After several months of quiet maneuvering, Virginia officials are preparing to break ground for the Center for Innovative Technology without resolving a zoning dilemma that could plunge it into the middle of a development battle in Fairfax County.
The dispute centers on the state-sponsored CIT's support for building plans submitted by one of the developers who donated the land on which the CIT headquarters is to be built. The state also plans to build offices for the Software Productivity Consortium, a private research venture sponsored by 13 of the nation's leading defense contractors, at the 35-acre site straddling the Fairfax-Loudoun county line near Dulles International Airport.
CIT officials recently reviewed the office park proposal of developers Alan I. Kay and The Evans Co. and gave the state's unequivocal support to the developers' attempts to persuade Fairfax County to rezone their 55-acre property, which is adjacent to the CIT tract and now zoned for residential development.
At the same time, the state is working toward a late-summer groundbreaking for the CIT, created by then-Gov. Charles S. Robb and the Virginia General Assembly in 1984 to promote economic development in the state and to forge closer ties between universities and high-tech industries.
But George M. Lilly, chairman of the Fairfax County Planning Commission, challenged what he said is the state's apparent assumption that Fairfax officials will endorse any type of development to make the beleaguered CIT project work.
"I don't think there's anyone in Fairfax County who's ready to roll over for them," Lilly said in an interview last week. "If the transportation problems inherent in that area cannot be worked out, then that's not a good spot for the kind of development those people state officials and the developers are talking about."
Lilly said Virginia officials are backing a level of development that is "inappropriate" for the northwestern portion of Fairfax. He said the proposal could trigger a traffic crisis in the already congested Dulles area and disrupt the lives of residents in and around the town of Herndon.
Lilly's concerns are shared by several county planners and transportation officials. Fairfax County Transportation Director Shiva K. Pant warned of "total gridlock" along Rte. 28 near the airport unless the proposed development is accompanied by major highway improvements.
"The level of development by the CIT and the developers is simply not going to work with the roads that are out there now," Pant said.
The debate could throw yet another obstacle into the path of the CIT, whose construction of a permanent headquarters has been delayed several times during the past two years because of political criticism over the agency's inability to define its mission and disputes involving the property transfer.
The proposed CIT property, 18 acres of which is in Fairfax County and the remaining 17 acres of which is in Loudoun, was donated to the state by two developers -- Kay and Samir Kawar -- in exchange for the state's commitment to assist them in getting other properties rezoned for high-density office and industrial development.
As a state agency, the CIT is exempt from local zoning requirements, according to rulings by Fairfax and Loudoun officials. The counties encouraged the state to build its headquarters there as a catalyst to bring high-tech industries to Northern Virginia.
Fairfax County also exempted the Software Productivity Consortium from the zoning regulations; County Attorney David T. Stitt said he waived those requirements because the consortium of defense contractors would be performing "public activities on behalf of the state."
However, while Loudoun officials have settled most of the zoning issues involving the developer who donated land on their side of the line, the question of how to zone the "The level of development by the CIT and the developers is simply not going to work with the roads that are out there now." -- Transportation Director Shiva Pant property controlled by the private developers on the Fairfax side has remained a matter of contention.
In addition to county officials such as Lilly and Pant, the National Capital Planning Commission has expressed strong reservations about the proposed development. After initially vetoing the proposed CIT and adjacent private development plans, the commission approved them after the developers drafted a transportation plan that includes construction of a bridge over Rte. 28 at the entrance to the CIT property and a major interchange at Rtes. 28 and 606.
Nonetheless, some Fairfax planners remain skeptical because the plan does not settle the question of who will finance the multimillion-dollar package of road improvements. Residents near the proposed development worry that the Fairfax supervisors, who have the final say on the proposed rezoning, will approve the development.
"There's not a whole lot of faith that the supervisors will stick up for the citizens," said John Shepard. "When it comes to the state cajoling them and the developers cajoling them, I'm not sure we have the power to beat it."
In addition to the potential traffic problems, the residents are concerned about the height of some of the proposed office buildings and the planned density of the project.
CIT officials and Kay-Evans officials said they have received no commitments from the supervisors on their rezoning request.
County Board Chairman John F. Herrity declined to respond to questions about the CIT and the proposed development. Supervisor Nancy K. Falck (R-Dranesville), in whose district the CIT is located, was out of the country on vacation and unavailable for comment.
The proposed Kay-Evans development could reach the Fairfax Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors this fall. The developers' representatives began meeting last week with residents living near the property in an attempt to enlist their support for the plan, which features 11 high-rise office buildings, including one 12-story structure.
"We're trying to reactivate the process to get the county to refocus on it," said Edward S. Byrne, project manager for The Evans Co., which holds a contract on the land and is working with Kay, the property owner, to obtain the rezoning. "We're trying to get the thing speeded up."
Byrne said the developers were encouraged by the CIT's recent endorsement of the proposal. "I'd have to say they support the entire package," Byrne said, referring to CIT officials. "They took no exception to it."
Ronald E. Carrier, who recently took over as CIT president, said the agency was backing the developers' efforts and is assisting them in seeking solutions to the transportation problems at the site.
Lilly, meanwhile, said he will urge the Board of Supervisors to reconvene the CIT Task Force, a committee of residents, county planners and representatives of the developers. The group, chaired by Lilly, was created by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors in 1984 to review CIT-related development. It has not met since January 1985, when the board suspended its meetings because of property right disputes between the CIT and the developers and the absence of a transportation plan.
The latest debate comes at an inopportune time for the state, which -- with the appointment of Carrier, who is on leave as president of James Madison University -- has sought to capture the broad public and political support that has eluded it since the agency's inception.