Commission Signs Off on Rural Commercial Zoning Change

The Planning Commission has recommended the Board of Supervisors cap how dense housing can be in certain rural commercial districts.

The comparatively rare rural commercial zoning designation exists in areas scattered across the county, some of which aren’t very rural anymore—such as Old Ashburn. County officials and planners have been working to fix what they see as an oversight in the rules governing that district: although townhomes are a permitted use, unlike any other zoning designation, there is no upper limit on residential density. The new rule would cap density at four residential units per acre, similar to areas with single-family homes.

Supporters and opponents again made their cases on the amendment at the third public hearing on the topic Monday night—a hearing necessitated by an oversight by county staff. Legally-required notices on the zoning change did not go out until the day before the Board of Supervisors’ public hearing on the topic, too little time to satisfy legal requirements. The Planning Commission had already held a public hearing on the change and had recommended it be approved in February.

Several site plans proposing construction of dozens of new townhouses in rural commercial districts, especially in Old Ashburn, have already been filed with the county for administrative approval.

“The character of this zoning amendment is purely political,” said David Fogle, who is part of one of those applications. “The county has recently and previously approved townhome development in Ashburn at higher density than those applications, that have been under review for almost two years.” He said some of the buildings that would be torn down in those applications are “probably termite-infested, and need to come down.”

Richard Mills said damage done to the community by allowing high-density development would be irreparable.

“I support people like Mr. Fogle who want to be able to sell and develop their property,” Mills said. “However, it can’t be done at the expense of the community and the people who are going to live and work there for the next ten or fifteen years.”

Proponents of the zoning change in Old Ashburn say they have a petition with more than 1,500 signatures.

“We’re in a bit of a race with the developers,” said Ashburn Station Homeowners’ Association President Tim Stone. “We would ask you not only to pass this, but as strongly as possible to influence the Board of Supervisors to vote on this Wednesday and be done with it.”

A Board of Supervisors public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 12. Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) has said it was possible but unlikely that the board will suspend its usual rules and vote at the same meeting as the public hearing.

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