Property owners who want to build tightly-packed townhomes in Old Ashburn are pleading with the county not to limit development there to four homes per acre.
Those property owners have filed site plans to build 135 townhouses in the village, at Hay and Ashburn roads and along Jenkins Lane; 26 townhomes worth of site plans have already been approved.
County planners are meanwhile working to close an apparent oversight in the rules governing rural commercial zoning, which allow townhomes by-right, meaning without special permission. But they establish no maximum residential density, essentially meaning builders can pack in as many townhouses as they can fit on the property.
Some of those property owners bet big on building townhomes on investment properties, and have paid tens of thousands of dollars in county fees. They stayed at a public hearing that lasted until midnight Tuesday to make their case.
“This is our retirement, this is our nest egg,” said David Fogle. He has previously said that he will not have the time to make up the loss in his lifetime. “It’s going to make some folks die poor,” he said.
“We wanted a retirement,” said Edna Cross, who said she and her husband Jim have been farming in Loudoun for years. “A retirement which now is being taken away from us.”
Some of those people said the four-units-per-acre cap—single-family home density—is too low for Old Ashburn. They argue with rural commercial districts scattered across the county, there is no one-size-fits all answer.
“Thirty years, and this is our big hoorah,” said Edna Cross’s husband, Jim. The Crosses own a 21-acre piece of property near StoneSprings Hospital Center that is zoned rural commercial and is currently surrounded by relatively low-density, wooded lots. “And nobody wants it now. First it was the damn power lines, then that got changed, and now it’s reducing my density.” He argued that the correct density for a piece of property near StoneSprings Hospital Center would be multistory apartments.
But other homeowners, particularly in Old Ashburn, say allowing townhome complexes would destroy the historic neighborhood and make the streets more dangerous. David Tobin argued that the opening of Gloucester Parkway and Russell Branch Parkway has already brought more through traffic into Old Ashburn.
“We’re sure to see accidents here, but let’s not make it worse by adding all the extra journeys that the new dwellings would generate,” Tobin said. “Every time there is an accident, everyone’s going to ask how this was allowed to happen.”
Brian Bencic said “no one is getting poor” selling that property even with the residential density cap.
“I doubt any one of these owners would dare to buy one of their own units that they propose to squeeze into the middle of Old Ashburn,” Bencic said. “What’s proposed is unlivable and untenable.”
And Tim Stone, president of the homeowner’s association in Old Ashburn, said the community wants developers to do well, but with development that fits the community.
“The bottom line is: we want development, but we want development that makes sense,” Stone said. “And what we’re seeing in these proposals doesn’t make sense.”
The Planning Commission will hold a special public hearing on April 10 before sending the question back to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on April 12. Supervisors will likely vote on the zoning amendment April 20.