Some Answers for Western Loudoun

Some Answers for Western Loudoun

Four supervisors make proposals for western Loudoun zoning that would mark a compromise between dense residential and agricultural uses.

Residents of western Loudoun now have a hint of what county officials envision for the landscape's future after a judge's decision threw planning for the rural west into disarray more than two months ago.

In March, the Virginia Supreme Court invalidated the zoning map, enacted in January 2003, that allowed one house per 10 to 50 acres in the western two-thirds of the county.

Residents of western and eastern Loudoun have since voiced concern about the west reverting to A-3 zoning, which allows one house per three acres, and, some feared, ending life in western Loudoun as it's been known for decades: home to a booming agricultural industry and a nearby rural respite from suburbia in eastern Loudoun and beyond.

At the second of a planned three — four if necessary — Board of Supervisors meetings on western Loudoun zoning, four supervisors offered varying ideas on the future of the west.

SUPERVISOR Sally Kurtz's Catoctin district covers the northern half of western Loudoun and is home to a variety of flourishing rural businesses from beekeepers to wineries. Dense or semi-dense residential growth would be detrimental to her constituents, Kurtz (D) said.

Kurtz offered a plan that would allow one house per 10 acres as the common denominator for growth in order to preserve the west's rural character and promote rural-lifestyle-friendly new residents. Her plan also allows for subdivision of land one piece at a time in varying sizes.

"With abutting parcels of various sizes, those who 'live in the country' realize and expect gunfire during hunting season, aren't alarmed at bawling cows or an occasional 500-pound escapee from the barnyard," Kurtz said. "I think geographical space between home sites is the key to continued neighbor tolerance of a variety of individual activities."

Kurtz's proposal bore a striking resemblance to the recommendations of the county's zoning staff and the Rural Economic Development Council. Their proposal also allows the subdivision of lots one at a time into smaller, varied sizes, with a cap on how many times a lot can be divided based on acreage.

KURTZ'S PROPOSAL also reflected the proposal of Supervisor Lori Waters (R), whose Broad Run district contains much of the county's newest, densest residential growth.

After living in 13 cities, Waters said she had never experienced suburbia as dense as in Lansdowne, where she has a home on .19 of an acre. Dense suburbia in the eastern part of the county, she said, was driving more suburbanites west in search of space.

"If you allow a suburban neighborhood right next door [to a farm], you are setting up people with suburban expectations to complain about the animals, farm smells, tractors or other rural uses right next door," Waters said.

Waters' proposal, like Kurtz's, would allow a base density of one house per 10 acres. A 150-acre lot, for example, could therefore be subdivided 10 times into lots of varying size.

Waters also encouraged clustering of homes as well as a requirement that home sellers give new buyers a "Welcome to Rural Loudoun" letter that explained the differences between their new environs and suburbia.

MEANWHILE, Vice Chairman Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) and Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) offered more aggressive proposals that, while still offering lower densities than eastern Loudoun, would bring the west closer in nature to the east.

Tulloch's proposal would allow cluster densities of one unit per five acres in some areas and cluster densities of one unit per ten acres in other areas.

Snow, meanwhile, offered the proposal that would allow the densest building: remapping all parcels less than 10 acres to allow one house per three acres, which he said would result in one house per four to six acres after landscape considerations.

All parcels 10 acres or more, then, would be remapped to one house per 10 acres under Snow's plan. His plan would also allow clustering at one house per five acres on lots of 20 acres or larger.

SUPERVISOR Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) and Chairman Scott York still held to their original positions, wanting the prior zoning that allowed agricultural uses and one house per 10 to 50 acres to be reinstated.

Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), however, was the only member of the board who supported eastern Loudoun-like densities for the west.

"I think everyone on this board is to my left," Delgaudio said.

The board may recommend an action at its next workshop on rural zoning on June 1, at 6:30 p.m. in the county government center in Leesburg.