Change In Air For Greenway
By Peter Pae
Loudoun County officials this week will begin reassessing plans for large-scale residential development along the Dulles Greenway corridor, as part of their overall effort to reduce the number of houses built in the county.
The move follows the Board of Supervisors' vote Oct. 15 to slash the permitted residential density in the Dulles South area by more than 60 percent.
For more than a decade, the supervisors approved land-use plans that opened up large areas for development. But recently they have sought to reverse that pattern, as residents increasingly have complained about the effects of rapid growth on traffic, taxes, housing values and school crowding.
With the Dulles South vote behind them, the supervisors now are interested in scaling back the ambitious plans for the Greenway corridor that the board approved just two years ago. That document envisioned several pockets of major office, retail and residential development along the 14.5-mile toll road, with densities approaching those in Tysons Corner.
Supervisors say they are especially concerned about county staff estimates that the plan eventually will permit the construction of 54,080 residential units in the corridor -- more than the current number of units in the whole county.
At the supervisors' direction, the county planning commission will begin reviewing the Greenway plan by soliciting public comments at a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the county government building in Leesburg.
Revising the plan for the corridor "is primarily the last major piece of the work we began six months ago" to curb development, said Supervisor Scott K. York (R-Sterling).
Loudoun developers said last week that they would not comment on the effort to revise the Greenway plan until more specific recommendations have been made.
Officials at the company that operates the toll road did not return calls. The road has had trouble drawing as much traffic as had been projected, and any plan that would reduce the pool of potential users is not likely to help the operator's financial condition.
The county's so-called Toll Road Plan covers a swath of land 1.5 miles wide on either side of the highway, which stretches from Dulles International Airport to Leesburg. It does not cover the town of Leesburg or the new residential areas of Ashburn Village and Ashburn Farm.
The plan was designed to prevent massive sprawl in the Greenway corridor by limiting development to certain pockets of land located between interchanges. At the time the plan was drafted, officials said the eight pockets, known as "nodes," also would provide the population needed to support bus and rail transit in the corridor.
In the nodes, developers would be allowed to put up high-rise apartment buildings such as those in Ballston or Crystal City.
The plan permits a maximum density of 16 residential units per acre, growing to 32 units per acre after bus service is established in the corridor, and reaching 50 units per acre if rail service is provided.
In addition, the plan calls for extending water and sewer lines to areas west of Route 659, opening up a new area of Loudoun for development.
The residential densities in the Greenway plan may be too high, several supervisors said last week.
"I don't expect draconian measures, but we should have some more moderate approach to development in the corridor, consistent with the tone that was set in Dulles South," Supervisor James G. Burton (I-Mercer) said.
In Dulles South, a 39-square-mile area in the southeast corner of the county, supervisors approved plans that reduced the number of houses allowed from 104,000 to about 37,000.
Planning commission members said last week that they are uncertain how much change the supervisors want in the Greenway plan. They also complained that the supervisors did not provide adequate direction for the commission's review of the Dulles South plan. The commission recommended reducing the number of Dulles South houses to about 78,000, which drew harsh criticism from residents.
"I felt a bit snake-bitten by Dulles South," said Bernard Way, a planning commission member from Sterling. "I'm not sure exactly what the board wants, and I don't feel like going through that again."
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