Would-Be Developers in Old Ashburn: ‘It’s Going to Make Some Folks Die Poor’

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.

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene

3 thoughts on “Would-Be Developers in Old Ashburn: ‘It’s Going to Make Some Folks Die Poor’

  • 2017-03-30 at 4:20 pm
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    While I do feel bad for the land owners that had hoped to sell their land to fund their retirement, it seems that these were speculative land purchases, in hopes that they could cash in like so many other land owners in Loudoun County. If your entire retirement plan was to sell your land at a high profit margin, maybe you didn’t have enough money to be playing in that sandbox.

    In general, Loudoun County would be better off with fewer people buying land with the hopes of selling it for profit, in favor of people buying land that they intend to use and hold on to. If you buy it just to “flip” it, you have to understand that your profit isn’t realized until it’s sold, and that up until that point, there’s always a risk that there will be market changes (including re-zoning, or other legislative actions) that will devalue your investment.

    The sooner the local boards/committees start to make these changes, the sooner overall property values will grow for current owners, while at the same time cutting back on the ridiculous speculative land grabs that have disoriented the local economy for land/housing by encouraging teardowns/rebuilds for high-profit, high-density housing.

  • 2017-03-31 at 10:33 am
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    These folks haven’t gained anything to lose. And, if they have 21 acres, they can still develop it at 4 houses an acre netting 84 houses. It isn’t a rich versus poor debate. It is a rich versus really rich debate. Either way the landowner will retire comfortably.

  • 2017-04-02 at 6:43 pm
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    These are speculators who can still make a profit off of the 4-house rule. Even THAT seems like packing in the rats.
    Packing in houses will also affect services – sewer and water for sure, as well as school, roads/traffic, and many other considerations, not just ‘looks’, history, or comfort.
    These money-makers will be long gone and never suffer the effects of their own developments and selfish planning anyway.

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