STATE POLITICS INJECTED ITSELF INTO LOCAL planning issues in Loudoun County, Va., earlier this year when Gov. Tim Kaine directed the Virginia Department of Transportation to issue a study on a proposal to build an estimated 33,000 homes on the 9,200-acre Dulles South tract, near Dulles International Airport.
The study, which was the first issued since the state passed a law to conduct transportation studies on high-growth projects, says increased development would cause many of the major roadways in Loudoun and nearby Fairfax County to experience between two to six hours of stop-and-go traffic conditions daily. The governor has made it a cornerstone of his administration to carefully study a new development's impact on the state's notorious traffic congestion.
“It's pretty clear the study was politically motivated,” says Jim Williams, executive vice president of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, who points out that the study was released just as the county's board of supervisors was set to approve development in the Dulles South area.
However, the builders cleared an important hurdle in late August when the county's planning commission approved the growth plan.
At press time, the county board of supervisors was set to hold a public hearing on the issue and had a Nov. 26 deadline to vote on the measure. Greenvest, Pulte, Toll Brothers, and Van Metre are some of the companies that hope to build in Dulles South.
Andrea McGimsey, director of the Campaign for Loudoun's Future, says citizens are opposing the Dulles South plan because they are concerned about gridlock. She says the county already has at least 36,000 homes in the pipeline, and the $750 million the builders are promising for transportation only covers roads near the project; it doesn't solve congestion around Dulles Airport.