WASHINGTON — A month after the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted against a rezoning plan for One Loudoun, the board returned Thursday to approve an amended proposal.
The new plan puts a greater focus on retail development in One Loudoun with fewer and smaller residential units.
“This application started with over 750 residential units, zero commercial,” Board Vice Chairman Ralph Buona said during the meeting. “Now, we have just 200 residential units, 160 of them multi-family, in the downtown section of One Loudoun.”
Loudoun County continues to be the fastest growing county in the region and in Virginia, but officials are trying to get more control over housing growth.
This plan was passed on a 7-1 vote, with Supervisor Kristen Umstattd voting against it and Chairwoman Phyllis Randall absent. Umstattd said Randall would have voted against the plan had she been able to attend.
Umstattd said her vote was a response to concerns from county residents.
“They have said their number one concern is the rapid growth — residential growth and even commercial growth in some cases — in the county and the fact that this puts continual pressure on the board to either cut services, overcrowd the schools, overcrowd the roads or raise taxes,” Umstattd said during the meeting.
One thing of immediate concern to her was its possible impact on local schools.
“200 new units, according to the schools in their updated analysis, will generate about 83 total students, which comes out to over a million dollars a year in costs, operational costs, for educating those students,” Umstattd said. “We do not — and legally cannot — collect proffers to cover the operational costs of the schools.”
Buona questioned those numbers.
“I’ve run the numbers,” he said. “It’s not 83 new students. It’s 48.”
“Second of all, that 48 is probably high, and let me say why: The multifamily being built here under this application in One Loudoun is extremely small units. They’re talking 800 square feet, 900 square feet. Who lives in facilities or housing that size? Millennials, maybe. Retirees. But not families with a lot of kids. You couldn’t. You’d be sleeping on top of each other.”
The size of the project, in terms of residential units, was a major concern to the board. On a 5-4 vote in February, the board rejected a prior proposal that had 300 housing units.
“The previous iteration of this application that came before the board was not something I could support because I did not think it was something that was going to be advantageous to the county and because it was a very … undefined application,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau said. “The applicant was asking for a lot of units but not really telling us exactly where they were going to go and what type of units they were going to be and what the broad vision is.”
This new, more detailed plan stipulates that residences cannot face Exchange Street, the development’s main street and that retail storefronts are to be built deeper, so they could be bigger.
“The application had zero commercial,” Buona said. “Now we have significant retail. Supervisor Letourneau and I, through staff, negotiated this deal after we voted it down, and our intent was to extend the downtown of One Loudoun, contiguously, and bring in more retail. The whole intention here was to create a nice main street, and that’s what we are getting out of this.”
He said this also would build an urban core that would work nicely with the long-delayed proposed minor league baseball stadium.
“[The stadium is] still a possibility because the people doing the financing held a public meeting last Monday night. It’s a real possibility, there’s some real money there.”
“These are 160 multifamily units,” said Letourneau of the limited residential development. “We do have a need for those types of units in this county. We hear that and the market certainly supports that. And the 40 townhouse units are units that were supported by the local neighborhood because it’s one little piece that is contiguous to a residential part, and they didn’t want to see another type of use there.”
Broad Run Supervisor Ron Meyer, whose district includes One Loudoun, was not thrilled last month with that vote being turned down.
“We have a few supervisors who support affordable housing as a concept, but not as a practice,” Meyer said Thursday. “Now, we still have some supervisors who are out there clamoring for density in some places and then saying this is going to hurt the traffic. That is ridiculous.”
Meyer had said at the February meeting that he would hold his colleagues who voted for a 4,400-townhouse development, but not the 300-unit plan accountable for their votes.
Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington voted against the February proposal, saying then that 200 was his maximum for One Loudoun.
“I know we have to build a lot of residential units in the Metro tax district to help pay for Metro,” Buffington said. “So, if there’s going to be applications coming in for 700 or 800 units, it needs to be in the Metro tax district, not anywhere else. One Loudoun is not in the Metro tax district.”
He said he does not like approving any new growth, including in the eastern part of the county.
But, Meyer said the county needs more affordable housing.
“If my own aide can’t afford to live here, if many of my peers who are in my age group can’t afford to live here, we have a problem in Loudoun County,” he said. “This will help give some affordable housing for some people.”
Meyer also called the arguments against the One Loudoun plan overblown.
“Saying that these 200 units will have an impact on traffic is a farce,” Meyer said. “We have a four-lane parkway that literally just opened. It’s called Russell Branch Parkway, there’s a new bridge. If you drive that in the morning or in either rush hour, evening or morning, it parallels [Route] 28 and [Route] 7 and you get all the way from One Loudoun down to Route 606 or to Route 28 faster than you can on 28 and 7 and that is empty right now. That’s where these residents will live.”
Umstattd does not think this battle is over yet.
“I would anticipate that this developer may be back, understandably, again in the future for more residential, but that’s a future battle.”