Supervisors Move to Expand Rural Property Uses to Include Shooting Ranges

County supervisors are expanding how Loudoun’s rural properties can be used, making way for more eco-tourism, farm-based tourism and outdoor shooting ranges.

The board voted unanimously Thursday, April 19 on a necessary first step to change county zoning rules, which will lead to draft language from county planners, then public hearings and votes at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

Some of the proposed changes would create more consistency across agricultural and transitional zoning districts. However, “sports shooting range, outdoor” would be a new allowed use in Loudoun zoning. There are a handful of other zoning districts that permit indoor shooting and archery ranges—all in more developed areas of Loudoun. The new use would come with accompanying noise standards.

A great number of other possible changes to zoning rules in rural Loudoun have been sent back for work from the county’s Zoning Ordinance Action Group, its Rural Economic Development Council and Visit Loudoun. Those include topics ranging from changing regulations on distilleries to align with those on breweries; adding more designations for housing options for farm workers; updating some noise standards; and creating a designation and definition for farm restaurants, among others.

Some supervisors worried that the work to update zoning has ballooned from its original purpose.

“The biggest thing that I felt when this came to [the Transportation and Land Use Committee] with this laundry list, you might as well have said, hey, we want carte blanche to look at every single rural use known to man, and who knows how long that would take,” said Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian).

But others said a broader look—including into revised or new standards for some rural businesses—may be necessary.

“I just think that we’re being so pro-business that we’re forgetting the people who live near these proposed businesses as we try to expand their ability to be more successful, and I think we’ve got to remember the neighbors in all of these areas,” said Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg).

Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) agreed, leading a successful motion to also have those committee look at updating and writing new regulations on some types of businesses.

“If it weren’t for our rural economy, we wouldn’t have a western Loudoun for much longer,” Buffington said, “but in having a strong rural economy we have to have a balance, where we have a strong and high quality of life for our residents as well.”

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