Housing Assessment Triggers Bigger Questions for Comprehensive Plan Committee

The group of residents and industry stakeholders guiding the county’s comprehensive plan revision has had a crack at George Mason University’s housing needs study, and it raised even bigger questions than the 18,300 additional homes the study forecasts for 2040.

“Loudoun needs to decide what they want to be,” said Packie Crown, principal at land use firm Bowman Consulting, referencing a wealthy area Fairfax County: “Do they want to be the Great Falls of the region? And if they want to be Great Falls of the region—for the entire county to be the Great Falls of the region—then that means we can’t have affordable housing and workforce housing and some of the other nice things that we all talk about wanting and needing and being a part of a very vibrant community.”

Crown represents the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance on the committee.

As the group guiding work on the comprehensive plan, the stakeholders committee has to grapple with just those kinds of questions. And although the GMU study’s results are based on a set of assumptions that don’t incorporate major policy and demographic shifts planned for the Silver Line and possibly comprehensive plan, all of the county’s various looks at housing have a few things in common. One of them is a lack of affordable housing.

If people working closer to D.C. can’t find affordable housing, said developer B.F. Saul Vice President Todd Pearson, they won’t get new jobs—they’ll just find cheaper housing west of Loudoun and commute through it.

“So guess what?” Pearson said. “You still get all the traffic, all the road miles.” And without building enough housing, he said, there’s no way to bring prices down. Pearson represents the county’s Economic Development Advisory Committee on the committee.

Other members during Monday night’s work session saw the projected need figures as a prescription for change.

“In my opinion, the current plan, we’re in a big transition here,” said Joe Paciulli, president and CEO of the engineering consulting firm Paciulli, Simmons and Associates. “We’re changing the direction because of the different demands on the county, but also because of the reality of the market and the reality of what consumers want.” Paciulli represents the Board of Supervisors-appointed Zoning Ordinance Action Group.

Century 21 Redwood Realty Executive Vice President Lars Henriksen pointed out the significant number of single family homes the report predicts will be needed. That’s one of the trends county leaders are trying to shift away from with plans around future Metro stops for urban, walkable development.

“If we’re assuming the higher number to work with, then that changes things like the transition policy area,” Henriksen said, referencing the lower density buffer area between the suburban east and rural west in county policies. “It changes how we regard western Loudoun County, which, that would tick off a lot of my friends in western Loudoun County.” Henriksen represents the Dulles Area Association of Realtors.

Among all those debates—like affordable housing or the balance between rural and suburban or urban land in the county—the committee is now grappling with what direction to take the county overall.

“My frustration has been that we’ve talked all about wanting these wonderful things, and workforce housing, and all of these things, but when you get right down to it, we want to be Great Falls. And I think that’s OK, if that’s what people want in Loudoun County, but I think we need to be honest about it, and I think we need to show what the ramifications of that policy direction are,” Crown.

However, Crown said, putting “everything in one basket” has “failure written all over it at some point, too.”

“We are either going to set the course now for Loudoun County to become more expensive, more exclusive, more exclusionary, or we are going to create in the county an environment where we have more diversity,” Crown said.

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene

6 thoughts on “Housing Assessment Triggers Bigger Questions for Comprehensive Plan Committee

  • 2017-04-04 at 3:49 pm
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    The housing needs study that the BOS has before them was produced by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, which has received more than $10 million from real estate/mortgage executive Dwight Schar (there is even an endowed chair named after him. Star’s company, NVR, is the parent company of Ryan Homes. The parent and its child have massive interests in Loudoun, with a number of developments near the Transition Area. The developments include:
    Lovettsville Town Center
    Trailside at Ashburn (coming soon)
    Westmoore (Ashburn)
    Crescent Place (Leesburg)
    Willowsford
    Virginia Manor Condos (Aldie)
    Loudoun Crossing Condos (Aldie)
    Virginia Manor (Aldie)
    Discovery Square (Oak Hill)
    Stonehill (Aldie)
    The Meadows (Ashburn)
    West ridge Townhouse (Aldie)
    Townes at Village Walk (Leesburg)
    Willowsford
    Virginia Manor

    Prior to this “study,” whose methodology and conclusions should be closely analyzed, a real-estate blog (in 2012) and the SmartAssets website (which helps consumers calculate how expensive a house they can afford to buy)–for the past several years, have published “surveys” that purport to show that Loudoun is the “happiest” county. The peculiar criteria of the 2012 “survey” included housing starts; the SmartAssets surveys merely assess wealth.

    The bottom line is that there is a sophisticated and well-funded effort to justify a new onslaught of development that citizens don’t want and the county can’t afford. The development industry has become semi-sophisticated since the 2004-07 board, when Packie Crown was passing out little American flags to development industry employees at public comment periods, Joe Paciulli was fighting for delay after delay of the downzoning of Western Loudoun so that thousands more applications could make it through, and Supervisor Steve Snow was telling residents to move to Canada if they didn’t like the overdevelpment he was championing.

    Citizens have loudly and repeatedly said they don’t want more housing development that will bring more traffic congestion, more crowded schools, and degrade the quality of life here. Why is it that the Comp Plan Stakeholders committee is loaded with representatives of the development industry?

    • 2017-04-05 at 1:02 am
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      Totally agree – why are the developers Packie Crown et al once again telling the citizens of this county what we want?

      Tired of this and tired of our BOS NOT listening to its citizens.

      We have had problems with this same crowd of
      People for over 12 years – same folks sitting on the ZOAG yet they work for developers – special interests this is all beyond words unethical and they know it!

      Citizens don’t want more … if we have such a great County – best place to live, best health care, good schools etc etc – then protect what we have and keep it that way. If it works leave it alone.

  • 2017-04-04 at 5:37 pm
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    All the things Ms. Polkey said, plus:

    The basic logic doesn’t hold. From the Envision Loudoun forum, I found out that Loudoun has a very high level of people that both live and work in Loudoun. But Fairfax to the east has higher real estate prices. If the commuting nightmare fear mongering tactic was true, then Loudouners would leave the county in the morning and drive into Fairfax.

    Workforce housing is the current developer lie. We don’t need it. Loudoun does have inexpensive housing available. Further, why do people that work in the county have to live in the county? That really isn’t a priority.

    The more important question is “where are the jobs?” We need more commercial centers with jobs in Loudoun, not more money sucking houses.

    Every politician and developer knows transportation is a key NOVA issue. Therefore, they wrap every desire in a transportation wrapper to sell the sizzle while you ignore the steak. This guy (B.F. Saul Vice President Todd Pearson) is saying that whether or not we build more housing we get the same traffic. Think about that. What an absurdly contorted logic. Some people may move out and commute through, but most won’t. Put more houses in Loudoun and you GUARANTEE more traffic.

    Loudouners have had enough. Fix the transportation infrastructure and show us you can come up with an actual transportation solution. After that is completed, then let’s build more houses.

  • 2017-04-04 at 5:38 pm
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    PS Don’t mess with the Transition Zone. It is the barometer for development in the whole county. If it falls, western Loudoun is next.

  • 2017-04-04 at 5:59 pm
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    So I’m not the only one who’s reading this and thinking “What the… it’s all developers and realtors on this committee?!” Where are the regular taxpaying home owning citizens who have to pay for all of this in taxes and quality of life?

    These 1 percenter developers do not have Loudoun’s best interests’ at heart. How many of these people actually live in Loudoun?

    The current BOS appointed these people? Well Well..

    • 2017-04-05 at 12:53 am
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      Chris

      Totally agree with you – watched the Comprehensive Plan stakeholders meeting last night (video is on county website) Transition citizen group was mentioned for info input and that was answered with “we don’t need outside input, that’s what we have staff for”. So much for citizen input to the plan. There are 4,000 Citizen comments yet they are not going to be analyzed in anyway – they are not listening. A yiou said developers, developers … I am not the only one fed up with all of this!

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