Fifty-eight years ago John Gudelsky’s father founded a Loudoun County mining company to provide the stone needed for the concrete, asphalt and other foundation materials to build Washington Dulles International Airport.
Chantilly Crushed Stone digs and trucks the materials to build the roads, bridges and buildings that have sustained Washington’s growth. It is now owned by Gudelsky and two of his sisters.
“We probably supply most of the stone to Tysons Corner, Reston. So anything that has to do with concrete we may be part of it,” said Edward J. Hoy, president of the company.
But the business is at a crossroads. One of the quarries, located on 335 acres of land straddling Route 606 north of Dulles, has gotten so deep that continuing to dig deeper for more rock is becoming increasingly costly. (The quarry itself takes up a little more than 60 acres.)
“It makes it much more expensive to mine the deeper you go,” Hoy said. “There’s fuel costs. Everything percent-wise just doubles in terms of costs.”
Hoy said the business was still profitable and that other mining companies had approached Chantilly Crushed Stone about acquiring it, particularly because of its location in Washington area, where the construction market is still stronger than elsewhere.
But Hoy said that Gudelsky, in his late 50s, decided instead that he’d like to wind down the quarry and turn it into a mixed-use mini-city with 4 million square feet of commercial space and 2,500 new homes.
After all, construction is likely to start on the second leg of the Silver Line in coming years — allowing the company to sell more material — and the quarry is only about a mile from the planned Innovation Center Metro station. So Gudelsky began laying out his mixed-use vision, with an array of office buildings, hotels and housing arranged around a lake made by allowing the quarry to fill with water. He calls it Waterside.
“It’s what he would like to see when he walks away,” Hoy said. “There are dollars up front for sure by selling it. But giving his family something — a place, a better use — when he leaves here is where is at.”
The proposal, however, doesn’t fit with the county’s vision for the area.
“The county has always envisioned that to be a major employment corridor for the county due to its location near the airport and the Metro nodes,” said Judi Birkitt, the county planner overseeing the project, at an April 15 planning commission hearing.
Loudoun has long considered the area as a jobs center and not a place where more residents — and all the schools, libraries and other services they require — are needed. If the planning commission wanted to allow 2,500 residential units there, it might as well re-work its entire vision for the area and all the rules that go along with it, Birkitt said.
Birkitt and the county’s staff recommended denying the proposal.
The Gudelskys’ zoning attorney, Colleen Gillis Snow, of Cooley LLP, argued that it didn’t make sense to have the company continue to blast in a part of the county that is likely to start urbanizing with the arrival of Metro. She even showed a slide of Fred Flinstone working in a quarry while riding on a dinosaur.
“What we see here is very consistent with what we saw in the stone age, and we ought to be looking toward the future and not the past,” Gillis Snow told the commission.
Gillis Snow then suggested that exurban office parks with no homes incorporated aren’t likely to succeed now that companies are flocking to mixed-use centers that have retailers who don’t roll up the sidewalks after the lunch crowd.
And she offered what some might consider a threat: if the Gudelskys’ application wasn’t approved, the family would expand its mining (and the 40,000-pound blasts it requires), for another 50 years, ever closer to surrounding neighborhoods.
“Our intention if this is not approved is to continue to quarry this property. It’s an operational, successful thriving business for the applicant. If this doesn’t go forward we will continue to go in that direction,” she told the commission.
In an interview, Hoy reiterated that take-it-or-leave-it position. He estimated that if the company dug up an additional 70 acres it could yield another 40 or 50 years of business. “If this vision doesn’t go forward it’s going to be a stone quarry. I know people don’t understand that, but that’s where [Gudelsky] is at. He will immediately start mining horizontally instead of vertically,” he said.
The planning commission has not ruled yet but in all likelihood the Gudelskys will have to make some concessions if they really would like to move from mining to development.
In the meantime, the company will begin digging up stone for Loudoun’s Silver Line extension.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz