In the increasingly urban and pricey Washington area, there are precious few available parcels of land near a Metro station large enough to accommodate a modern NFL stadium.
One exception is the site of the current RFK stadium. A second is about to go up for sale, after a family business disagreement landed a 280-acre site in Loudoun County under control of a new manager, creating a possible opportunity for Dan Snyder and Gov. Terry McAuliffe to build a new stadium for the team.
McAuliffe has long considered Loudoun County his best locale to lure to the commonwealth the Redskins — which hired an architect and released stadium designs earlier this year. With 15 months remaining in office, the governor repeatedly said at the start of the season that he is in “serious negotiations” with the team’s ownership about moving. (The team’s lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027.)
But neither he nor the team have identified a piece of land that could accommodate the idea. Many of the large sites along the planned Silver Line stations in Loudoun are too small for an NFL stadium or are already being targeted for something else.
Now perhaps the best site in the county is becoming available: two forested, un-built parcels located along the Dulles Greenway on the doorstep of the planned Loudoun Gateway station west of Dulles Airport and 2 miles from the Redskins Ashburn headquarters.
Loudoun’s top economic development official, Buddy Rizer, called the property one of the county’s “most important assets” and said he expected it would be among the sites the team and other potential users would consider. A McAuliffe spokesman declined to comment.
“It’s something we’re doing a lot of thinking and planning for to make sure that we get it right,” he said. “We think the opportunity here is immense.”
For 32 years, the land has been controlled by businessman Chris Antigone, who bought the properties in partnership with his wife’s uncle, Sam Taustin, for a little under $2 million in 1984.
Antigone initially laid out a grand plan for a mix of offices, homes, shopping and hotels called International City. Although nothing has been built there, the properties have recently been assessed at $86.8 million and could be worth as much as $377.2 million if developed under favorable zoning, according to court records.
Antigone’s development vision, however, has not fared well recently. A county zoning update may bar him from building homes on the property due to noise concerns emanating from Washington Dulles International Airport. And more importantly, Antigone appears to have lost legal control of the properties to his partners, who are looking to sell.
Sam Taustin died in 2002 and troubles started six years later when Dominion Power paid the two controlling companies, TAB I Associates and Dulles Greenway Associates, $507,000 for condemnation rights to some of the land. Antigone, owning a 63 percent majority stake, decided to keep the money in the companies. But Sam Taustin’s heirs, including his son Jay, wanted their share of the cash.
They took Antigone to legal arbitration in 2011 and when that failed, sued to wrest control of the companies from him in 2011. After an eight-day trial late last year, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge David Schell forced Antigone out, finding that he had materially breached the companies’ operating agreements.
Schell ruled in January that “the actions by Antigone shock the conscience” and the “unjust enrichment” by Antigone is staggering. The judge made Taustin the only remaining Class A voting member, one who could operate the companies as he pleased despite his minority ownership stake. Schell denied a stay request from Antigone in March.
Antigone said in an interview that he felt he was well within his rights to manage the Dominion money.
“I wanted the funds reinvested in the company and I believe that as the manager of the companies, which I had been for 30-some odd years, that I had the authority to spend company funds on company expenses. And they took a different view,” he said.
Antigone has filed an appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court but by the time he hears back he may not have any land to return to.
Jay Taustin said in a statement issued through his attorney that he plans to hire a broker soon and is “looking at what potential buyers might do with it.”
“This property is really unique – not just the proximity to Dulles Airport, the Dulles Greenway and the new Metro station, but also, as very experienced developers have told us, it’s almost unheard-of to have the opportunity to acquire this much land, this well placed, from one owner,” Taustin said. “It opens up a lot of possibilities. We have a team of advisers to help us understand what’s going on that impacts the property and what’s feasible and possible, but we are not real estate developers. It’s never been our intent to develop the property ourselves. So I really think that whoever the buyer will be, will want to have input into the planning and zoning process, so this is the right time to open up the property to possible buyers.”
Therein lies a chance for Snyder or McAuliffe, who nearly tried to pass a bill early this year that would have created a stadium authority capable of arranging the project.
Taustin said he had not heard from the Redskins but would be happy to take the call.
“We haven’t received any inquiries, but we are willing to hear from anyone with interest in the company property,” he said. A team spokesman declined to comment.
At the moment the Redskins appear to be focused on their season. Rizer said that although he was in regular touch with the team, the stadium issue had not come up recently. But when it does he thinks 280 acres near Dulles Airport will be a part of the conversation: “There is a reason that rumor is out there.”
Tom Jackman contributed.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz