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.”