Only two weeks after the Planning Commission voted to recommend the Board of Supervisors deny the Route 50/Arcola Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPAM), commissioners once again reconsidered the issue at their Monday, June 5 work session. This time they voted to recommend approval 7-1-1, with Commissioner Kevin Ruedisueli (At Large) opposing and Commissioner John D. Herbert (Catoctin) abstaining.
The approval, however, came only after major amendments were added to the proposal's policies.
The Route 50/Arcola CPAM was designed to allow additional residential, retail and business development along the area often referred to as the “gateway to Loudoun.” It was the residential development that caused most commissioners to initially recommend denial of the CPAM.
Commissioner Nancy Hsu (Blue Ridge) presented the commission with a packet of proposed policy changes that would allow only retail and business development in the areas closest to the airport.
“High-density residential uses are inappropriate for this area,” Hsu said.
Originally, the CPAM allowed for residential development up to 24 dwelling units per acre within the area known as the lifestyle hub. Residential development will still be allowed within the village of Arcola and the perimeter transition area.
The new policies removed both high-density residential development and the lifestyle hub from the proposed plan.
A lifestyle hub is a development that would include upscale retail stores, restaurants, entertainment activities and housing, similar to Fairfax Corner in Fairfax and the Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, Md. The proposed lifestyle hub would have been located off of Route 50, just west of Dulles Airport.
“We all agree, if we have a lifestyle hub, we need to have residential to support it” Hsu said, “but I want a business community where people won't go at night. That is contrary to mixed use and the lifestyle hub.”
MOST OF THE debate over the new policies occurred over the loss of the lifestyle hub and mixed uses near the airport.
“I think we have a missed opportunity here,” Commissioner Lawrence Beerman (Dulles) said. “If we are going to believe in the idea, we need to give it full faith and credit.”
Hsu said she was concerned about the impact a lifestyle hub would have on the airport and believed that retail would be a better fit for the area.
“Retail will be there so there will be lights around the clock, but there won't be activity around the clock,” Hsu said. “Retail is not the same level of activity as a lifestyle hub.”
Beerman argued that there will be retail stores and activity until later in the evening with shoppers coming in and out of stores.
“What is the difference if I drive to it or live near it?” he said.
Hsu said her goal was not to take away land uses, but to take away 24-hour uses.
“It is not just what goes on the ground today, it is what will develop in the future,” she said.
WHILE TWO WEEKS ago the commission was split on the decision to recommend denial, commissioners were willing to compromise in order to make a concrete recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
“I have concerns over being in close proximity to the airport, but I also have concerns of being put in a situation where it also negatively affects future homeowners close to the airport,” Commissioner Suzanne M. Volpe (Sugarland Run) said.
Commission chair Teresa Whitmore (Potomac) said, while the proposed changes were not exactly what she would like, she believed “this was a whole, whole lot better” than what the commission had done with denial.
Even Beerman, who expressed concern over the lack of support given to the recommendations from the Route 50 task force, voted for recommending approval rather than denial.
“I think we should have listened more to [the task force],” he said. “We could have offered opportunities besides business and big-box retail.”
Only Ruedisueli continued to oppose the CPAM outright.
“I don’t think high-density residential is appropriate next to the airport,” he said. “There is space to the west and we will see that as the next set of CPAMs comes up.”
The Planning Commission will work on those CPAMs, for the Upper Broad Run and Upper Foley, also known as the Transition Policy Area, in committees at its next work session Monday, June 12, at 6 p.m.