Envision Loudoun Stakeholders Eye Tweaks, Not Overhaul, of Transition Area

After months of debate, the Envision Loudoun stakeholders committee has taken the first steps toward making concrete decision on the fate of the Transition Policy Area.

That area, a strip of land dividing rural west and suburban east, has been the subject of intense disagreement both within the committee and between the committee and the Board of Supervisors. Supervisors told the committee it was “way off track” when they found it was considering scenarios that could add 12,000-18,000 new homes to the transition area.

On Monday night, the committee voted to not increase development densities in most of that area. County staff members will analyze the committee’s vote and report back with what the projected impacts, after which the committee may modify its decisions again.

Many of the changes proposed by the committee address what neighborhoods should look like. The majority of transition area will be planned as maximum density of one house per acre, with those areas currently planned for house per 10 acres staying that way.

But there may be some upzoning as well. In particular, the committee is proposing to move approximately 844 acres—about 1.3 square miles—from Rural Policy Area into the transition area—498 acres between the Dulles Greenway and Evergreen Mills Road south of Leesburg, and 347 acres west of Evergreen Mills near Ryan Road.

The current transition area is 22,813 acres in total, or just under 36 square miles.

The area near Leesburg, under the latest proposal, would be designated for light industrial development, envisioned for warehousing, data centers, office space, and other facilities up to four stories high. It is currently zoned as an agricultural rural district, with allowances for up to one dwelling unit, or house, per 20 acres.

The area further south, near Watson, would be envisioned for single-family attached and detached houses at up to one unit per acre. It is currently an agricultural and residential district, with up to one unit per three acres.

The recommendations so far also would not support a proposal to put a data center complex by Goose Creek. That area would be zoned for a neighborhood or village with up to four homes per acre and “small footprint, neighborhood businesses.”

The committee backed away from its earlier focus on specific housing numbers—information they won’t have until county planners have time to analyze this latest proposed map of the transition area. The committee had been hashing out the various housing needs studies the county has commissioned over the last several years.

Two members of the committee, Piedmont Environmental Council representative Gem Bingol and Loudoun Preservation and Conservation Coalition and former Planning Commission Chairman Al Van Huyck, raised strong objections to removing land from the county’s rural policy area.

“We don’t need to make our numbers fit these numbers—what we need to do is make our county look the way we want it to look, and then see how many houses of each type can fit there,” said Kevin Ruedisueli, the Catoctin District appointee to the committee.

Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance representative Packie Crown agreed.

“We’re missing a big opportunity here to focus on what the vision for the county should be,” Crown said. “…We need to stop talking about the numbers, and we need to start talking about the vision and what it needs to be.”

Planning and Zoning Director Ricky Barker called that perspective “refreshing.”

County planners will take the stakeholders’ work so far and analyze it for its impacts on transportation and housing, then bring that back to the committee.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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