Supervisors Approve Kingstowne Towers

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal yesterday that will allow developers of Kingstowne Towne Center to build two office towers at the giant residential and commercial hub.

The board unanimously backed the plan by Halle Cos. and Boston Properties despite apparently sharp differences among residents of the community, in the Alexandria area's Lee District.

About 15,000 people live in neighborhoods around Kingstowne's commercial core. Homeowners in some neighborhoods said they were not adequately informed about the plan for the two towers, which they say would increase traffic and, if built to their maximum allowable height of 200 feet, block sunlight at certain times of the year.

Opponents also said developers have not lived up to commitments made during past stages of the Kingstowne plan. Those commitments, known as proffers, involve issues such as signage, the locations of dumpsters and the size of retail businesses.

Anthony Calabrese, attorney for the developers, said any proffer issues have been resolved or will be shortly.

Generally, however, the scale of the construction concerned opponents most yesterday.

"Let me assure you that this is not a case of NIMBYism," said Clive Carpi, a Kingstowne resident, referring to the not-in-my-back-yard syndrome.

The plan has been vetted and approved by the main homeowners group, the Kingstowne Residential Owners Corp., and the Lee District Land Use Committee, a residents' panel that reviews all development plans.

There are two office towers in Kingstowne, and plans dating back more than 20 years called for more business and retail space. But until recently, market conditions kept most builders away.

The proposal, which would add as much as 500,000 square feet of commercial space, is aimed at capitalizing on renewed demand triggered by the 12,000 jobs coming to nearby Fort Belvoir in the next four years under the federal base realignment and closure plan.

Calabrese said the changes in the market will allow the original vision for Kingstowne to be fulfilled.

"The truth is that this goal . . . has been imbued and embedded in the plans for more than 25 years," he said.

Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) said it is important to move ahead.

"If we don't enable this center to grow, we will not keep it competitive in the area," McKay said.

McKay's links to the project were the subject of controversy during the 2007 election. Campaign finance records showed that he received $35,000 from companies with ties to Halle, a Silver Spring developer with large holdings in Maryland and Virginia.

McKay, following county law, disclosed before the vote that he had received contributions "in excess of $100" from Halle and Halle affiliates. About 60 percent of McKay's total campaign contributions came from the real estate and construction sectors, one of the highest proportions among board members, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

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