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Loudoun Times: Rural Loudoun County unhappy with latest comprehensive plan. N. Cline 11/20/18


Residents in Aldie on Nov. 13 hear from Gem Bingol from the Piedmont Environmental Council during a comprehensive plan discussion session. Times-Mirror/Nathaniel Cline

Loudoun County planners continue to plug away at an updated county comprehensive plan, but conservation and slow-growth advocates say too much housing is being called for and that their voices aren't being heard.

More than 60 speakers attended a public hearing Nov. 8 to weigh in on the latest draft unveiled in October.

“I ask you to reconsider, because Loudoun is a special place with room to grow, but not to be destroyed by over-development,” said Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition Chairman Al Van Huyck at a Board of Supervisors meeting.

One of the major changes from the May comprehensive plan draft to October was a model addressing the residential demand targeted for the 24,000-acre Transition Policy Area (TPA) along the western edge of the Suburban Policy Area. County staff said the area is planned for diverse clustered housing with limited commercial uses to support residents and some industrial spaces focused on quarry activity and energy infrastructure.

If the Planning Commission were to move forward with addressing the totality of the countywide housing demand, approximately 60,000 residential units could be developed by 2040, according to a Sept. 17 staff report. This is approximately 22,000 more than the May proposed draft, with most of the 22,000 additional units consisting of single-family housing in the TPA.

The current revised general plan would allow a total build-out of 48,339 units, including 29,000 of which are allowed under current zoning. The homes would be located east of Route 15.

“I think one of the things the Planning Commission was focused on with the build-out was that we were pretty much meeting the demand for multi-family units because of our urban areas, but we were very short in the single-family product types," Loudoun County Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Alaina Ray said to the Times-Mirror. “If we were going to meet demand, it was single-family products that we had to focus on.”

Yet community members and organizers have been outraged about the draft changes that would impact open space, and many say they are offended after providing input against growth in the Transition Policy Area for two years.

“It looks like they’ve just ignored all that and gone ahead and prioritized housing rather than prioritizing the needs of current residents,” Transition Area Alliance member Bill Carney said to the Times-Mirror.

The Coalition of Loudoun Towns, represented by several local town mayors, also expressed displeasure with the draft changes. The coalition is made up of mayors from Purcellville, Leesburg, Round Hill, Hillsboro, Hamilton, Lovettsville and Middleburg.

Rather than developing in the TPA, COLT recommended redevelopment and infill in the Suburban Policy Area, including low-density suburban office parks, older low-density multi-family residential and light industrial business parks. COLT’s plan would provide an additional 8,000-10,000 dwellings, all within the Suburban Policy Area.

The coalition is also upset by the treatment of the TPA reflected in the October draft plan and removal of its intent to act as a buffer zone between the Rural and Suburban Policy Areas.

“We feel strongly, as do 80 percent 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,” COLT said in Nov. 1 letter.

On Nov. 13, Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton, along with representatives from the Aldie Heritage Association and Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition, spoke during a community gathering in Aldie addressing the comprehensive plan. Littleton said the latest draft would put the county on an unsustainable financial model.

In the wake of the comprehensive plan, Aldie residents are scheduling workshops to create a town development plan looking ahead to 2040.

"The verbs in the comp plan are ‘support, encourage, we hope this will happen,’ but there’s no measurable indicators of what that means,” We Are Aldie Consultant Cat Amelink said. "One of the things we’re going to try and do right here in Aldie is to develop a plan to help the Planning Commission and ideally the board see that you can do it with citizens input, and it doesn’t have to be diluted and ideas get lost in that process.”

On the other hand, the Dulles Area Association of Realtors expressed concern about the proposed new language inserted into the Rural Policy Area, saying it would decrease the current by-right levels of residential development. If approved, the RPA could significantly impact the county’s ability to meet the critical need for affordable and attainable housing, DAAR officials say.

Planning Commission Chairman Clifford Kierce told the Times-Mirror recently that not everyone agreed on the number of homes being proposed.

“We thought for the purposes of modeling this run, let’s take the highest number of residential and do that analysis to determine what the impact is going to be,” Kierce said. “After that information comes back, we’ll make the final decision on where we want to go—reduce it or what not.”

The Planning Commission was scheduled to vote on the comprehensive plan at its next meeting following the public hearing. However, the chairman said that would be “unfair” to the public.

“We are not saying this is our final product," Kierce said. “By doing [it] this way the public will have the benefit of getting an idea what we’re looking at, hear from them and take any input from them back to future meetings before we come up with a final recommendation.”

The Planning Commission is expected to present a final draft of the new plan to the Board of Supervisors in early 2019.

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