For Supervisor James Burton, rezoning commercial land to residential is the “wrong thing to do.”
“I don’t care what kind of residential it is,” said Burton (I-Mercer) following the July 21 Board of Supervisors meeting when the board approved Ashburn Active Adult, LLC’s request. The Ashburn firm requested rezoning a 300-acre site in One Loudoun Center to build an active adult, age-restricted community. Burton, the only supervisor to vote against the request, opposed rezoning property that does not coordinate with what is laid out in the county’s General Plan, last updated in July 2001. “This is a large tract of land, and I’m opposed to converting large tracts of land to residential,” he said.
The tract of land sits south of Route 7 and west of Route 607, or Loudoun County Parkway, near the residential areas of Ashbrook and Ashburn Village.
John Andrews, a member of Ashburn Active Adult, LLC and the Broad Run representative for the School Board, filed to rezone the tract from PD-RDP and PD-IP, categories for planned development parks for research and development and for industrial, to PD-AAAR for an active adult, age-restricted planned development. The application he submitted is for up to 1,473 age-restricted, single-family detached, attached and multi-family units, along with a 10-acre town square and 28 acres of public parks and public use areas.
William Bogard (R-Sugarland Run) considers the Comprehensive Plan, which includes the General Plan, to be the county’s vision statement of “how we would like the county to look,” he said. “When applications come in, we look at them narrower than the Comprehensive Plan. … The impact on public facilities of this type of building would probably not be negative.”
THE COMPREHENSIVE Plan outlines growth in the county for the next 20 years, reducing 44 percent of the housing units allowed in the 1993 plan and redefining the community into rural, transition and suburban areas. The plan places most of western Loudoun into A-20 and A-50 zoning districts, calling for one unit per 20 or one unit per 50 acres in the agriculture area, while providing a larger variety of zoning districts in eastern Loudoun, including commercial, residential and industrial districts.
“Really, this compromises the original plan. Why go through all these plans if we are going to ignore them a few months later,” said Planning Commissioner Jane Kirchner (Sugarland Run), referring to the 1,400 residential units the approved development adds to the 40,000 units already approved by previous Boards of Supervisors.
Kirchner spoke in favor of locating the age-restricted community in Loudoun, but wanted it on property already approved for residential development and not in an industrial zone. “We need to get out of the box we got ourselves in if we are going to be successful with Smart Growth,” she said, explaining that the “box” occurs when the county rezones properties to fit the market if they are not selling under the current zoning. “If you look at what we have out there, there is a huge potential for this to happen.”
The Planning Commission recommended the Board of Supervisors deny Ashburn Active Adult, LLC’s application with a 4-3-2 vote with Kirchner, Nancy Hsu (Blue Ridge), Wendell Hansen (Dulles) and George Kirschenbauer (Mercer) supporting the denial.
"What I worry about is it's going to have a domino effect for [building] houses all down Route 7," said Planning Commissioner Wendell Hansen (Dulles).
Bogard has a looser definition of Smart Growth, the stance upon which the current Board of Supervisors was elected. As such, he said new development should be located where the infrastructure is already in place, and in this case, does not place any demand on the public schools, which accounts for 80 percent of the county’s annual operating budget. “The services required are not as demanding as other types of developments,” he said.
PLANNING COMMISSIONER Janelle Offerman (Sterling) pointed out that the development would result in greater financial benefits to the county than would a residential or industrial development. “It gave us a good tax base without a whole lot of expenditures on the part of the county,” she said. “Even the Economic Development Committee who reviewed this agreed the county would receive more taxes than expenses. ... In addition, there was overwhelming support of senior citizen groups and by the residents of the surrounding areas."
About 40 residents attended the Board of Supervisor’s July 8 public hearing to support the development, 15 of them speaking before the board. Residents also spoke at the July 21 board meeting in support of the development.
"The proposed [development] would be a great benefit to Loudoun," said Ashburn resident Raymond Ehrenbeck at the board meeting.
Charlotte Nurge of South Riding agreed, urging the board to approve the development to provide "much needed affordable housing in Loudoun." "This would be a great help to serve the needs of Loudoun citizens," she said.
The development will include 68 Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU), which are provided through a county program aimed to supply affordable for-sale and rental units in the county. The units are expected to start at a base price of the upper $100,000s for condominiums, the mid-$200,000s for attached units and the upper $200,000s for detached single-family units, said Andrews, owner of Andrews Community Investment Corporation, or ACIC.
OTHER RESIDENTS expressed concern at the public hearing about truck traffic accessing the industrial park through their neighborhoods. The industrial park’s main entrance is accessed through Ashburn Village, which is to the west and south of the property, while Ashbrook is to the north, leaving three sides of the property surrounded by residential development.
“I’m not swayed by ‘not in my backyard,’ but in this case, the land was surrounded by residential development,” Offerman said. “From my research, it would benefit the county on a whole lot of levels. All we have to give up in our Comprehensive Plan is a little bit of commercial [zoning].”
Kirchner said the rezoning should have been taken care of during the re-mapping process that aligned the zonings of the county with the Comprehensive Plan. Ashburn Village was developed in 1987 after the property was zoned industrial in the 1972 Comprehensive Plan. In 1989, the property was rezoned as both an industrial and a research and development park, remaining as both in the 2001 plan.
“They didn’t want industry next to them, but that was what it was originally planned for,” Burton said.
Andrews offered the development to appeal to Ashburn Village residents and to older residents who want to live in single-family, age-restricted housing, according to Kirchner. “What’s happened here is John Andrews has taken advantage of this situation. I don’t blame him. He’s out to make money,” she said
ANDREWS GOT THE IDEA for the project from his mother and her friends, who told him the county has a demand for housing for residents ages 55 and older. “There are little or no opportunities to buy single-family homes on one floor,” he said, adding that the property’s location is right for the type of development he sought. The property is within walking distance of the Ashburn Village Shopping Center and close to the Loudoun Hospital Center, the Dulles Town Center and the Cascades shopping areas, along with the Washington Dulles International Airport. “That parcel should not have been industrial, being surrounded on three sides with residential,” he added.
"It brings to us a type of housing I think is needed in our community for those that are retired and up in years and need a different type of housing," said Scott York (R-At large), chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "It's housing needed in our community for our folks who are retiring."
Hansen disagreed. "I honestly don't think that the people who move in there will be from Loudoun County. Everybody I talked to isn't interested in moving in there," he said, adding that he expects the development to attract residents from the metropolitan area and from out of state. "That's my gut feeling. I don't think it's going to bring the revenue in they said it would bring in. It took good industrial land out of the tax base."
York said the development will attract both county and out-of-county residents. "Yes, you'll have folks from outside the county and yes, you'll have folks from inside the county wanting to live there," he said.
Andrews expects construction to begin on the project within the next 18 months and for the units to be built out within five to seven years. “I think there’s such a strong demand, it will happen sooner,” he said. “There are active adult communities in Prince William County, Stafford County, Montgomery County, Frederick County and Winchester, but none in Loudoun.”
Age-restricted housing is available in Leisure World in Lansdowne, a multi-family development, and in Lowes Island, but the developments do not provide any single-family units, Andrews said.
“This is an incredibly expensive area,” Bogard said. “The folks stay in the area and continue to contribute to the area. I think this kind of housing is beneficial for everyone.”
“It’s a great economic opportunity for Loudoun,” Andrews. “The tax revenue is three times more than the industrial revenue would have been. … The project will generate $6 million a year net to the county from taxes. It's one of the biggest economic develop projects in the county.”
The builder for the project will be Arizona-company Del Webb. “It’s a premier builder, and the largest builder of age-restricted communities that is coming here,” Andrews said.