Growth, Development & Traffic

Loudoun has the opportunity to provide clear and coherent direction on future investment. That is why in a spring 2017 letter to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, The Piedmont Environmental Council joined with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Potomac Conservancy, the Audubon Naturalist Society in recommending:

  1. The County’s first priority should be to foster mixed-use, higher density transit-oriented development (TOD) and the focus for TOD should be the Ashburn Station; and
  2. The proposed PD-TC zoning change should be put on hold until the Comprehensive Plan process has determined community priorities for the level and location of growth.


Full text of the letter 4/12/17 joint letter to the Board of Supervisors:

Dear Chairman Randall and members of the Board of Supervisors:

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, The Piedmont Environmental Council, and many local organizations and civic groups have worked for many years with Loudoun residents, planners, and elected officials to promote patterns of development that protect quality of life and ensure the county is economically competitive, fiscally healthy, and environmentally sustainable.

Two major initiatives underway – the Comprehensive Plan update and the Silver Line Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPAM) – represent the most significant evaluation of the direction of the county in many years, with profound consequences for the community’s competitiveness, fiscal health, and quality of life.

Loudoun has the opportunity to provide clear and coherent direction on future investment by:

  • Encouraging an appropriate mix of housing types, retail, recreation, and commercial uses in specific locations;
  • Expanding the potential for walking and biking on an expanded grid of local, not arterial, street networks to reduce the number vehicle trips;
  • Reducing competition from early investment in commercial, retail, and residential development outside of the Silver Line tax district; and
  • Being realistic about the high costs of scattered development and prioritizing future public infrastructure expenditures.

Top-Line Recommendations:

  1. The County’s first priority should be to foster mixed-use, higher density transit-oriented development (TOD) and the focus for TOD should be the Ashburn Station.

  2. The proposed PD-TC zoning change should be put on hold until the Comprehensive Plan process has determined community priorities for the level and location of growth.

Rationale for each recommendation:

1) The County’s first priority should be to foster mixed-use, higher density transit-oriented development (TOD) and the focus for TOD should be the Ashburn Station.

  • Development at Metro is key to funding the Silver Line tax district to cover Metrorail costs and avoid impacting the general tax base.
  • Market demand for office space is overwhelmingly focused at Metro stations.
  • The young, next generation workforce, and many downsizing empty nesters are seeking out walkable, transit-oriented communities.
  • The landowners around the Ashburn Station are absolutely committed and have the resources to build a high-quality, mixed-use, transit-oriented center that can be a major economic engine for Loudoun.
  • The property tax yield per square foot and per acre is significantly higher for mixed-use, higher-density transit-oriented development.
  • The Loudoun Gateway Station was not well sited when planners designed the Silver Line. As a result, the airport noise zone makes residential development and true mixed-use community development inappropriate for the critical areas within the ¼ to ½ mile walking distance of the Loudoun Gateway Metro station.
    • An updated noise contour study may allow for some residential development on the perimeter of the area but not within the critical walking distance to the station which would ensure that a large share of the commuter trips would be by Metro.
    • Some commercial or event uses may be possible, but consideration should also be given to making the best of a poor station location by doing the following:
      • Make this the primary commuter park and ride station, preserving the Ashburn Station for 100% walkable development. Include garages on the south side of the Greenway at Loudoun Gateway Station to support commuters traveling up 606 from southern Loudoun.
      • With Broad Run dominating a large area near the Loudoun Gateway Station, the county has the opportunity to create a Central Park for the urban Metro area. The park should extend far beyond the 1000-foot floodplain along Broad Run. It would serve as a wonderful natural and recreational amenity for the Ashburn Station and communities in eastern Loudoun -- something not readily available near any other Metro station in the region, and help to attract young people and companies to the Ashburn Station.

2) The proposed PD-TC zoning change should be put on hold until the Comprehensive Plan process has determined community priorities for the level and location of growth.

  1. The proposed floating PD-TC zone would undermine the market for Metro station development in Loudoun, and with it the revenues generated by the special tax district.
  2. There is a real question as to how many higher-density mixed use centers the county can handle, meaning that the commercial component of these centers may grow very slowly and developers will continue to seek to add more residential while delaying the commercial component.
  3. Many potential locations for new high-density centers lack high capacity transit access, meaning significant traffic impact.
  4. As a floating zone, it will create great uncertainty for the community as to where higher density development will appear. It is better to use the public process of the comprehensive plan update – with community and private sector input, and market analysis – to determine where commercial amenities and mixed-use, walkable centers are most needed.
  5. If the county wants to ensure its Metro station areas and the special tax district are successful, addition of more high density developments in other areas should be considered only after Metro station development is well-underway.

The case for smart growth: 

Amid significant success, Loudoun County continues to face growing pains including traffic, the disruption of frequently changing school boundaries, a precipitous decline in demand for traditional office space, and pressure from the private sector to accelerate house construction at a rate which could challenge the county’s fiscal health. The county is also in fierce competition with other jurisdictions in the DC region and metropolitan areas around the country to attract cutting edge firms and the next generation of employees.

Fortunately, there is growing consensus about what it takes to be competitive in attracting these firms and employees. In addition to good schools, localities need to invest in transit and walkable, transit-oriented development, and include plenty of rural, green and recreational amenities for its residents.

That’s why we believe Loudoun County’s top priorities should be facilitating transit-oriented development at the Ashburn Station and, creating a green central park along Broad Run. Because the floating PD-TC zone could very well undermine TOD at the Silver Line Stations and because the public needs to better understand where these might be located, the PD-TC should be put on hold to allow for analysis of mixed-use centers in the Comprehensive Plan process.

We will be providing additional input as the Silver Line CPAM and Comprehensive Plan reviews progress. In addition to the types of smart growth issues outlined in this letter, other community and health supportive issues such as protection of drinking water sources, stormwater management, open space preservation for passive recreation and habitat protection, green infrastructure, trails and cultural resource protection are topics we will address.

Thank you for consideration of our input. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these important planning issues. Sincerely,

Sincerely,

Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director
The Coalition for Smarter Growth

Christoper G. Miller
President
The Piedmont Environmental Council

Hedrick Belin
President
Potomac Conservancy

Monica Billger
Virginia Conservation Advocate
Audubon Naturalist Society


If you would like more information on this letter or the data referenced therein, please contact PEC's Gem Bingol at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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