One Loudoun’s beleaguered application to add hundreds of new homes, a self-storage facility, reduce a setback from Rt. 7 and more was narrowly rejected by the Board of Supervisors on Thursday.
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) gave a fiery speech in defense of the application, contrasting the ongoing review of the Silver Line Comprehensive Plan Amendment—which contemplates allowing more than 4,000 additional townhouses within the Metro tax district—to the One Loudoun application, which proposes 40 townhouses and 260 apartments. Meyer asserted that the changes requested for a portion of the 358-acre development would address a demand for more affordable, millennial-focused housing in the county.
“Here’s what it comes down to,” Meyer said. “Anyone who votes against this, and I know who you are, who supported 4,400 townhouses, I will hold you accountable, my constituents will hold you accountable, any time you run for anything in the future.”
That didn’t sit well with other supervisors.
“I don’t appreciate threats,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “Be very careful. … Secondly, I don’t appreciate half-truths.”
Buona pointed out that the Silver Line plans are still under review and that the latest draft would set a maximum of 4,400 townhomes for the area—not approve them. He also said the county is seeing more demand for townhouses than for apartments. To avoid putting the cost for Metro on the rest of the county, Buona said, the tax district around the planned Metro stations must flourish.
“If we don’t make it work, guess what: everybody in the county’s going to pay for Metro,” Buona said.
Even Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), who supported One Loudoun’s application, stepped back from Meyer’s remarks.
“There needs to be made a clear distinction on what is in the comprehensive plan,” Volpe said. “That is the vision. That is not the zoning ordinance, so should none of the landowners in that area want to build townhouses, if they have a different vision or bring through a different rezoning, 4,400 townhomes in no way is a guarantee to occur.”
“The bottom line is, the question for us is, where do we want growth?” Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said. “Where do we want multifamily growth, in particular? Do we want it somewhere that’s not transit oriented, or do we want it in our transit-oriented tax districts?”
Letourneau also said that “at some point, the word of the Board of Supervisors has to mean something.”
“We have been through multiple iterations of various applications, including this one, where the board makes a deal, and then there’s a request to change the deal, and we give in, and then there’s another request to change the deal, and then we give in again, and so on,” Letourneau said. He said the most recent change to One Loudoun’s development plans, which removed requirements meant to ensure commercial development happens simultaneously with residential building, was “the most troubling.”
“The fact is that the applicant does not have to build a single square foot of retail or commercial or office in this project ever again because of the action that the previous board took,” Letourneau said. “So if that’s going to be the case, then I’m not particularly excited about giving them even more residential, particularly when there’s several hundred residential units that they have approval for that they haven’t built yet.”
Other supervisors also expressed reservations, particularly about road infrastructure. County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said that was the only reason she voted against the application.
“I live in Lansdowne, and so I live right near One Loudoun,” Randall said. “And the reason I’m voting no on this is because I understand that there will be new roads built right around One Loudoun, but I think we can’t look at development in four square block issues. We have to look at development in a much more holistic way.”
Meyer argued that high apartment rents—including the rent he paid when he previously lived in Loudoun Station, which he said was $1,800 a month—were evidence that there is more demand than is realized for apartment homes. He recently moved to a home in One Loudoun.
“If you really think that our long-term vision needs to include basically 5,000 additional townhouses in Ashburn, I think you’re wildly out of touch,” Meyer said. “Secondly, if you think that’s what it needs to make Metro work, then you probably need to rethink why we brought Metro here.”
One Loudoun’s latest application was first proposed with 740 new residential units, coming down on that number several times over the course of several months of negotiations and public hearings. Plans to build a larger indoor recreation center for the county government to manage were also eventually scrapped in favor of a cash contribution and parking garage.
Supervisors voted down the application 5-4, with Supervisors Meyer, Volpe, Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) and Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) in favor.