Parking Stirs Debate about Growth of ADAMS Center in Ashburn

Parking Stirs Debate about Growth of ADAMS Center in Ashburn

Supporters and opponents of the request by All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) to permit a mosque, and and associated daycare and private school in space it has purchase at the Beaumeade Circle business park in Ashburn are expected to speak during a public hearing Wednesday.

Concerns raised by opponents center on parking at the facility. ADAMS now uses space owned by the Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, but has purchased additional space for which the special exception applications would apply.

Among the changes sought is the ability to serve 250 congregants, rather than the 200 ADAMS now has the authority to serve for each service. Some opponents have questioned that number, pointing out that 250 people attending three services, which is typical on a Friday at ADAMS, equates to 750 people.

Rizwan Jaka, chairman of the ADAMS board, pointed to other places of worship nearby. The business park is home to the Christian Fellowship Church, which sits across Beaumeade Circle from the row of condo units in question, as well as the Jewish congregation with which ADAMS now shares space.

“We just want to be treated like all other faith groups that got approval,” Jaka said.

Tenants share parking spaces at the business park and some have said the number of people entering and leaving the ADAMS make it difficult for customers to access their businesses, particularly on Fridays when multiple services are held at ADAMS. Those concerned about the parking make clear that they are addressing an existing concern, not raising a religious issue.

“They’re growing and they continue to grow,” said David Donald, president and CEO of Keeper Technology. “We’re beyond the ability of the business park to handle this already.”

Donald said his concerns were solidly centered on business, pointing to challenging maneuvers that trucks making delivers to the complex face.

Former tenant Rovideo left the park because of the situation on Fridays.

“The parking and traffic situation on Fridays is really untenable and provided significant motivation for us to return to Fairfax County as our base of operations,” Rovideo partner Richard Peterson wrote in a letter to fellow tenant Donald, who has become a spokesperson for concerned condo association members.

When the Loudoun Planning Commission recommended approval in June, two commissioners were absent, two abstained from the vote and one voted against it. The four votes in support were enough to carry the recommendation forward.

In addition, the county staff indicated it would support the special exceptions if modifications are added. That said, a county staff report also raised the parking concern.

“However, staff continues to have reservations about the limited availability of parking space on-site during peak hours for the propose special exception uses, which in this case occur on Fridays, if other tenants of the Beaumeade Corporate Park are operating at maximum occupancy at the same time,” the report reads.

Parking and pedestrian connectivity remain among the concerns of staff members because there are no designated spaces for a particular tenant.

Despite that concern, John Merrithew, the assistant director of planning and zoning for the Loudoun, recently told supervisors, “We don’t believe they have a parking situation on the site.”

Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) raised questions about the staff’s position on the issue.

“I feel like the staff report on the parking situation is kind of muddled,” Letourneau said, but Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said he’s seen the problem himself.

“I’ve made visits there on Friday,” Buona said. “I don’t share the view that there’s not a problem. I’ve seen loading docks blocked.”

Letourneau responded that people were unhappy with the situation as it exists, so denying the application would leave the status quo intact.

In total, a trio of special exception applications call for a new worship center for up to 250 people, an accessory daycare for up to 96 students and private religious school for up to 180 students. In addition, ADAMS seeks a reduction in the number of spaces the condo must provide.

Plans call for a 4,000-square-foot worship hall, 2,439-square-feet of classrooms, a 1,350-square-foot daycare classroom, 1,100 square feet of circulation/ancillary space and 400 square feet of support office space.

To address parking concerns, ADAMS has posted signs in an attempt to restrict their members from using neighboring spaces. The center also maintains a presence in the parking lot to direct traffic.

Donald said at least one person attempting to go to a business was mistaken for an ADAMS member and told not to park in certain spaces. Jaka acknowledges such an incident occurred on at least on occasion that he’s aware of when a member of ADAMS who owns a business in the same row of condos attempted to park at his business.

For ADAMS, the notion of finding another location comes with uncertainty because similar concerns with be raised anywhere.

“Our service, because it’s in the middle of the day, it will have an impact anywhere,” he said.

The county’s public hearing on the item was Wednesday, July 13, after the Tribune’s print deadline. Supervisors likely will forward the item to a future meeting for a vote, or to a committee for additional review. Supervisors also could suspend the rules and approve the applications, but that typically is reserved for applications with no opposition.