Business, Development and Supervisor Kelly Burk

Business and development are not synonyms.

As Loudoun’s 2011 election season heats up, it is worth remembering this simple fact. Many candidates and campaigns will spend the time between now and November trying to conflate the two, though they are quite different. Often, you will see candidates who are in favor of careful consideration of development, what has been termed as “smart growth” in the past, lambasted as being “anti-business” or even “anti-job,” when nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the best way to be pro-business in Loudoun County is often to examine questions of development with an eye towards their economic impacts and benefits. After all, every development application is, by its very nature, a short-term zero-sum game. The decision to use a parcel of land for one purpose necessarily eliminates the option to use to another purpose, at least for the foreseeable future. Loudoun has seen this principle in action over the past decade, with the decision on, and subsequent collapse of, One Loudoun being the most striking example.

You will recall that One Loudoun was supposed to have been an engine of business growth at a perfect, unique location. In fact, it was billed as a centerpiece for economic development in the County. But a funny thing happened on the way to paradise, One Loudoun’s developers went bankrupt, and the residents of Loudoun have gained nothing in terms of revenue, job growth or economic development from that once-paragon project.

This is why all questions of development must be examined closely, and with a critical eye. Development, by necessity, means permanence. And the costs and risks of a wrong decision echo through the county for decades.

Leesburg’s own Supervisor, Kelly Burk, is the Chair of the Transportation and Land Use Committee on the Board of Supervisors. She takes this job as Supervisor very seriously. When making a decision for the County, she considers not just the short-term, but also the long-term impacts of that decision. This is true for everything she does, from budgets to zoning to, yes, development decisions.

Witness, for example, the process that the Loudoun Hounds baseball stadium went through for approval. Supervisor Burk was at the center of that process, working with all stakeholders and eventually forging a compromise that allowed baseball to come to Loudoun while preserving critical habitats for endangered species and ensuring the benefits of the project, including much needed transportation improvements, accrued to the residents of Loudoun. The successful approval of the Stadium was the result of Supervisor Burk’s efforts, and in the end, Supervisor Burk voted “yes” because she found a willing partner in the Stadium’s development team.

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Kelly Burk has made a career of working with local business communities in Leesburg and throughout Loudoun to create sustainable conditions for business, and job, growth. During her terms on both the Town Council and the Board of Supervisors, Ms. Burk has worked tirelessly to improve the business conditions at the Leesburg Airport, and has been widely recognized for those efforts by Republicans and Democrats alike. Unlike this piece of land, or that piece of land, the Leesburg Airport truly is a unique factor in Loudoun’s economic engine. It’s enhancement and protection creates good, long-term, high-paying jobs that return revenues to the County’s coffers and bring business to the County’s companies.

Furthermore, Supervisor Burk has actively, and regularly, put together events to find jobs for her constituents. She has sponsored two annual job fairs (so far) that connect local businesses with young people looking for work. In this, she has directly addressed the single largest portion of Loudoun’s unemployed: young people. No one else in Leesburg, on the Board or on the Council, has pro-actively connected employers with job seekers as a regular part of their elected duties.

All too often, Republicans in Loudoun County equate development with economic growth, when all evidence is to the contrary. Indeed, in the past few years, Loudoun’s growth has come not from development (witness, again One Loudoun), but from the expansion of Loudoun’s existing businesses and the development of new ones. It is this kind of economic development that brings good, long-term, well-paying jobs to Loudoun. Those are the kinds of jobs that improve Loudoun’s revenue and can sustain our success.

Perhaps this is why so many businesses in Leesburg, and throughout Loudoun, trust Supervisor Burk. They come to her with their problems and concerns, and she looks for ways to help. And more often than not, like with the airport and the job fairs, she finds ways to help, and makes them happen. That is putting Leesburg first, and that is the job of a Supervisor.

15 thoughts on “Business, Development and Supervisor Kelly Burk

  1. Denise Moore Pierce

    Evan, well written. I couldn’t agree more as I drive by and see the for sale signs along 28 for the great planned Kincora project.

    My neighborhood experienced just such a short term planning problem. The area behind my house was zoned for 1/3 acre lots but the developer got that changed to patio size lots in exchange for leaving the undeveloped part with 10 acre lots. Of course he sold that parcel later and the next owner wants the zoning downsized. Thanks to the outcry in my neighborhood, Supervisor, at the time, Mick Staton thought better of that zoning change, but it could certainly come up again.

    Denise Moore Pierce
    Candidate for Algonkian Supervisor

  2. liz

    Yeah, well, the worst recession since the Great Depression was probably more to blame for their bankruptcy than the rezoning of that piece of land.

    I’m looking forward to the arrival to Loudoun of all the Reston Town Center-type development that both Loudoun One and Kincora are bringing. Including bus service to the future metro stations, etc.

  3. Leej

    The problem is Both Tyson’s and Reston are going to be building class A spec office buildings next year. We have virtually nothing going on that can compete with those buildings.

    Our metro is not going to be any god send for commercial development for a zillion years out. Horrible road system around our two metro stations especially proposed.

    Sorry folks Loudoun is going to be the land and home of the ugliest of all buildings that look like prisons and that is the data center. You would think they would hide them or at least use evergreens which the one next to the ashburn metro did not.

    With major government spending going to get major trimming.

    THe DC area could go into a tail spin.

    Further the new baseball stadium has some major problems and cannot open until 2013 at the earliest if ever under the current ownership. The developers of one loudoun, kincora, loudoun, station moorefield and all the other planned town centers need to sell commercial lots to office developers and that is not going very well. It took reston 50 years or so thru bankruptcies and other problems to get where it is.

    Tyson’s is undergoing a major makeover.

    We have cursed ourselves with the runaway data centers that add nothing to the beauty of loudoun and actually destroys the beauty.

    Whoever is planning Loudoun now and before are certainly not world class planners more like amateur hour. Not even close to the ability of the planners of our future town centers and existing PUDS. Yet they are in charge how everything connects together and our county planners are flunking. I know one of the answers their hands are tied by by-right development. What a joke, it is long over due to change the way loudoun is planned. Although perhaps it is too late the junk looking architecture is already made it’s ugly head and destroying Loudouns beauty. Only the town centers have any chance of leaving some kind of beautiful mark on eastern loudoun.

    Don’t get me wrong data centers are needed, but why the hell must they sit at our front doors. Would anyone put the AC compressors at the front door of their homes. Of course not.

    Loudoun is going to go thru even more tough times in the economic development in the next many years. I don’t know how Loudoun is going to compete with Tyson’s and Reston for those class A companies. We have no place to put these class A companies their are no major spec buildings going up or even planned to be built. Our developers are waiting for that magical company that wants to build from nothing.

    Raytheon took the last major large block of already built space over at AOL.

    Other then data buildings and residential it looks very grim for loudoun over the many next years.

  4. Lasko

    I’m not sure that makes any sense. When One Loudoun was rezoned, like Kincora or Loudoun Station or other developments, the value of the land increased and Loudoun received more tax dollars because the land value increased. So Loudoun gained. That doesn’t include land Loudoun received for Stewart Weller Elementary or improvements to Russel Branch PKWY and Marvlehead Drive.

    I know you think about Leesburg First, but all 3 of those things benefits Ashburn. How much would the school and road connections have coat the County?

    You also show a total lack of understanding when it comes to how fast developments emerge. Reston Town Center took years and years. Loudoun Station was approved by the 1999-2003 board and is just now turning dirt.

  5. Paradox13

    Equating the increase in land value with Loudoun’s gain is an example of the incorrect conflation I’m criticizing. Increased land value creates no long-term, well-paying jobs, the essential engine of economic development and long-term revenue stability for the County. Yes, there was some short-term revenue gain for the county’s coffers thanks to the increase in land value, but the subsequent bankruptcy eliminated any such benefit for the medium-term, and potentially long-term (let’s not count our taxes until the place is built and filled), while the costs accrued from what WAS completed continue to be carried by the County.

    My post made no reference, good or bad, to Reston Town Center (where I lived and owned a home, incidentally, for a few years).

    As for Leesburg, I believe the rise, fall (and rebirth?) of One Loudoun serves as an important cautionary tale for major, massive developments, which creep every closer to the Town’s borders (Stonewall being the latest example). Learning the lesson of One Loudoun, and the healthy skepticism for exaggerated claims of benefit that should be the result, is absolutely important for anyone who would want to represent Loudoun’s original, and most successful, planned development (going strong since 1757).

  6. liz

    Again, I think it’s obnoxious to blame the bankruptcy of One Loudoun’s owners on anything other than the horrible recession.

    From my native New Yorker perspective, mixed use centers like Villages at Leesburg (which Kelly voted against), One Loudoun, Kincora, etc, are good examples of what we should be building in Loudoun east of 15. Walkable, mass-transit-friendly, office space next to apartment housing developments are welcoming to businesses and to young, childless professionals.

  7. Leej

    One Loudoun bankruptcy is just a tool like many developers use. Comstock (Loudoun Station) bankrupt and sold off some of their developments several years ago. Bankrupt is nor always a bad word in the development world. Look at Donald Trump he is doing better then ever. ;-) Like I said below we will not see major companies move here because there are no large finished buildings to move into. We are too far out for many businesses from the power centers of DC. Developers are more likely and are doing so building very large spec office in Tysons which is going thru a unbelievable transformation.

    Loudoun Station is only building residential and a little retail at street level under the apartments. And that massive ugly data complex next door is going to hurt Loudoun Station especially in the short term. Couldn’t those develpoers of those data centers done a better job hiding them. Yes they spent a ton on the wrong kind of landscaping. And put the the buildings too close to the greenway and shellhorn. with almost no evergreens and you got to love that big concrete exposed to shellhorn looks like a concrete bunker for a drainage ditch why did they not just pipe it somehow and eliminate the eyesore. The only decent data center development is the one just approved out by Leesburg with it’s own power plant. Now that is a lesson for all other data center builders to learn from.

  8. Paradox13

    To be clear, I have no problem with mixed-use developments, and in fact support them! I also think that many examples of mixed-use developments work well for Loudoun (e.g. Brambleton, Dulles Town Center).

    I’m using One Loudoun as an example of the fact that we cannot assume that just because this mixed use development over here is a good idea, then that mixed use development over there must also be a good idea. There are a lot of other factors that can and should be taken into account when considering a particular project, including the factor of whether right now is a good time to move forward on developing a particular parcel in a particular way. The lesson is about proceeding cautiously, and with consideration. It’s a question of degree, and not black-and-white.

    In all of the cases where Supervisor Burk has opposed a particular application, Kelly has had a specific reason (or reasons) for opposition which was not addressed during the process of review and approval. In cases where an application has had its chance to be fully vetted and the objections raised were addressed collaboratively, Supervisor Burk has voted in favor of moving forward.

    That’s called good government, IMHO.

  9. Leej

    And I will add Leesburg Village was built almost at one time at least the very large core was built all at once. The success of this development was because it looks finished and has space available. Not the best design in the world but it works.

    Loudoun station is only building a small part of their development which is going to hurt it in the short term. Add major government cutbacks and we may have a very stagnant economy here for years to come.

    And many of those so called companies moving their headquarters her here is a joke. They are only moving the core people to influence the government which may get to be harder and harder with the coming cut backs.

    Exxon is moving their headquarters to Woodlands Texas (which that home town is far beyond then Reston or almost anything in this country and far bigger then reston.

    Anyway exxon is moving 30,000 plus people to their new headquarters, now that is a real genuine headquarter move. Not a few hundred people like here in DC.

  10. Leej

    I will add again I have not seen so many town centers so close together. In the short term they are going to hurt each other. But I still believe they are better then the by right alternative. The first winner will be the developer that builds a big chunk of the town center at one time like Leesburg Village. And Kincora could be the weakest financially. Which really is not a problem long term. If the current developers fail a deep pocket will come in and take over. Because Kincora’s value at the moment it is approved.

    And Moorefield will take forever to build even when the ashburn station is built. The developers behind moorefield are extremely cautious and slow to move.

  11. Dan Schmidt

    In 2001, $ 9.8 K in property taxes were paid on One Loudoun’s parcels.
    In 2011, $ 709 K in property taxes will be paid – all while demanding little to no county services.

    The claim that “residents of Loudoun have gained nothing in terms of revenue” is simply wrong. Especially when you factor in all of the front-loaded proffers that others have mentioned.

    Let’s walk your assertion back 44 years: In 1967 Gulf Oil had to step in to rescue Reston from bankruptcy, long before the residents of Fairfax had gained anything significant in terms of revenue, job growth or economic development from that once-paragon project.

  12. Ann

    I always liked the look and feel of Reston…. trees and lakes abound. Reston Town Center is a favorite.

    But even more desirable — I recently visited Shirlington (in South Arlington) for the first time. It struck me as perfect.

    Have any of you been there? What did you think of it?

    If Leesburg could develop in the same lovely even-handed way, I would be a happy resident!

    Ann

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