The Vint Hill Economic Development Authority will have little time to catch its breath after a year of change in which it officially took title to the 695-acre former Army listening post that closed in 1997.
The authority marked several milestones this year, the most recent on Dec. 20, when--over the strenuous objections of some local environmental groups--the Fauquier Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to rezone 662 acres at Vint Hill for commercial and residential development.
"I think that Vint Hill will now be able to successfully market the site," outgoing Supervisor David C. Mangum (R-Lee) said in an interview this week. "It's something that has to be done."
About 404 acres were zoned for as much as 3.1 million square feet of commercial and industrial space. About 257 additional acres received a residential zoning classification, and Vint Hill authorities anticipate that 300 homes will be built on that land. Thirty-two acres of the property, not included in the rezoning request, are owned by the Federal Aviation Administration, which plans to break ground Jan. 24 for a major facility at the site.
Because Vint Hill required no zoning when it was a federal facility, it reverted to an agricultural zone in September when the deed was transferred to the authority, whose mission is to create jobs as it sells itself out of business.
The rezoning request, which came before the Planning Commission in September, attracted a lot of attention from such groups as the Piedmont Environmental Council, which argued, among other things, that the proffer package offered by Vint Hill did not guarantee the transportation improvements necessary to handle the development.
Days before the supervisors voted, Vint Hill sweetened the proffer package with a 30-acre parcel to be used for a middle school and possibly a high school.
Although the supervisors approved the business plan for reuse of the base in 1995, its particulars were not revealed officially until the rezoning process began, and the quick approval of one of the largest rezoning packages in county history left a sour taste in the mouths of some.
"They married themselves forever to this situation," said Kitty P. Smith, Fauquier field officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council. "They should have taken more time."
Smith expressed concern that the proffer package links many infrastructure improvements to the money that will be received from land sales, not necessarily to the community's needs at any given time.
"The improvements come in phases," Smith said. "But Vint Hill can say when the phases come and go."
Now that the rezoning debate is essentially over, Vint Hill's staff members will be trying to land development and high-tech companies.
"We're certainly going to be in competition with the much more well-funded, assertive economic development agencies in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties," said Pat White, marketing director for Vint Hill.
John P. McEvilly, a principal partner of Millennium Realty Advisers, a landlord for 30 commercial properties based in Tysons Corner, said Fauquier might have trouble attracting high-tech companies because "the infrastructure just isn't there."
"The one thing that they could be able to go after is the Web-hosting type companies," McEvilly said. "They want to be in this Northern Virginia, high-tech community, but they don't need to be right smack dab in the middle of it."