Loudoun Mayors Repeat Comp Plan Concerns, Offer Alternative

About a month after a meeting at which the leaders of Loudoun’s seven towns expressed strong concerns about the Planning Commission’s work on Loudoun’s new comprehensive plan, the Coalition of Loudoun Towns is back with some alternatives.

Loudoun’s mayors were worried in large part about expanding the Transition Policy Area, the strip of land between the county’s rural west and suburban east, westward. They also worried about the Planning Commission’s plan to meet increased housing demand by allowing more homes in that area.

“We feel strongly, as do 80% of county citizens, that this sets the county on the wrong long-term development path and jeopardizes many of the unique features of the county which make it the special place it is,” reads a letter to the Planning Commission this week signed by the mayors of Leesburg, Purcellville, Round Hill, Hillsboro, Hamilton, Lovettsville, and Middleburg. And in that letter, they said they got pushback from commissioners on that, and “we were challenged with recommending alternatives to meet those planned housing needs through redevelopment and infill within the Suburban Policy Area.”

That is what they have done, with a plan they say could absorb another 8,000 to 10,000 homes in the Suburban Policy Area, without expanding development in the Transition Policy Area or displacing existing homes in the east.

That letter says county leaders should not allow expansion or densification of the transition area, because “as long as new greenfield sites are being opened up to new development, developers will have no economic incentive to develop well-located sites in the Suburban Policy Area.”

It also argues the county must expand its affordable housing policies by removing exemptions for some types of development. “Only with both of these changes in place can the County return to its original focus of providing a range of housing in the east while protecting the rural west,” they wrote.

Instead, they suggested encouraging suburban infill, development, and redevelopment. “Redevelopment of existing light industrial and flex space, as well as suburban office parks and older, low density multi-family developments, can allow low density automobile-oriented uses to be recreated as walkable, mixed-use developments that are now in market demand.” The letters gives the example of a 54-acre flex-industrial site on Woodland Road near Cascades Parkway. They say, if redeveloped according to the guidelines for a suburban town center in the latest draft of the new comprehensive plan, that site could accommodate up to 1,565 apartments, with 196 affordable units and more than 3 million square feet of commercial space.

“While Loudoun County will continue to see strong demand for new housing, the Coalition of Loudoun Towns opposes any change to the County’s Comprehensive Plan that would satisfy this demand by expanding the boundaries of, or adding density to, the Transitional Policy Area,” the group concluded. “Instead the County should focus on residential growth through the redevelopment of strategic sites in the Suburban Policy Area, including low-density suburban office parks, older low-density multi-family residential, light industrial business parks, and other underutilized lands.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com

One thought on “Loudoun Mayors Repeat Comp Plan Concerns, Offer Alternative

  • 2018-11-07 at 1:34 pm
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    I continue to be amazed at the callousness of westerners who want to cram more growth into eastern Loudoun. The old phrase “Don’t Fairfax Loudoun” comes to mind. Seems to me that is exactly what these mayors want to do—put an apartment building on every corner in the east. Maybe residents in the east don’t want more houses in their neighborhoods.
    The mayors acknowledge that we will have more growth but overlook many important facts in their recommendations regarding where to put the growth. Take the apartments that they used as an example. County Planning and Zoning staff analysis shows that Loudoun will have an over-supply of multifamily dwellings through 2040. The shortage that we face is for single family homes. And, adding all of the infill and redevelopment together only satisfies a small percentage of projected growth for the county. County staff did an excellent job of reviewing all of the property that might be a candidate for these projects.
    In their meeting with the Planning Commission, several mayors were concerned that the by-right lots that surrounded their towns will begin to be developed and wanted the Commission to correct this. Of course, they forgot that the citizens of the west told the supervisors that they wanted no changes to the Rural Policy Area. Therefore, the only thing left is for increased density to be put into eastern Loudoun—if you define “eastern” as the TPA and east. Remember, there is no more space in the Suburban Policy Area to build new homes. There are less than 1,200 acres in the SPA on which to build.
    To help to remove development pressure on the west, the obvious solution is to increase density in the TPA. If the TPA continues to be locked down, the development will jump over it and start drawing from the by-right lots around the towns in the RPA.
    There is one other thing to address from the mayors’ letter—the designation of two land bays from the Rural Policy Area to the Transition Policy Area. The rural nature of these areas has been compromised by development. One area has a water tank being built by Loudoun Water right in the middle of the property. Yet, these homes cannot get county water because they are in the RPA.
    The other area is surrounded by sports complexes, high schools, Walmart shopping centers, and 42,000 cars per day passing by their homes. Who could possibly say that these are rural properties? And, besides, I am sure that these residents don’t like being viewed as a wildlife park so that commuters have a nice view when they drive through on their way to somewhere else.
    Much has been done in the new Comprehensive Plan to save the west. Seems like the westerners who oppose it don’t know when to appreciate the measures that have been taken to protect them from development.

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