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May 23, 2014

$14-million deal transfers Vint Hill to private owner

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The deal nearly completes the Economic Development Authority’s goal of putting most of the former, 701-acre Army base under private ownership.
Because of its geography, geology and atmospheric conditions, Vint Hill allowed U.S. Army Signal Corps soliders to intercept German radio transmissions during World War II. The base later evolved as a center for development of electronic warfare equipment and training until its closure in 1997.
Photo/Inn at Vint Hill
The economic development authority over the last 15 years has sold hundreds of acres and some buildings, including the former officers’ club, which houses the Inn at Vint Hill.
Photo/Vint Hill EDA
The Federal Aviation Administration opened a regional air traffic control center at Vint Hill in 2002.
New, privately-owned structures, including the Pentium building, have sprung up over the last 15 years at Vint Hill.
The EDA feels this is absolutely what its mission was to do — to get this back on the tax rolls. Before this, there was no buyer for the whole thing.
— Tim Harms, Vint Hill Economic Development Authority director
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Editor
The developers of Fauquier’s largest residential subdivision on Thursday completed the long-anticipated purchase of most remaining property at Vint Hill, the Army’s former electronic warfare base near New Baltimore.

Vint Hill Village LLC paid approximately $14 million for 215 acres just inside Fauquier’s eastern border with Prince William County.

The deal includes about 30 buildings and 18 parcels of land with a range of commercial, industrial and residential zoning.

Technically, the Vint Hill Economic Development Authority, created in 1997, remains in business. The EDA still holds 87 open acres, according to Director/Project Manager Tim Harms.

But, the investors who developed Brookside also have an option to purchase that final portion of the former Army base.

“The EDA feels this is absolutely what its mission was to do — to get this back on the tax rolls,” Mr. Harms said in a telephone interview Friday. “Before this, there was no buyer for the whole thing.”

Over the last 15 years, the authority sold buildings and parcels of the 701-acre property. The FAA in 2002 opened a huge, regional air traffic control center there, and investors bought and renovated buildings or erected new structures.

About 1,000 people work at Vint Hill. Civilian and military employment exceeded 2,000 before the base closed.

The new owners want to realize the vision of a live-work-play village on their land and the surrounding properties, Vint Hill Village LLC President Ed Moore said Friday.

“It’s not Reston,” Mr. Moore said. “This is Fauquier. This is New Baltimore . . . . We want to stay local, with that small-town feel.”

Vint Hill has Fauquier’s only “Planned Commercial Industrial Development” zoning, which would allow, for example, construction of a data center.

Existing zoning also would allow construction of more “flex space” buildings for offices and manufacturing, up to 120,000 square feet of retail and 250 dwellings, split evenly between assisted living and senior independent living units.

Lord Fairfax Community College this fall plans to join 40 other tenants that lease space there. The new owners this week replaced the EDA as those tenants’ landlord.

Mr. Moore said his group sees the need for affordable housing, which might take the form of “cottages or bungalows,” along with apartments above shops on a redeveloped “Main Street.” Those dwellings would require rezonings.

Using the slogan “We’re listening,” the new owners next month plan to launch a series of community meetings to explore possibilities for Vint Hill’s future.

As part of those conversations, they will pull out a mixed-use rezoning proposal, including a dense village core, that former EDA Executive Director Ike Broaddus developed a few years ago.

The appropriate number of “rooftops” to make Vint Hill function as a balanced community remains uncertain, Mr. Moore said.

“But, we’re not gonna play the game of asking for 1,500 so we can get 750,” he said, expressing the desire to reach a consensus.

His company’s adjacent, Brookside residential development, which will have 1,000 homes at build-out, provides housing options for business owners and managers, Mr. Moore said. Homes there cost $500,000 and more.

Vint Hill logically would broaden the variety of housing and complement Brookside, which has 730 completed homes, Mr. Moore suggested.

Vint Hill Village LLC has four principal owners, Brian Cohn of Washington and Fauquier residents Mr. Moore, Wes Kennedy and Devin Finan.

“We envision a little live/work town,” said Mr. Moore, 53. “We live here. We raise our children here . . . . I’m not interested in glass and steel. I like slate and single-pane windows.”

The Fauquier Bank and outside investors helped finance the purchase, which Mr. Moore described as “incredibly complex,” with negotiations starting almost three years ago.

Two years after the Army closed its Vint Hill Farms Station base in 1997, the county bought the property for $925,000 and turned it over to the new authority. The new organization, however, had no money and inherited a range of challenges, including some decrepit buildings, along with streets and utility systems that needed major work. It had to generate revenue through land sales and leases.

New homes and office buildings sprang up on some of the land the EDA sold.

“Over the years, I’ve always found a lot of confusion about what Vint Hill is and what its mission is,” said Mr. Harms, who has worked a decade for the EDA. “It’s a independent, quasi-government agency.

“It truly was the county’s vision to see this place go into private ownership,” he added. “I think getting it into private hands is the catalyst to make things happen. They have access to resources and financing that the EDA didn’t.”

Returning the property, which the Army bought in 1942, to private ownership also will boost the county’s tax base.

The total assessment for tax purposes — including the 87 acres the EDA still holds — stands at $27 million, Commissioner of Revenue Ross D’Urso said. In round numbers, that would produce $270,000 a year in real estate taxes.

When the last parcel sells, the EDA, whose directors the governor appoints, would dissolve. At that point, the proceeds would go to Fauquier County, according to Mr. Harms.

So, the county stands to receive a multimillion-dollar infusion of cash.

Meanwhile, the EDA over the next few months of “transition” will wind down to a part-time enterprise, with no full-time employee and a board that meets less frequently, Mr. Harms said.

The new owners have offered the EDA staff members jobs and have begun hiring other employees, Mr. Moore said.

Maintenance, signs and infrastructure improvements will begin immediately, he said.

Many challenges lie ahead. Earlier plans included potential widening of Route 215, which connects Vint Hill to Route 29. That seems unlikely.

“There is no ‘front door’ to Vint Hill,” Mr. Moore said. “There are lots of side doors, and that’s OK.”

The new owners issued this press release Friday:

Vint Hill Set to Emerge as Vibrant Hub of New Baltimore Community

New ownership committed to creating sense of place that emphasizes work/life balance, small-town roots

NEW BALTIMORE, Va.—The progression of Vint Hill into the vibrant center of the New Baltimore area took a significant leap forward today as a team with deep local roots, and extensive experience creating communities with a sense of place, purchased the majority of the picturesque property from the Vint Hill Economic Development Authority (VHEDA).

Vint Hill’s new ownership is committed to transforming the historic property into a charming locale anchored by a small town main street complete with shops, eateries and services that support the surrounding community. Vint Hill will become the focal point of New Baltimore, offering everything a small community needs to thrive: office space for local job creation, a growing commercial tax base, retail stores, restaurants, cultural attractions and a variety of homes. Most importantly, the new elements will fit in seamlessly with the existing community, allowing for progress without altering the historical area’s character and rural aesthetics.

“Our plan to enhance Vint Hill will be carried out in careful, thoughtful steps that preserve the area's character and charm while enhancing the greater New Baltimore community with much-desired services and amenities,” explains Ed Moore, a principal on the Vint Hill ownership team. “We envision fostering a sense of place that helps strengthen the existing New Baltimore community and establishes Vint Hill as its heart, featuring both business and leisure-time opportunities that appeal to both community members and visitors alike.”

The purchase includes more than 215 acres of land, as well as a number of the existing buildings, the existing water system, lease portfolio, other related infrastructure and personal property. Under the agreement reached with VHEDA, key staff members will join the new organization, ensuring a seamless transition for existing Vint Hill residents and tenants.

The team that purchased Vint Hill has decades of experience living and working in the greater New Baltimore area. The team is the same one that has led nearby Brookside’s emergence as one of the region’s preeminent communities. Applying their vision to helping enhance Vint Hill is a logical extension of creating a thriving small town community in New Baltimore—one that offers ample opportunities to live, work and celebrate within it.


“Vint Hill’s history includes several notable chapters, including time as a country estate, the site of troop encampments during the Civil War and of course as a key U.S. Army intelligence support facility,” Moore said. “Its transformation from a military facility to a civilian community centerpiece began nearly a decade and a half ago when the VHEDA was formed. We’re honored to be the ones who will oversee the remainder of the property’s evolution and blossoming into a local treasure with global appeal.”

Follow Vint Hill’s progress online at http://www.vinthill.com.

###

Vint Hill is one of the premier business locations in the Washington, DC area. It offers a diverse base of affordable commercial real estate -- including land, office space or warehouse space -- and new projects for sale or lease. The Vint Hill area offers a highly skilled workforce and balances quality of life with easy access to the nation's capital, Northern Virginia, and Washington Dulles International Airport. Join the Federal Aviation Administration, Rockwell Collins, Old Bust Head Brewery and more than 60 other businesses in a planned, mixed-use community. Learn more at http://www.vinthill.com.



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Fauquiermom · May 30, 2014 at 11:48 pm
Here we go. 750-1500 homes? Brookside and it's planned 1000 homes nearly fill 2 elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Now they are going to more than double that? Then where will our kids end up? Most likely bussed across the county, in classrooms that will have 30 or more kids and trailers will abound. The developers may offer up money and land for more schools but the burden will fall mostly to the taxpayer when it costs over $11000 a year to educate 1 student. You thought that the recent real estate tax rate increase hurt? You haven't seen anything yet. The time for Fauquier citizens to wake up and push back is here. The talk should be about attracting businesses not how many more "rooftops" we need.
Lamont · May 28, 2014 at 2:31 pm
It is painfully obvious that our BOS doesnt knkw what its doing. I thought there was a chance last year when the school budget was limited. As of three weeks ago, when they raised the tax rate to care for the children, the poor, the infirmed, and then announces a new $10mm library, I was immediately convinced that our county seat has been taken over by folks who long to be like Fairfax County big government which steals from its residents. The problem in Fauquier is that our council doesnt yet know what public anesthesia is. Thats when they numb you to what they are doing so it doesnt hurt so much. Fauquier is getting taken for a ride by developers and has been for at least 10 years. The bottom line is that, builders stand to make the profit, and therefore they should be made to provide the infrastructure, in its entirety, necessary to properly service the neighborhoods it builds. Right now, Fauquier County is a "doe walking in the woods during daylight on opening day." Very sad. :(
JMPinilla · May 28, 2014 at 1:33 pm
Fascinating article in that Not One Time was the word SCHOOLS mentioned! Not once! They're listening? Not hardly. And where was the input from the elected powers-that-be whose job it is to be sure our kids have what they need, when the 'complex sale' was dragging on for 3 years? Same old same old. Nice fluff piece though.
farmbum · May 27, 2014 at 7:40 am
Seems like the only thing Fauquier is good at is building houses. Wake up supervisors! Fauquier cannot be supported by homeowners real estate taxes only. Where are the businesses?
Do the hard work, attract viable business and develop around that.
Observer · May 27, 2014 at 7:05 am
And we thought Brookside was bad, now they will show us what is what.

Brookside that got the great start by stealing our water is already out of proportion and greedy developers keep building ugly houses on small lots, schools are bursting, same for all the local roads - try to get on Roques road in rush hour - and cops do nothing about speeding.

Nothing but beautiful future awaits Fauquier county - sarcasm on.
ErikGranered · May 24, 2014 at 8:26 am
Let’s summarize what I just read: The local Vint Hill economic development authority, who in its various incarnations has been sitting on its thumbs since 1997, sold Vint Hill to “the developers of Fauquier’s largest residential subdivision,” Vint Hill Village LLC, for the purpose of “transforming the historic property into a charming locale anchored by a small town main street complete with shops, eateries and services that support the surrounding community.”

One question, fellow citizens of Fauquier County: How is this working for us so far?

This article begs many, many questions.
1. How did this sale take place? Is $14 million all we can get for the very finest 215 acres of land just outside Washington DC? Seriously?
2. Everyone knows that it if we want to bring economic development to Vint Hill, we need one or more true anchor clients; think Accenture, IBM, Birla, or Siemens. Now, ask yourself this: If you were the VP of Real Estate and Economic Development at IBM or Birla, would you move your top talent to a place that will not build schools or even widen 215? To a place that condemns glass and steel and romanticizes a theatre with cigarette burned orange cushions? H – E double-hockey sticks, no! They will only move here if they can bring the cash and the talent to create something exciting.
3. What is wrong with Reston? I don’t ask that rhetorically. Reston’s brand in our region is innovation in development. Reston’s green spaces and livability ratings are outstanding. It is okay to not like Reston, but not liking Reston does not define who we are.

Who are we? We are a county that is in desperate, desperate need of outside talent to come in and help us understand what it means to have 215 acres for sale right next to I-66, Dulles Airport and Washington, DC. The motto of “we are listening” to local needs is a fantasy. “Listening” around here is often a euphemism for allowing resistance to any development quell reason. We are and will remain a suburb of the capital. And, we need help.
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