Plans to Raise Housing Cap, Add Uses To High-Density District Clear Panel

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote next week on a proposal to add more flexibility for developers in the county’s highest density mixed-use zoning district. However, not all members are sure it should be done in the final weeks of their term.

The revisions to the Planned Development-Mixed Use Business regulations were drawn up by the board-appointed Zoning Ordinance Action Group. The package of changes cleared review by the county Planning Commission last week, days after the Board of Supervisors held its public hearing on the proposal.

The board’s Transportation/Land Use Committee spent two hours Friday debating whether to advance the ordinance change or to let the next Board of Supervisors take it up.

The MUB district was designed for use along the county’s major development corridors, including the Dulles Greenway and Rt. 28. It promotes the creation of high-density mixed-use centers that feature urban-scale layouts and access to mass transit services. MUB developments along bus routes and rail lines are granted higher densities. Under the action group’s proposal, residential densities could reach 50 units per acre if developers are granted bonuses offered for providing affordable and workforce housing.

During Friday’s meeting, supervisors were most concerned that MUB projects could be developed throughout eastern Loudoun, including in the low-density Transition Area. Staff members said developers could always request a rezoning to the high-density district, but they wouldn’t recommend approval unless the land was along one of the prime development corridors. However, for developers who can win five supervisor votes, the projects would be allowed on any property that is at least 5 acres in size and served by central utilities and a major road.

Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) said the Transition Zone should be off limits to such high-density development.

County Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) agreed. He said the county needed to get a firm grasp on the transportation and service impacts that would come with allowing higher densities than currently planned.

County staff members said there are no plans for such studies, but the impacts of each project would be assessed during the rezoning process on a case-by-case basis. That approach didn’t ease the worries of critics.

“There is so much that needs to be done on this. I just don’t see it happening here in the next month,” Clarke said.

“We still don’t have this ready for prime time,” York said.

Ultimately, county planners offered to work with the county attorney’s office to devise language that would limit where MUB projects could go, or try to make it clear the Transition Zone was not a permissible location.

Committee members also raised concerns about the action group’s recommendation to greatly expand the types of uses permitted in the high-density business districts.

Fifty-two uses are proposed to be added. Supervisors zoned in one. Data centers were deleted, as critics argued the large buildings with few employees would detract from the urban community the zoning rules envision.

Clarke tried to kill the proposed changes, but her motion to hold them in committee indefinitely failed to find any supporters. Ultimately, York cast the swing vote as the panel voted 3-2 to allow a full board vote on Dec. 2. Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) joined Clarke in opposing that motion.

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