Editor: Your March 18 article on the denial of the Goose Creek Overlook Application on reversal covered the facts well, but missed the real tragedy of the event.
I concur with the decision to deny the application, but it never should have been left to this late date when the developer had undoubtedly spent several hundreds of thousand dollars in preparation, modification, and presentation of the proposal and the citizen opposition had been raising their objections for months. Further, the application contained several excellent components, particularly the affordable housing units, which will not now be realized.
Since eastern Loudoun is facing buildout during the Loudoun 2019 Plan period, it would be well to examine the wreckage of the Goose Creek Overlook application to learn its lessons and reflect on changes in the process.
It starts with understanding that the main difference between the 2002 Plan, which promoted low density planned communities at high standards, and the 2019 Plan’s shift to smaller, but significantly higher density infill projects on land now many times more costly than before.As a result, we see current applications coming forward with less environmental protection, open space, and in locations where providing schools, public facilities, parks and trails can be more difficult, and traffic congestion is increased.
Meanwhile, public opinion has been solidly behind limiting residential development, maintaining high environmental standards, and providing parks and trails for 25 years. What’s changed is the creation of heritage and preservation organizations (55 alone in the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition), some now with full time paid staff and access to thousands of their members through email, websites, and video. Experienced citizen expertise is available to comment on each proposed development. The citizens are now a strong voice which must carry weight in the development process.
On the other hand, Loudoun is fortunate to have a highly qualified, dedicated, business community and a development industry which has performed over the years on a highly ethical basis and has contributed much to the quality of life we all enjoy. For us old timers, we can remember having to leave the county to find many essential goods and services, culture and entertainment that are now on our doorstep thanks to the development and business community.
If we are to avoid pitched battles between citizens against proposed development applications in the future, we need to return to the concept of Conservation Design.This simple but critical step requires that any land use application for rezoning or by-right be reviewed by county Staff and applicant to identify all of the environmental features of the site which must be maintained and to set the “Building Envelope” within which the actual development can take place. This step is to be taken before the applicant spends hundreds of thousands on design and engineering. But it does require the staff with Board of Supervisors backing to provide rigorous enforcement of the environmental standards of the Loudoun 2019 Plan, supporting Zoning Ordinance, FSM and Subdivision Ordinance.
The best way to avoid expensive and pressurized disputes over development applications is in the beginning of the process whereby the environment can be protected, and the citizen voices heard before the big money is spent by the applicants.
Al Van Huyck, Round Hill