town will get from this application is increased traffic, gridlock, and higher taxes to pay for the road widening.
This is the wrong application, in the wrong place and I cannot and did not support this application. This project will have negative impacts on Leesburg quality of life and its tax base. - Supervisor Kelly Burk
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Supervisor Burk on Stonewall Approval
Supervisor Burk has issued the following statement on the approval of the Stonewall Business Park (data centers and office towers), which will be built off of Sycolin Road between Leesburg and Ashburn.