Affordable Homes Move Closer to Approval in Sterling

A proposal to switch plans to build 440 age-restricted homes in Sterling with plans for a smaller development with price-controlled housing is moving ahead in Planning Commission review.

The developer is asking permission to build 316 homes, including 98 age-restricted, price-controlled condominiums. The development would also include 144 more condos with elevators and underground parking and 74 townhouses.

Those age-restricted apartments would be Affordable Housing Units—federally-defined, rent-controlled housing supported by special financing and tax incentives. That would limit the cost of rent to no more than 30 percent of 60 percent of the area median income—in Loudoun, $1,407 a month for a family of two. They would also be in the recently designated opportunity zone, which helps that development win affordable housing incentives like such as tax credits.

The property sits between Bartholomew Fair Drive and Potomac View Road in Sterling, next to Costco and the Cascades Overlook mixed-use development.

“I think this is going to be a good fit once we work through the details,” said Commissioner Dan Lloyd (Sterling).

The original plans, The Gatherings at Cascades Overlook, narrowly won approval from the Board of Supervisors in 2007. The resulting zoning on the property is for an age-restricted planned development. But since then, the property has remained vacant, and the property’s owners have asked the county for permission to build fewer homes, but open them up to more people.

“We’re here to tell you a story tonight of a tale of two plans,” said developer Michael Capretti during the commission’s July 24 public hearing. He pointed out that the new application, Mt. Sterling, is in almost every way smaller in scope than what was previlously approved—with 28 percent fewer units, 32 percent fewer units per acre, a 25 percent decrease in maximum building height to 45 feet, and a 48 percent decrease in total square footage. Although the developer and county planners are still negotiating a proffer agreement, the application also stands to come with a 97 percent increase in regional road contributions, up to $872,000.

However, commissioners and county planners do have some concerns about the application—such as clear-cutting the entire property. Lloyd said, “we really have an opportunity to make a visually pleasing planned community look in the Sterling area.” He said a start would be to include a green buffer in the developer’s plans to widen Potomac View Road.

“If we’re going to improve this road, if we could make it look kind of like Algonkian Parkway, I mean we have the opportunity to do that,” Lloyd said. “… If I’m going to give on clear-cutting the whole property, I want to have some really nice plantings up and down Potomac View Road.”

He also asked the developer to integrate higher-end materials into the affordable units, and try to make the development match the developer’s neighboring Cascades Overlook.

There also remain lingering concerns over already congested intersections in the area. But commissioners expressed confidence the county could arrive at an agreement with the developer.

“I think we’re pretty close to getting this approved,” said Commissioner Jeff Salmon (Dulles). “It sounds like there’s some cleanup for this.”

Commissioners sent the application to another work session for further review.

If the project goes ahead with the affordable housing units, it would almost make up for the number of Affordable Dwelling Units—a county program similar to federal Affordable Housing Units—projected to age out of the county program this year. In February, a report from Commissioner of the Revenue Robert S. Wertz Jr. found 2,097 units in the county’s price-controlled program, but restrictions on 109 would expire by the end of the year. It would also dramatically increase the number of Affordable Dwelling Units in the Sterling District, which as of the February report had only eight.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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