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Arcola Center Is Approved In Loudoun
Controversial Mixed-Use Project To Be Built Southwest of Airport

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 5, 2007; B01

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to allow a developer to build a large, pedestrian-friendly community of homes, shops and offices southwest of Dulles International Airport.

The Arcola Center was one of a series of major developments the board is scheduled to consider before the end of the year, when four pro-growth supervisors step down and a majority that favors slower growth takes the helm.

Slow-growth activists had objected to the Arcola Center, saying it would worsen traffic on Route 50. Some officials also worried that it would be too close to the airport and include too many homes and too few offices and stores. The plans include up to 1,169 homes, townhouses and apartments.

But the developer, Gaithersburg-based Buchanan Partners, said the project will bring much-needed amenities such as restaurants and shopping to the area.

"It will have a higher quality of uses that the Dulles area needs and is, quite frankly, demanding," Executive Vice President Russell S. Gestl said.

Some of the board's slow-growth members had worried that the slim pro-growth majority would push Arcola and three other projects through as a parting act, paving the way for more than 4,000 new homes in the fast-growing county and opening a semirural area south of Leesburg to suburban-style development.

Their fears were somewhat allayed shortly after the Nov. 6 election, when the board overwhelmingly rejected Kincora, a project of more than 1,000 homes in Ashburn.

But their worries flared at yesterday's meeting, when the board delayed voting on another controversial development a couple of miles south and west on Route 50.

Supervisors Stephen J. Snow (R-Dulles) and Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) had sought to push through the project, called Braddock Village, even though county planners and lawyers had told the board that they did not have enough time to review the latest version of the development. Snow and Delgaudio later changed their minds, saying they favored voting on the project on another date to give county staff more time to study it.

During the discussion, Delgaudio asked county attorney John R. "Jack" Roberts whether it would be appropriate to vote for the project "subject to the attorney's review. Couldn't we do that?"

The request prompted a sharp response from Board Chairman Scott K. York (I), who was reelected last month.

"It concerns me that we just want to push this thing through," he said. "Doggone it. If you are going to approve a subdivision, make sure at least the county attorney has reviewed the document."

The developer had significantly changed the project recently, submitting a revised version Thursday that slashed the number of homes from more than 800 to a little fewer than 500. The developer also offered to build a modern sports field for local leagues.

John Nicholas, one of the developers, said the county had ample time to review the project, which would provide land for a school. If the board rejects the project at its Dec. 18 meeting, the school district will have to buy the land from him or spend years in court trying to take it through eminent domain, he said.

"This boils down to the most bottom line of the bottom line," he said.

Also yesterday, the board took final action on several issues aimed at curbing illegal immigration. The supervisors voted to go after homeowners who illegally rent rooms and commit other zoning violations in Sterling Park, a problem that officials think is on the rise and aggravated by an influx of illegal immigrants.

They also voted to ask parents using county child-care services to certify in writing that their children are legal U.S. residents. Under the new policy, children whose parents sign the paperwork will get priority on waiting lists to enter the program when it is full.

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