When AOL built its new corporate headquarters outside Washington D.C. a decade ago, the company set off an explosion of poorly planned exurban sprawl. By plopping its campus in the middle of nowhere and miles from any public transportation, AOL helped overwhelm local highways with commuter traffic that's now among the worst in the nation and spurred the overdevelopment of the formerly bucolic horse country of Loudoun County, Virginia.
County officials offered AOL lots of tax breaks to come and create this smog-choked mess, but now, the company's top executives have decided that they'd rather be somewhere more interesting. The tech company announced yesterday that AOL's senior management would be fleeing its dreary Dulles office park for the better bagels, pizza and public transportation of New York City. Of course, the execs say that it's because they need to be closer to the advertising business. But I think the rich guys at the top simply hate the very life-sucking suburbs they helped create as much as the rest of us do. Before AOL's entire upper tax bracket decamps to Madison Avenue, Loudoun County should ask for its money back.