The following text was sent out via email on Dec. 7, 2023. Sign up for PEC email alerts →
After almost four years, Loudoun County is about to adopt a new version of its Zoning Ordinance!
This upcoming Wednesday, Dec. 13, the Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposed revisions it made to the Planning Commission’s draft Zoning Ordinance.
Please ask the Board to adopt the draft ordinance, which includes enhanced zoning standards to better protect our natural resources and reduce the negative impacts of data center development in our communities.
We anticipate the Board will vote to suspend the rules and adopt the draft into law instead of adopting it during the new term in January. With the Board’s proposed grandfathering resolution, the ordinance will only apply to applications submitted after its adoption, and so adoption should happen as soon as possible. If you aren’t able to attend online or in person, you can use this form letter to send a comment in support of a vote.
Loudoun’s Zoning Ordinance
Zoning ordinances implement the vision of a county’s comprehensive plan through regulations and standards intended to promote the general health, safety and welfare of the public. With this latest revision of Loudoun’s Zoning Ordinance, the format will also be modernized in an easy-to-use and interactive online platform.
See summaries of each chapter in the draft Zoning Ordinance Rewrite here. The full final draft is available here. See the public hearing staff report with a detailed description of the Board-initiated changes here.
Current Changes to Support
Through this extensive process, PEC, along with many community partners including the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition, its member organizations, and a broad cross-section of individuals, have achieved several wins for Loudoun County’s environment and communities in the draft; some are outlined below.
On natural resources:
- 300-foot buffers on all major waterways (i.e. Potomac River, Broad Run, Goose Creek) to reduce stormwater runoff and pollution
- Better riparian buffers on all perennial streams with additional protection for stream-side steep slopes and management areas to soften impacts to these sensitive areas
- Better protections of steep slopes and ridges and larger setbacks from wetlands and springs in the Mountainside Overlay District to avoid polluting sensitive groundwater recharge areas in the mountainous areas of western Loudoun
- No active recreation permitted in major floodplains
- Stronger incentives and requirements for developers to preserve forest and other sensitive environmental features when open space is developed
On data center development:
- Changing by-right data center zoning to special exception zoning in Office Park and Research Park districts to ensure legislative oversight in these zoning districts
- Increased building and parking setbacks, and better shielding of mechanical equipment next to existing or planned residential developments
- Before- and after-construction noise studies to minimize ambient noise impacts
- More limits on specific hours generator testing can occur to reduce noise impacts
- Improved design standards to help data centers look less like huge, featureless boxes and more like office buildings
Several important zoning changes did not make it into the current draft of the update. We’re still asking the Board for the following changes to the Zoning Ordinance in 2024:
- Further refine the definition of sites that are appropriate for data centers, and develop stronger environmental and sustainability policies and standards. This should be a top priority for the staff’s work plan in 2024.
- Prioritize a Rural Zoning Ordinance Amendment to improve regulations on rural economy uses and to limit uses in the sensitive Mountainside Overlay District. Although many issues deeply impacting the Rural Policy Area were raised throughout the past three years of this process, very few have been addressed in the final draft of the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite – instead deferred to the future Rural Zoning Ordinance Amendment. These include but are not limited to uneven standards for western Loudoun businesses and high regulation of agricultural production operations. Using input from the rewrite process, the Board is well-positioned to start developing new standards to support local food production and to help rural businesses and residents coexist peacefully.
- Complete the Prime Soils and Cluster Subdivision Zoning Ordinance Amendment and adopt it as soon as possible. The Prime Soils/Cluster Subdivision Zoning Ordinance Amendment (ZOAM) was intended to run concurrently with the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite but has been delayed again and again. Cluster Subdivisions are now the norm in Western Loudoun – an estimated 11,000+ additional homes could be added to the Rural Policy Area in the coming years. It is vital that when the lands are subdivided for these houses, Loudoun preserves its prime agricultural soils on smaller farmable parcels in the process. This ZOAM must be concluded as soon as possible to limit development on prime soils and protect the future of agriculture in Loudoun. This amendment will go to the Planning Commission on Dec. 14, at which point we hope it will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors.
Thanks to everyone who has engaged in the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite over these four years; we’re almost across the finish line.
For those attending on Dec. 13, I will see you there! For those who can’t make it, please take a few minutes to send your thoughts to the Board of Supervisors before the hearing. Your endorsement is an important part of getting these critical standards adopted.
Senior Land Use Field Representative – Loudoun
540-347-2334 ext. 7041