A bit over a month ago I wrote about the proposals regarding the new Loudoun Government center. At the time there were 5 locations out of the original 13 and I weighed in on which of the remaining 5 seemed acceptable, from the perspective of a Loudoun citizen in the density-packed east. Well, they’ve narrowed the field to 3 and, true to form, the BoS has picked 2 of the locations I put at the bottom of the list.
By an 8-to-1 vote they’ve selected the Oaklawn location in Leesburg (the story says it’s near the Battlefield Parkway exit on the Greenway but it’s actually located near Leesburg Muni airport), the KSI & Boston location at Route 7 and River Creek Parkway, and the Loudoun Civic and Transit Center at Loudoun County Parkway and Ryan Road. Eugene Delgaudio was the sole dissenting vote arguing that the selected locations were no where near the population center of Loudoun County. For a switch, I have to say Delgaudio’s got it right on this one.
My take on the first 2 choices dealt primarily with Delgaudio’s point but there was something else going on. Here’s what I had to say:
First things first, I agree with Amy Burns that a government center should be centrally located from the perspective of population centers,
not geographic boundaries. Western Loudoun interests and certain others
have been working diligently to make sure that the eastern part of the
county is where the population density is packed so they should be
right behind me when I say that the new center should be located well
east in the county. That’s 1 reason that I am ruling out Oaklawn,
tradition of Leesburg being the County seat be damned. The other reason
I’m ruling it out is because of the proposed size of the buildings,
suggested as a 6-story and a 4-story office building. Every other
proposal (except KSI and Boston Properties’ Village at Leesburg, which
doesn’t mention building sizes at all) is suggesting buildings that are
taller. Considering that we’re back in this situation of needing to
build a new center largely due to insufficient space, it makes sense to
build something significantly larger than what we have today. Oaklawn
doesn’t do that.
And speaking of Village of Leesburg, that’s out, too. Again, for
starters, it’s west of the larger portion of the county’s population.
Second, I have no faith that the builders will be required to do the
right thing and put in an interchange on Route 7 rather than just
another clogged intersection and yet another badly-timed light on an
already jammed major traffic artery. The other thing is that it’s too
vague. They want to place it on a 158-acre location somewhere and whether they build 1 or 2 buildings depends on where they put it. Sorry, I’m not even considering the location as a whole if they’re not to the point where they can be specific.
Given that the target cost for the center has already been given at $140 million, the presumption is that the proposals advanced – all of them – are made with that figure in mind. Doesn’t it make more sense to get buildings built that are significantly larger than the one we’ve got today so we’re not right back here again in 8 years? Oaklawn, particularly, is proposing buildings far, far shorter than the other locations. That’s because it’s near the airport and taller buildings would be a danger to flight operations. That’s a pretty good reason to have ruled this one out.
Traffic considerations are another issue. Oaklawn’s location is, basically, served by Sycolin road. That’s already in fairly heavy use and putting something that significant numbers of people have to get to on that road will necessitate widening it.
KSI and Boston’s property was also something I didn’t approve of, for a few reasons. First, I considered it to be, again, not near the population center for Loudoun. That remains true. The original write-up also said that the proposed location was “somewhere” in the 158-acre plot which I found to be too vague. I’m still not aware of
how many buildings and how big are being proposed which I consider to be pretty important information. That the Board would include this site without that information doesn’t speak well. The last issue I had was traffic flow. At the time I was concerned that they’d let the builder get away with sticking yet another light on Route 7, further screwing up traffic. However, since looking at the map for the location, I’ve come to realize that interchanges are already being built to replace the disastrous “double-light intersection” that was in place. By the time the Center is built, those will be complete, offering highway-style interchanges between Route 7 and the connected roads. While my previous concerns are still valid, that one sticking point has been removed, making this location more acceptable. That’s a relative statement, by the way, not to be confused with approval. I still think their plan, once they bring it out of the shroud of mystery, should be open to public view and comment before the Board votes on the final location.
Loudoun Civic was my #1 choice, so I’ve got no issues with its inclusion. What I do have an issue with is the fact that the Board voted the other 2 locations – Comstock and One Loudoun – “off the island,” as it were, without providing any explanation as to why those 2 sites failed to make the cut. Our newly-elected Board has an opportunity, here, to begin their terms with above-average communications with their constituents. They should take advantage of the medium that they all seemed quite comfortable with – the web – and talk about what their reasoning was. Lack of communication was one of the things that the previous Board was rightly faulted for. The new one can avoid that mistake with ease, should they desire to do so. Now’s as good a time as any.