Editor: Most readers of this paper may not be aware that the county Board of Supervisors is about to decide whether to allow indoor sports complexes and commercial outdoor shooting ranges to be built throughout rural Loudoun County. The county’s Zoning Ordinance currently does not allow for such developments in rural areas, perhaps in recognition of the significant impacts they may have on other rural activities.
Warehouse-size indoor sports complexes, for example, could create even more traffic congestion than we already have, and further degrade our scenic byways and rural landscapes.
Commercial outdoor firing ranges could:
- Disrupt local businesses and cause the loss of jobs, incomes and tax revenues from Loudoun’s $1.7 billion per year rural tourism sector and our $180 million per year equine industry;
- Increase the risk of injury or poor health in cattle, sheep, dogs and other sensitive farm animals;
- Increase the danger from the small number of people who mishandle firearms in populated areas, such as the recent event in which bullets from a private firing range struck homes in Aldie; and
- loss of residential and other real estate values.
Our organization, Save Rural Loudoun, understands there may be reasonable ways to mitigate some of these risks. However, there are some potential conflicts for which we do not see a viable solution. We do not know, for example, how it would be possible to make a huge sportsplex, with its associated utilities, traffic and parking issues, compatible with local farming and other rural tourism businesses.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate in the county’s public records any analysis or discussion of either the risks or the potential mitigations. The Board of Supervisors is apparently being asked to create a new “by right” development opportunity for these types of commercial facilities without prior understanding or conditions on how the risks will be managed.
Readers should not be too surprised if they have not heard of this issue before. The county does not actively inform citizens about potential amendments to the zoning ordinance. Instead, it is up to you, fellow citizens, to regularly peruse the “Zoning Ordinance Amendments (ZOAM)” page on the county website for new announcements, and then to be able to interpret what the announcements actually mean for you.
In the current case, the proposal to allow indoor sports complexes and outdoor firing ranges to be built in rural areas can be found in an entertaining document titled “Rural Uses and Performance Standards, Phase 2.” If you happen to have been religiously following the ZOAM web page and somehow missed the significance of this document, we will not blame you. In our view, the county’s system for managing important changes to its zoning rules is not the best model of democratic transparency.
John Ellis, President
Save Rural Loudoun