Editorial: Unnecessary Race

When a Board of Supervisors enters its final month in office, it usually is under pressure to make decisions on a list of projects that face uncertain futures in the hands of newly elected representatives who take their seats in January.

This December, it is not developers racing to meet that deadline as much as it is the supervisors themselves. Among the final items on the board’s to-do list is signing off on the years-long effort of a panel of building industry experts it commissioned to make the zoning ordinance more business-friendly and bring it up to date with state and federal regulations.

Changes to the county’s regulations to protect floodplains and steep slopes are heading for votes next month. So is the proposal to add muscle—raising housing limits and expanding the range of business uses to be considered—to the county’s highest density zoning district.

The Mixed-Use Business District, or MUB, has the opportunity to offer an attractive development alternative to both land owners and county planners. The regulations already have been put to use, on paper anyway, at the corner of Rt. 7 and Rt. 28 in the Kincora project.

The notion of promoting more mixed-use development in the Silver Line corridor has been widely championed over the past year as county leaders seek to maximize their investment in rail. The MUB zoning district likely will play an important role in allowing that vision to materialize over the next several decades.

The race to the finish line in this case is unnecessary. The incoming board of already has laid out clear plans to take a new, comprehensive look at the county’s planning policies. A lot of that work—probably the most important element—will focus on tackling the mixed-use development concept. Along with that effort will come updated studies of the transportation and community infrastructure that will be needed to serve the development over the next 20 years. That work is critical to determining where development, especially at high, urban-scale densities, should or should not occur.

The work done by the Zoning Ordinance Action Group and the Planning Commission provides a solid base from which to analyze the benefits offered by these town centers on steroids. The value of that work won’t erode when the new supervisors take office. Instead, it gives them an additional tool to lay out the base plan for Loudoun’s next generation.