The Loudoun County Economic Development Advisory Commission (EDAC) has issued a position statement and list of recommendations to the County Board of Supervisors outlining its support of walkable urban development principles for the new Silver Line Metrorail stations in Loudoun.
EDAC has long supported the expansion of metrorail to the county and has now outlined further recommendations supporting mixed-use development by uniting commercial, retail and residential development at both stations while at the same time, ensuring appropriate measures are taken to preserve the future growth and expansion of one of the county’s principal economic drivers, Dulles International Airport.
“In the substantial research EDAC has undertaken, we found that tightly coupling the symbiotic relationship between commercial and residential development yields the greatest benefit to the county in terms of employment generation, economic sustainability and commercial tax-base expansion,” EDAC Chair Sharon D. Virts said. “We must also recognize the importance of Dulles and protecting its ability to grow. As we make changes to the comprehensive plan for Loudoun County, we must consider the impact of our decisions on future airport operations as well as on our ability as a county to successfully grow our economy. We do not believe these two objectives are mutually exclusive.”
The EDAC position statement outlines a multi-step plan to create a detailed vision for development at each metrorail station which the group believes will help realize the greatest economic potential.
“The Silver Line is a significant investment of public funds and we have a fiduciary obligation to ensure that our decisions are based on current data in order to maximize our return on that investment,” EDAC Vice-Chair Todd Pearson said. “EDAC strongly advises, and independent studies validate our position, that both metrorail stations must include a mix of office, retail and residential development to realize the anticipated economic impact on our county. We look forward to working with and supporting all parties to establish the vision, and course, of Silver Line development in our area.”
The Board will continue to weigh different organization’s recommendations and perspectives as the project moves forward, and Dulles Airport is a big concern, said Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn). Montgomery County has seen an increase of noise complaints around Reagan National Airport because of a new air traffic control patter called NextGen, Buona added.
NextGen was designed to make flights more efficient by using less fuel, but as a result, more planes fly through more narrow paths. Whereas Montgomery County residents had previously seen five planes a day flying overhead, now they see closer to 50, Buona said. Dulles will eventually switch over to NextGen, so Buona does not support allowing residential development around the Dulles metro station.
“You just don’t know how air planes are going to change or how air traffic control is going to change,” Buona said.
Buona said he would support residential development around other Loudoun stations, but without knowing how flights and flight control will change over time, he believes the airport overlay district should be protected to avoid noise complaints and other issues in the future.