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.
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 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
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.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Business, Development, and Supervisor Kelly Burk

Business and development are not synonyms.

As Loudoun’s 2011 election season heats up, it is worth remembering this simple fact. Many candidates and campaigns will spend the time between now and November trying to conflate the two, though they are quite different. Often, you will see candidates who are in favor of careful consideration of development, what has been termed as “smart growth” in the past, lambasted as being “anti-business” or even “anti-job,” when nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the best way to be pro-business in Loudoun County is often to examine questions of development with an eye towards their economic impacts and benefits. After all, every development application is, by its very nature, a short-term zero-sum game. The decision to use a parcel of land for one purpose necessarily eliminates the option to use to another purpose, at least for the foreseeable future. Loudoun has seen this principle in action over the past decade, with the decision on, and subsequent collapse of, One Loudoun being the most striking example.

You will recall that One Loudoun was supposed to have been an engine of business growth at a perfect, unique location. In fact, it was billed as a centerpiece for economic development in the County. But a funny thing happened on the way to paradise, One Loudoun’s developers went bankrupt, and the residents of Loudoun have gained nothing in terms of revenue, job growth or economic development from that once-paragon project.

This is why all questions of development must be examined closely, and with a critical eye. Development, by necessity, means permanence. And the costs and risks of a wrong decision echo through the county for decades.

Leesburg’s own Supervisor, Kelly Burk, is the Chair of the Transportation and Land Use Committee on the Board of Supervisors. She takes this job as Supervisor very seriously. When making a decision for the County, she considers not just the short-term, but also the long-term impacts of that decision. This is true for everything she does, from budgets to zoning to, yes, development decisions.

Witness, for example, the process that the Loudoun Hounds baseball stadium went through for approval. Supervisor Burk was at the center of that process, working with all stakeholders and eventually forging a compromise that allowed baseball to come to Loudoun while preserving critical habitats for endangered species and ensuring the benefits of the project, including much needed transportation improvements, accrued to the residents of Loudoun. The successful approval of the Stadium was the result of Supervisor Burk’s efforts, and in the end, Supervisor Burk voted “yes” because she found a willing partner in the Stadium’s development team.

Kelly Burk has made a career of working with local business communities in Leesburg and throughout Loudoun to create sustainable conditions for business, and job, growth. During her terms on both the Town Council and the Board of Supervisors, Ms. Burk has worked tirelessly to improve the business conditions at the Leesburg Airport, and has been widely recognized for those efforts by Republicans and Democrats alike. Unlike this piece of land, or that piece of land, the Leesburg Airport truly is a unique factor in Loudoun’s economic engine. It’s enhancement and protection creates good, long-term, high-paying jobs that return revenues to the County’s coffers and bring business to the County’s companies.

Furthermore, Supervisor Burk has actively, and regularly, put together events to find jobs for her constituents. She has sponsored two annual job fairs (so far) that connect local businesses with young people looking for work. In this, she has directly addressed the single largest portion of Loudoun’s unemployed: young people. No one else in Leesburg, on the Board or on the Council, has pro-actively connected employers with job seekers as a regular part of their elected duties.

All too often, Republicans in Loudoun County equate development with economic growth, when all evidence is to the contrary. Indeed, in the past few years, Loudoun's growth has come not from development (witness, again One Loudoun), but from the expansion of Loudoun's existing businesses and the development of new ones. It is this kind of economic development that brings good, long-term, well-paying jobs to Loudoun. Those are the kinds of jobs that improve Loudoun's revenue and can sustain our success.

Perhaps this is why so many businesses in Leesburg, and throughout Loudoun, trust Supervisor Burk. They come to her with their problems and concerns, and she looks for ways to help. And more often than not, like with the airport and the job fairs, she finds ways to help, and makes them happen. That is putting Leesburg first, and that is the job of a Supervisor.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Supervisor Burk Jobs Symposium

Supervisor Burk is hosting a Leesburg Jobs symposium with key local business leaders to discuss growing jobs right here in Town and across Loudoun. The event is on July 28th and is open to the public.
Dear Friends,

I would like to invite you to the Leesburg Job Symposium on Thursday, July 28th from 8:00 am – 10:00 am at the REHAU Palladium, 1501 Edwards Ferry Road, NE in Leesburg.

I am calling members of the community as well as business leaders to participate in this symposium in order to identify the components necessary to improve the growth and success of Leesburg’s existing businesses. A 10-member panel, comprised of business leaders from key business sectors, will discuss the current business climate and identify the steps needed to achieve a thriving business environment in which local businesses prosper. At the conclusion of the panel discussion, the floor will be open to the audience to participate and share their ideas for business growth.

I encourage you to participate in this very important discussion. Please RSVP to my office at 703.777.0203 or to Supervisor.Kelly.Burk@Loudoun.gov. A light breakfast will be served.

I look forward to your participation and, as always, please don't hesitate to call or e-mail me with your concerns.


Kelly Burk

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Political Philosophy

Over the past few months, I've begun exchanging letters with a long-lost cousin. In a recent letter exchange, we got into the question of political philosophy, which I thought would be hard to describe. But a few minutes later, staring down at a couple paragraphs, I realized maybe it's not.

Here's what I wrote.
That’s a hard one, because I’m so much more of a process than a policy guy, but in the context of Loudoun politics, I do know a few things. I’m skeptical of development. Not because it’s bad, but because we have such a long history of doing it badly. I’m pro-schools and teachers. It’s a huge part of our budget, and an enormous expense out of taxes, and it should be. 30% of Loudoun’s population is under 18, and we have a public duty to educate them so they will be stewards for the community when I’m old. I’m pro-equality. That means race, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. I don’t think there should be cut-lines for VIPs at airport security, for example. I think that every family should be recognized as a family, regardless of whether there are two moms or two dads. And I’m in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy to mitigate the hurt of the poor. Everyone deserves to be able to raise their family. Everyone deserves a good job on which to pay for that. And everyone deserves a hand when they find themselves in a hole they did not dig themselves. I believe in equal justice, which means that if you commit a crime, you go to jail, whether that crime is breaking into my car and taking it on a joyride (which actually happened to me a couple years ago), or that crime is defrauding thousands of homeowners out of decades of savings pursuing your own greed.

They say that a Republican is a Democrat who has been robbed, and a Democrat is a Republican who got laid off. All I know is that I’m a Democrat because I believe in the power of the public, through their agent the government, to help those who can’t help themselves. And it is only the government with the authority and legitimacy to do so equally and fairly. Sometimes they get it wrong, but they get it right way more often than any of the alternatives. For this, I cite the example of Catholic charities, which has pulled out of a lot of philanthropic projects over things like abortion and same-sex couple adoption. They put their politics ahead of the need of the people, and that is frankly despicable. Governments, in the long run, aren’t allowed to do that, because ultimately Governments are the people.