Last week’s Board of Supervisors’ decision to merge its effort to plan development along the Silver Line corridor into the broader Envision Loudoun comprehensive plan update was the right move, albeit a little late in the game.
It was a nonsensical exercise to push the two critically important long-range community development policies forward on independent parallel tracks. The Silver Line plan was potentially just weeks or even days away from adoption, but the Envision Loudoun project—the one that lays the foundation for the next two decades of growth—won’t wrap up until next year. Although supervisors feel pressure to build real estate values along the rail line to generate the taxes needed to pay the county’s share of the Silver Line, getting the development decisions right is the best way to ensure that happens.
There is another step supervisors should take, as well. That is to put on hold consideration of proposed revisions to the Town Center zoning rules that also have arrived at their dais. The package of changes converts a mixed-use development opportunity that so far has seen relatively limited use with an anything-goes type of zoning that can be applied almost anywhere. It offers developers maximum flexibility—under the proposal they could build apartments, data centers or even both. Yes, it could speed construction of some long dormant projects, particularly by converting commercial land to residential use. However, the outcome of that zoning push may not mesh well with the development and design goals expected to come from the Envision Loudoun. And when the rush is over, there will be fewer opportunities to bring the fresh vision of Loudoun’s future to reality.
That vision ultimately will be carried out in a partnership among county leaders, landowners/developers and residents. They are around the table now setting the foundations of that important work. That needs to be the priority. If they succeed, the other elements—from what is built along the rail line to how new mixed-use neighborhoods should be created—will all fall into place.