Fairfax County and the town of Herndon aren't seeing eye to eye on a proposed $300 million office park near Herndon.
New York developer Michael Swerdlow and the Charles E. Smith Co. have asked the county to rezone from residential to light- and medium-industrial use 94 acres of land north of the Dulles Airport Access Road and south of Herndon's town boundary.
The nearly 3 million-square-foot project, called Worldgate Office Park Inc., would consist of about a dozen six- and seven-story buildings housing two hotels, a health club, restaurants, offices and shops. To relieve potential traffic problems, the developers have offered to widen a segment of the two-lane Centreville Road to six lanes.
The Worldgate site is part of a proposed land swap between Herndon and Fairfax County. If transferred to the town, the developed property is expected to produce about $500,000 a year in tax revenues. The land swap plan is still being considered by the Fairfax county Board of Supervisors.
Many residents in communities near the proposed development and Herndon seem to be relatively satisfied with the developers' plans, primarily because they would like to see Centreville Road widened.
Herndon officials said that they would like to see the supervisors approve the project, which has undergone 18 revisions since it was filed in June 1985.
Herndon Mayor Richard C. Thoesen said he is pleased with the proposal, especially the developers' promise to widen Centreville Road from the town's border to just south of the Dulles Airport Access Road.
"The town is already at its breaking point, as far as the traffic goes," said Christopher Riddick, a member of the town's Board of Zoning Appeals who recently was elected to the Town Council. "The town needs those [road] improvements . . . . we'd really like to see the board rezone the property."
But Swerdlow and Smith are having a hard time persuading county planners.
"The package they've submitted is too intense for the transportation network that can be provided there," said Barbara Bryon, a county planner.
Supervisor Nancy K. Falck (R-Dranesville), who said she is undecided on whether to support the rezoning application, said that Centreville Road would be overwhelmed by the traffic generated by Worldgate.
"[Swerdlow] has asked for more density than the road system can be made to hold," she said. "Most of the traffic from there would come in and out on Centreville Road . . . . I've told them consistently that they must come down in density, and they haven't."
Swerdlow said that if he and his partner were forced to build an office park with fewer buildings, he would withdraw his offer to build the road improvements.
"If I have to build [with less density], I would have severe height restrictions and would have to park everything on the ground [instead of in a multilevel garage]," Swerdlow said. "Then I couldn't afford the large buffers or green space there."
Swerdlow has agreed to leave 100 feet of trees and shrub as a buffer between the office park and a group of houses that borders the property.
Ian H. MacFarlane, president of the Courts of Chandon Civic Association, said that he does not want his community to forfeit the large forested area that Swerdlow has offered to leave untouched for a less dense development.
"The county sees traffic as the main issue," MacFarlane said. "We recognize that . . . unless traffic is controlled somehow, there will be absolute gridlock at the major intersections there. But it's like tails you lose, heads you lose."
"That's a totally idle threat," said Falck, referring to Swerdlow's warning to decrease the landscaped border. "Stop and think: What pushes development out towards the edge of property? Density. If you have less density, you can pull back in. They're trying very hard to get citizen support to put pressure on me to approve their rezoning."
The county's Board of Supervisors is to vote on Worldgate on May 19.