Residents of Old Ashburn turned out to the county board’s meeting Thursday to ask supervisors to hurry along a rezoning change to put a cap on residential density in rural commercial districts.
Neighbors are worried about paperwork filed with the county to build 135 townhouses in the village; 26 have already been approved. During debates over a proposed public-private partnership to convert the Old Arcola School into affordable housing last year, the county leaders discovered that its rural commercial zoning district had no limit on residential density—essentially meaning that property owners have the right to pack in as many townhouses as they can fit on that property.
The county is working on an amendment to the zoning rules that would cap residential units at four per acre—similar to other rural districts with single-family homes. But several site plans have already been filed with the county and are awaiting approval.
“We’re basically in a race with the administrative process,” said Tim Stone, president of the Ashburn Station Homeowners Association. “If Wellers Two and Trail View are approved before this occurs, it’s a moot point, and I just want to emphasize how important that it is to our community.”
The Wellers Two application is to build 47 townhomes at Hay Road and Ashburn Road; Trail View is an application to build 46 townhomes along Jenkins Lane.
Some property owners in the area are asking supervisors not to change the rules one them, because they have made significant investments in the planned townhome developments.
“If we don’t do anything there, it’s going to stay the same,” said Tim Saville, whose father Harry Saville has plans to build 16 townhomes near the Ashburn Colored School. “The 7-Eleven’s been robbed three times.”
Saville has said his father has poured his life savings into what he called an “investment property” purchased in 1970.
Supervisors show every sign of approving the residential cap, but the decision has been delayed by at least a month because of a mistake by county staffers. An oversight by the county staff meant legally required notifications only started going out the day before the public hearing. The county will hold more public hearings at the planning commission on April 10 and at the Board of Supervisors again two days later on April 12.
Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), who was chairing Thursday’s meeting in the absence of County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), said a vote on April 12 is possible, but unlikely. To vote at the public hearing, the board would have to suspend its own rules of order. In the normal course of business, the board would vote on the zoning change at its meeting April 20.
“The Board of Supervisors, while it’s a not a written policy, generally, we do not take action on an item in a public hearing if there is any controversy whatsoever about the item at the public hearing,” Buona said. “Could it happen April 12? Yes,” however, he said it is “extremely likely” the vote will occur at the April 20 meeting.