Supervisors have passed a rule designed to forestall dozens of new townhomes planned for Old Ashburn—with one exception.
During deliberations over an application at Old Arcola School, the county discovered that a relatively scarce type of zoning district, scattered across the county, allowed residential building but had no cap on density. That meant, essentially, that developers could build as many townhouses in that zoning as they could fit on the lot.
Now the county has adopted a rule capping townhouses in rural commercial zoning districts at four units per acre, similar to neighborhoods of single-family homes. Supervisors exempted site plans that had already been approved by county staff.
Supervisors were under the gun to get the zoning amendment passed—applications to pack more than a hundred more townhomes into Old Ashburn had been filed with the county and were awaiting approval. Three more applications, totaling 34 units, had won approval between December 2014 and August 2016. One more application, Harry Saville’s application to build 16 units on his property, won conditional approval the day of the meeting and was also grandfathered. The historic Ashburn Colored School stands further up Ashburn Road on the same parcel.
In all, supervisors’ action stopped 115 townhouses in Old Ashburn, and another 69 units at the corner of Stone Springs Boulevard and Evergreen Mills Road.
Despite the rush, getting to the vote took seven meetings. Since the board approved a resolution declaring its intent to amend the zoning rule, the amendment has been to a Planning Commission public hearing, a commission work session, a Board of Supervisors public hearing, and a board work session. Then, because of a gaffe with legally required notification of affected property owners, the rule went back to the commission for two more public hearings before returning to the board for yet another public hearing.
The rule faced opposition along the way from the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association and developers with a stake in it.
Brad Kline, the developer behind one of the applications, brought pictures of some of Old Ashburn properties to the board’s last public hearing.
“I’m not sure why anybody would want to keep this kind of property and these kinds of uses or these old buildings,” Kline said. “But I’m here to help and work with the citizens any way we can.”
Residents of Old Ashburn have come out in droves to every public hearing to ask supervisors to pass the amendment as soon as possible. And a handful of residents from western Loudoun asked the board to go yet farther, arguing that four residences per acre was too many for their area.
Board members have argued that, without access to water and sewer, the space requirements for a septic field will make four units per acre unrealistic in the west.
“We are simply trying to follow the intent of the original rural commercial district,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run).
Supervisors have also said this district, which applies to parcels scattered across the county, may change when the county completes an ongoing review of its comprehensive plan.
“There has been this tradition in the county that you have a zoning district and you have it across the entire county, and that we actually need to look at different categories based on where they are in the county,” said Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian).