Developers of a controversial 15-acre high-density office park on Spring Hill Road near the main interchanges of the Dulles toll road have withdrawn their application for a planned development commercial (PDC) project.
Instead, Tysons-Dulles Limited Partnership will ask Fairfax County to change the zoning on a small 30,000-square-foot parcel from its existing residential classification to an industrial category to match the industrial zoning of the surrounding 15 acres.
The withdrawal of the PDC request for the site, which is now primarily zoned industrial, does not mean the end of what is to be known as Springhill Park.
"We will build what we can build by right," said Tom Georgelas, a spokesman for the developers.
The proposed project is in the shadow of the future Tysons II office/shopping project for which rezoning recently was approved. It has attracted capital investment from Robert Bass, one of the wealthy Texas Bass brothers. Bass, the Milton Co. and John G. Georgelas & Sons, of McLean, remain as the developing partners.
However, the cost of the proffers, or conditions, that were being sought by local civic associations and the county in exchange for the higher density PDC development was too high, Georgelas explained.
Many residents of the same area -- the Tysons/McLean/Vienna communities -- as well as members of the board of supervisors often mentioned various interpretations of what the owners of the Tysons II site would have been able to build by right during the long summer and fall of debate that led to that development's approval.
The Springhill Park development, for which an application was filed months ago, had come under strong criticism from the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) because of its 12-story buildings and density. Residents of the McLean Hamlet and McLean Hunt Estates subdivisions had voiced strong opposition to the project, saying the development was too high for the site. The land abuts the Dulles toll lanes and would be the closest commercial development to the existing residential development north of the toll lanes in the Odrick's Corner area.
Under a PDC zoning, Fairfax County would have been able to extract development conditions that cannot be imposed or sought when a simple office park is built on a site with an industrial zoning.
The present 15 acres includes land zoned industrial and a small proportion that is zoned residential. "The residential strip is only a small piece of the package. We are consolidating our zoning change to seek consolidation of the land under the I-4 industrial category," Georgelas explained.
The new proposal calls for 480,000 square feet of office space in three six-story buildings. The original proposal was for approximately 680,000 square feet in three 12-story buildings connected by three-story structures. A later plan omitted the connecting buildings.
"For that 200,000 square feet we were looking at spending almost $2 million in proffers," Georgelas explained. Those proffers included major road improvements.
Springhill Park, as proposed, could be reached from Spring Hill Road. Under the original application, developers had offered to fund construction of a major portion of Tyco Road from its present stub near a Vepco substation through to Spring Hill Road. That connector would have provided another link between the Leesburg Pike and access to the toll lanes.
Whether developers will do that now remains to be seen. "We cannot force it for a rezoning of 30,000 square feet," a county spokesman said.
Lilla Richards, chairman of the MCA's transportation committee, said she thought that organization would support the new proposal "as long as they build us a road." Asked which road, she said, "Tyco."
Stephen Hubbard, chairman of the MCA's planning and zoning committee, which has strongly opposed the original application, said there would be little grounds for opposition if the new proposal conforms to existing industrial zoning restrictions and the buildings are kept at six stories.
However, he said he hoped the developers would help pay to open up Tyco Road. The developer of an adjacent piece of property is planning to build high-rise storage facilities, a proposal the MCA planning committee approved recently at a density of 50 percent of what is allowable under the zoning. However, Hubbard said, he understands that the applicant plans to increase that density to as high as 100 percent. Hubbard said that might be a good time to ask that developer to help fund improvements to Tyco Road.
There are other advantages to developing Springhill Park under an industrial status rather than the PDC status. Most are in favor of the developer.
"By right, we do not have to proffer a site plan. If we want to change it, we can. We can respond to a changing marketplace," Georgelas said.
"The new Springhill Park is a lower-scale project with a different look. But it will be a first-class office park. We have to meet the competition. We are all interested in putting in a high-quality development," Georgelas said.
Action on the Springhill Park plan has been delayed numerous times by the county planning commission and the board of supervisors at the request of the developer, despite a favorable staff report that was issued on the project weeks ago.