Letter: Nick Albu, Purcellville

Editor: Let’s be clear: There is no “rural cluster problem” in western Loudoun.

With an unprecedented amount of public input, the Board of Supervisors spent years crafting the 2019 Comprehensive Plan, which serves a guide for county-wide land development. With respect to residential development in the Rural Policy Area, the Comprehensive Plan expressly recognizes that “rural clusters remain the preferred residential development pattern.”  

Why? Because rural clusters are a responsible form of by-right development that preserve everything we love about western Loudoun.  

But, don’t take my word for it. According to the Comprehensive Plan, rural clusters “better preserve the natural features and open character of the land by tightly grouping homes on smaller lots so that a majority of the land is available for rural economy uses, agriculture, and/or open space.” On top of that, “the concentration of homes in a rural cluster also minimize the amount of roads, clearing and grading, and the overall footprint of development, compared to a conventional by-right subdivision which requires placement of homes on a uniform size lot dispersed over an entire property.”  

A vocal minority is making calls to amend the Zoning Ordinance to implement the supposed Comprehensive Plan goal of limiting rural cluster density to preserve the rural character of western Loudoun. The irony is the Comprehensive Plan, in fact, does not call for any reduction in rural cluster density. To the contrary, the Comprehensive Plan applauds the present use of rural clusters as a preferred development option for preserving the rural character of western Loudoun.  

Don’t be fooled by the suggestion that there is a “rural cluster problem.” The county’s rural policy – as reflected in the Comprehensive Plan – makes clear that rural clusters are not a problem for western Loudoun. They are a solution.

Nick Albu, Purcellville

3 thoughts on “Letter: Nick Albu, Purcellville

  • 2020-05-29 at 3:34 pm

    Mr. Albu, since it appears that you represent subdivision developers who are currently challenging Loudoun’s Zoning Ordinance in an attempt to increase residential growth, we can understand why you would take this view. (https://www.reedsmith.com/en/professionals/a/albu-nicholas-v)

    Our case, however, doesn’t rely exclusively on the wildly popular Comprehensive Plan. We’re focused on critical facts on the ground, including the loss of more than 130 square miles of farmland so far and potentially 40 square miles more over the next eight years; the ongoing destruction of scenic vistas, historic landmarks and historic villages; the threats to our farming and rural tourism businesses; the degradation of rural communities’ water resources; the potential for more than 100,000 more vehicle trips per day on our rural roads; the increases in County taxes that will be needed to build more public infrastructure for a rapidly growing rural population; and so on.

    We’re confident there is more than a “vocal minority” that shares these concerns and are happy to have that tested at the ballot box. We’re delighted that a number of key County supervisors also share our concerns.

    Just to clarify, we’re not opposed to the cluster development model in general (which in any case is required by state law), but to the unusually pro-growth manner in which Loudoun has implemented it. Many of the negative impacts mentioned above would be easily avoided if Loudoun simply adopted the basic standards for cluster subdivisions that are currently in place in Prince William, Clarke and other Virginia counties. It is not clear to us, for example, why Loudoun would want to accommodate twice as large a population in these rural subdivisions as Prince William does in its own.

    Finally, we’re puzzled as to why real estate developers, whose sales pitches for new homes in rural Loudoun rely so heavily on our unique rural surroundings and heritage, would be so complacent about killing the goose that lays the golden egg. We’re not experts in this business, but it seems short-sighted. We hope there may be some in that community who share our concerns and long-term view and are willing to work with us to identify and implement reasonable and effective solutions.

    John Ellis (on behalf of Save Rural Loudoun)

  • 2020-05-29 at 5:12 pm

    Nick Albu is a Tysons lawyer whose website says he’s representing (an unnamed) developer who wants to do a co-housing project here. Now he pens a misleading commentary about clusters and our new Comprehensive Plan. He misleads intentionally.

    The Comp Plan has no effect of law but is mere guidance to the Board of Supervisors in enacting a new zoning ordinance. (See page 1-2 of the new General Plan.) For those who don’t remember, the controversial General Plan, as it’s now called, was rammed though by a notorious Planning Commission, almost all of whose members were toadies for developers. All but one has been fired by the new Board of Supervisors.

    Clusters are part of that plan and with proper design controls, could be relatively nice – miniature Waterford’s as it were. Instead they tend to be atrocious replicas of bland subdivision streets. Worse, they get de facto bonus density in the northern part of the county, just chewing up more farmland.

    It’s just hogwash to laud clusters as Albu has done. He and his clients should man-up to their only motive – greed.

    Charles Houston

  • 2020-05-29 at 8:03 pm

    If the current implementation of Loudoun’s cluster zoning option for AR-1 and AR-2 subdivisions did what the author quotes the comprehensive plan saying they do, then they would be an effective land use policy.
    Unfortunately, as we’ve seen through dozens of examples over the last 15 years, cluster zoning has not protected suitable land for agriculture, and in fact has instead concentrated development on the prime ag soils, while leaving the larger rural economy lots, ostensibly for rural economy and ag uses, to be made up of steep slopes, floodplain, and hydric soils. While these are sensitive environmental features to protect, they certainly aren’t suitable for economically viable agriculture.
    Likewise, by quadrupling the number of homes allowed on a parcel of the houses are “clustered” its defeats the ag land and natural resource preservation goals of the clustering in the first place. Other jurisdictions allow clustering which allows for small lot size, less road and stormwater infrastructure for developers to construct, and more preserved land, but don’t increase the number of houses allowed by 4x to do it.
    The Comprehensive Plan clearly states that its goal is to maintain the rural character of western Loudoun, and to maintain our rural economy, which at its core relies on agriculture and the vistas and tourism that come with it. Unless we bring our zoning ordinances in line with our comprehensive plan goals, we’ll lose some of Virginia and the nation’s best prime agricultural soils, and what makes Loudoun special in the process.

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