County government planners have finished their projections for how many new homes supervisors invited into the county when they voted on the new comprehensive plan last week.
Supervisors pushed ahead with a vote June 20 without the knowing in detail how their edits to the draft plan would change future development numbers. Working under a 90-day deadline in state code, they made drastic cuts to planned development the county Planning Commission had targeted for the Transition Policy Area—and in fact, went even lower than recommendations from the county’s professional planners.
More than 29,000 more residential units were expected in Loudoun by 2040 under the old plan’s policies; the Planning Commission’s draft almost doubled that to more than 56,000. And under the commission’s recommendation, more than half of that would have gone into the Transition Policy Area—about 19,000 new homes, over 15,000 more than the old plan.
County planners’ recommendations would have cut that back to 6,800, only 3,060 more homes than the old policies. Staff markups to the Planning Commission’s draft focused on providing fewer houses, lower densities, a greater variety of housing types, and more protection for watersheds.
But supervisors undershot even that. The final 2019 Comprehensive Plan is expected to allow only 5,840 more homes in the transition area, 2,180 more than the old plan. Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said his goal had been to get that number as close to zero as possible.
“I thought that getting down to 2,180 form the 16,000 that was recommended from the Planning Commission was pretty good, considering we only had two western Loudoun supervisors on the board, and you need five votes to win anything,” Buffington said. “So while it’s not great, it’s a lot better than what was recommended.”
Across the county, the plan is expected to allow 40,950 additional homes by 2040, mostly in the suburban east and the county’s planned urban areas arounds its new Metrorail stops. The new plan accounts for 11,490 more homes than the one it replaced.
But County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said until the county completes its next step, an Unmet Housing Needs Strategic Plan, “they’re just numbers.”
“We just don’t know where we’re going to put them and what we need,” Randall said. “Everything from low income housing, affordable housing, all the way through to disability housing—we will decide that during the zoning process.”
The new plan is not expected to allow any more new housing in the rural areas than the old one—although 9,560 more homes are already expected there. All forecasts depend on the speed of development in Loudoun. Randall said the way to try to stop that is making sure people there can monetize their land in other ways.
“It’s unrealistic to think that someone’s going to have land and not be able to have it profit them, but there’s other ways to be profitable than just building houses or selling it,” Randall said. “And so you really need to encourage the rural economy.”
Next, supervisors and the staff will launch into writing an Unmet Housing Needs Strategic Plan and a new zoning ordinance—where the policies in the comprehensive plan are turned into local laws. Randall said she will be watching the county’s new urban policy area, which is planned for city-style development.
“We know it’s a very long buildout for that, so the goal is going to be to put creative interim uses down that will give us a chance for the market to catch up so we can do the housing around the Metro, because that’s where you want to put most of the density,” Randall said. She said it may help to talk to some other jurisdictions in the area that have already had success with that kind of work.
Read all of Loudoun Now’s coverage of the new comprehensive plan at LoudounNow.com/compplan.