Board Discusses Downzoning

Board Discusses Downzoning

The Board of Supervisors addressed the Loudoun County Planning Commission's recommendation for the rezoning of the Rural Policy Area for the first time at the Tuesday, April 4, business meeting. The board voted 5-3-1 to forward to public hearing the Planning Commission recommendations as well as the board's original recommendations to the commission.

Supervisors Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) and Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) opposed the motion. Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) was absent from the meeting.

Staton said the Planning Commission's recommendation needs to go to the either transportation/land use committee or to the board in a work session.

"We need to decide, is this a change we want to make to the ordinance?" Staton said. "There are so many things involved right now people aren't going to know what to make of it."

The recommendation, which was presented to the board at its March 21 meeting, focuses on restoring a large amount of the 2003 rezoning. The 2003 zoning, which was approved by the previous Board of Supervisors, was more restrictive and required lower densities than the current policy. The 2003 downzoning was later overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court in March 2005.

Following the court ruling, the Rural Policy Area reverted to its original zoning, which allows for one house per 3 acres.

THE COMMISSION'S recommendation for the Rural Policy Area supports AR-1 zoning, which allows for one house per 10- or 20-acre lot, and AR-2 zoning, which allows for one house per 20- or 40-acre lot.

The current Board of Supervisors asked for a compromise between the current high-density zoning and the 2003 plan. One of the board's main concern was that the interests of long-term Loudoun farmers be kept in mind.

In addition to low-density zoning, the commission recommended that there should be a requirement of 70 percent open space within the AR-1 and AR-2 zoning for consistency throughout the Rural Policy Area.

The commission also suggested there be no lot maximum in cluster subdivisions and that the minimum number should be dependent on the type of water and sewer provided to the individual lots. Commissioners also recommended to the board that rural villages be allowed within the Rural Policy Area.

One of the major focuses of the recommendation was the grandfathering clause, which would allow for any applications submitted before the board adopts the new rezoning policy to finish the process under the current zoning of one house per 3 acres.

AT THE REQUEST of Delgaudio, the grandfathering clause was separated out from the rest of the commission's recommendations to be voted on separately. The board voted 6-2-1, with Staton and Delgaudio opposing, to send the grandfathering clause to public hearing.

"There are a lot of little things that need to be looked into," Delgaudio said. "[The Planning Commission] has already had four or five work sessions on this. Now we need to have a work session on the issue."

Not all the supervisors who supported sending the grandfathering to public hearing, support the commission's recommendation on the issue.

"I think it is no secret that I don't support the recommendation that came from the Planning Commission on this subject," Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said. "I have heard from an awful lot of the public already, but I don't mind continuing to hear from them."

Other supervisors believe a grandfathering clause is unnecessary in the county's rezoning policy.

"The state has solid vesting laws," Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin), who voted for the public hearing, said in an earlier interview. "The state says that if you have an approved preliminary plan then you are vested. The Planning Commission gave a double message with this clause."

It will take seven to eight weeks to prepare the issue for public hearing, Deputy County Administrator Linda Neri said.

"If you take action on this today," she said, "that would take you to the end of May."

If the Board of Supervisors decided, following a public hearing, to make changes to the rezoning policy beyond what they originally stated or what the Planning Commission recommends they would be required to begin the process again.