The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors worked out several key details of the Silver Line Comprehensive Plan Amendment in a special business meeting Nov. 29, addressing the areas surrounding the two Metro stations coming to the eastern portion of the county. With the arrival of Metro Rail expected in 2020, supervisors are hoping to optimize the potential of this opportunity.
In doing so, the Board is hoping to create the most desirable land use possible, maximize employment opportunities and tax revenues while minimizing the impacts on the county’s existing transportation systems. The Board is also looking for the new district to provide revenues to fund future Metrorail costs while limiting the impact on the county’s overall fiscal balance.
Working with county planning and financial staff, this has involved dividing the area into more than a dozen specific land use designations to optimize and balance residential and commercial needs. This includes preparing Loudoun for what will likely be the most dense, urban-styled development and growth in the history of the traditionally rural and suburban county.
With a basic framework in place, supervisors used their Nov. 29 meeting to debate the fiscal and social impacts of several major decision points while weighing the impacts of factors ranging from Washington-Dulles International Airport flight patterns to school system demands.
A point of contention in the meeting was over a few strips of land along the eastern side of Loudoun County Parkway that could be impacted by airplane noise. The Board adopted a plan by a 6-3 vote to allow mixed use residential in this area, citing the positive impacts as outweighing the negligible affect noise would have on residential quality of life.
“I want to protect the airport, but we have a tax district we have to get moving as fast as possible,” said Board Chair Phyllis Randall (D-At Large). “The difference of revenue generating homes is significant.”
Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) was one of the three dissenting votes, calling it “disastrous” for the airport. She was joined by Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), who cited their aviation backgrounds and the potential for noise from a planned airport runway, in voting against it.
“We have to protect the future and we’re only giving up a small sliver,” Buona said.
The Board’s actions follows a meeting earlier this month by the Transportation and Land Use Committee’s (TLUC) that worked out several details on the plan. Voting 6-2-1, supervisors reversed a recommendation by TLUC to remove townhomes from Urban Residential designated areas. County staff advocated for the Board’s decision, saying the townhomes would put more people in the area, therby increasing the tax base and providing diversity in the housing pattern. Staff also said townhomes attract fewer school-aged children than other potential housing uses, reducing the county’s potential education costs, one of the largest financial needs the government faces.
Randall said the decision to allow increased townhomes would be a net positive for the county and it should look for higher density closer to the Metro station. In opposing the motion, Ron Meyer (R- Broad Run) said the plan didn’t accurately forecast the number of school children the townhomes would attract and the county would be on the hook to finance it. He was joined in opposition by Umstattd. Letourneau abstained on the vote.