A new zoning ordinance amendment adopted by the Board of Supervisors could change the look of Rt. 7 between Leesburg and the Broad Run.
The zoning change reduces the building setback from the Rt. 7 right-of-way from 300 feet to 200, increases the parking setback from 100 to 125, and puts in place new requirements for planting and buffering in the green space along the highway.
Planting will now be allowed through the entire setback area, including areas where public utility easements previously prevented planting. At least half of the plants must be native, and at least three quarters of them must be flowering plants. The ordinance also requires that for every 100 feet along the road, there must be two understory trees, two evergreen trees, four canopy trees, and 50 shrubs.
Work on changing the ordinance began last spring as the result of a long trend of developers along Rt. 7 requesting exceptions to the county’s 300-foot building setback between Leesburg and the Broad Run. Over the years, supervisors have granted exceptions for several major planned developments, including Lexington 7, One Loudoun, and Commonwealth Center—the latter down to 100 feet. There are also uneven exceptions to the rule at Lansdowne.
Some parking along Rt. 7 will now fall within the setback. The county cannot demand those properties remove the parking, but neither can it be expanded within the setback.
Rt. 7 along that stretch will still have the largest parking setbacks in the county. The next-largest setbacks are 100 feet from the right-of-way.
Ben Tissue, representing Bluemont Nursery, said the company applauded the reduced building setback, but asked for a 100-foot parking setback, which was suggested during the development of the new requirements.
“We think that we could use that extra 25 feet in the development of our property because parking is at a premium on any of those parcels along Rt. 7,” Tissue said.
The 125-foot parking setback represents a compromise between the original proposal, for 150 feet, and supervisors who pushed for a 100-foot parking setback.
“What we’re doing here is we’re creating a standard on Rt. 7 that exceeds any standard that exists on any other corridor in the county in our zoning ordinance,” said Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). But others, like County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), said that’s the idea.
“I don’t think every section of the county needs to be completely uniform,” Randall said. “I think for things to look different as you drive around the county is actually a good thing.”
Supervisors adopted the new rules unanimously Feb. 14.