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Young Group Self-Storage Development on Sterling, VA, Church Property Causes Controversy


Update 7/27/16 – Controversy regarding the fate of a 100-year-old church on the site of a self-storage development by The Young Group has continued, resulting in the cancellation of plans to preserve the building’s façade and move it to a “pocket park” on the corner of the property. Instead, the park will include an art installation along with benches, pavers and some landscaping. A historical plaque and repurposed organ pipes will be part of the project, Young told the source.

County staff classified the church façade as a structure, which would have reduced the size of the self-storage facility in order to meet lot-coverage requirements, Young said. Due to the revamped plan for the church, The Young Group will increase its seed money for the park from $5,000 to $25,000 to whichever organization comes forward to handle park maintenance, the source reported.

Relocating the church, which would have involved disassembling, moving and reassembling it, in addition to renovations, proved to be cost-prohibitive, Young said. “We’re trying to be generous,” he told the source. “In my community, in Falls Church, if I told folks that I was going to give them a pocket park with a little bit of art on it, they’d go nuts and say, ‘You’re the most wonderful guy in the whole damn world.’”

Project opponents recently visited the property owner’s residence in Fairfax, Va., and a last-ditch effort to scuttle the project with an appeal to the board of zoning appeals was denied, according to the source. “The whole thing is just ridiculous and impossible,” Young said. “For a building that’s been declared non-historic, for a building that’s in very, very bad physical condition, for a building where all the architecturally important things were taken away in the ’70s, what’s left?”

The Sterling Foundation, which had been slated to maintain the park, said it didn’t have enough time to raise funds to save the church. The nonprofit rejected a contract from the developer to maintain the church because it made the nonprofit responsible for the park for 25 years without indemnity, Aaron Gilman, the group’s chairman, told the source.

“We gave it a shot,” Gilman said. “I think they’re going to plow it. It’s too bad, but that’s just the way the developer wants it, and he has the right to do what he should be able to do with his property. He did go through the right avenues; he did get the right approvals. It just hurts to see Sterling history getting torn down for a five-story warehouse.”

3/4/16 – Real estate developer The Young Group LLC received zoning approval this week to convert a former church in Sterling, Va., to self-storage. The Loudoun County Board of Zoning Appeals approved rezoning the former Davis Church at the corner of Davis Drive and West Church Road after residents spoke out against the project. The church has been vacant for 30 years, according to the source.

The proposed four-story facility will comprise 88,842 square feet of storage space on the 1.1-acre lot. Robert Young, president of The Young Group, told the board he’ll save part of the church by moving its recognizable façade and bell tower to another part of the property. The project will cost $100,000 to $150,000 to build, according to the developer’s legal representative, Andrew Painter. The company will also donate a small portion of the land to the county as well as $5,000 in seed money to The Sterling Foundation Inc., a local nonprofit, to develop and maintain a “pocket park.”

The change in development plans came after company representatives met with residents in late December to discuss how the historic building might be incorporated into the facility’s design. “It would preserve the most interesting elements of the structure: the bell tower, the front, the entrances,” Joe Wetzel, senior vice president of The Young Group, told residents during the Dec. 30 meeting.

Despite the design alterations, some residents still opposed the project. Nine people addressed the zoning board during the most recent hearing to express their concerns. One said the storage facility would be a departure from the neighborhood’s historic character, the source reported.

“It breaks my heart that we’re losing something so quaint and beautiful, even though, yes, it’s run down, but it can be so much better,” said resident Angela Holmer.

The board voted 3-2 to approve the rezoning. Chairwoman Nan M. Joseph Forbes and E. Page Moffett opposed.

The Young Group specializes in the development and management of office, residential, retail, self-storage and warehouse space.


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