One of the biggest questions facing Loudoun planning commissioners as they write the county’s new comprehensive plan is how many new homes to expect—and how to accommodate them. And county planners overseeing the project see limited options.
Deputy Director of Planning and Zoning Alaina Ray told planning commissioners on Aug. 30 “options are very limited in the Suburban Policy Area.” Where once Loudoun was prized for its vast acres of undeveloped land, ripe for rows of townhouses, today most of the land planned for big residential developments already has them. In the suburban policy area in the county’s east, county planners counted up just over 3,500 vacant acres where homes would be allowed.
“South Riding is 2,000 acres, so this is one and a half South Ridings,” said Commissioner Jeff Salmon (Dulles). “So you’re really not talking about a whole lot of space.”
According to an analysis of the draft comprehensive plan under review by the Planning Commission, it will provide for an additional 52,261 homes—well short of a forecasted demand of 74,870 homes. To hit a target 75 percent of demand, commissioners would need to find room for almost 4,000 homes more.
The land needed for capital facilities—such as schools, libraries, parks—to serve even the homes already in the plan is estimated at 3,495 acres.
Planners are looking at several options in that area, such as allowing redevelopment in neighborhoods with homes on large lots.
“These are older areas, typically, that were bypassed with central utilities, so they don’t have those utilities now,” Ray said. “… Some examples of those would be Potomac Farms, Broad Run Farms, Oak Grove, some of those areas. Essentially if you allowed higher density in those areas, and allowed those neighborhoods to connect to central utilities, it could spur some redevelopment in those areas.”
But even that, planning commissioners fear, won’t move the needle. Commissioner Chairman Cliff Keirce (Broad Run) said those numbers are so small and unpredictable they’re not worth building into plan forecasts.
That leaves planners looking at an area of the county with some open space—the Transition Policy Area between suburban east and rural west. The stakeholder steering committee that prepared the first draft of the plan already suggested allowing more homes to be built in that area, but county planners believe they may need even more.
To find those areas, they sought land with access to transportation networks, few environmental constraints, proximity to needs like shopping and schools, and where that building would fit with the development around it.
In particular, they cited areas in the far southeastern areas of the county, along with an area north of the Village of Lenah, between Rt. 50 and Evergreen Mills Road.
The committee will continue its work through September, with plans to put its proposed plan to a public hearing in October or November.