Route 50 Residents Respond

Route 50 Residents Respond

Barbara Munsey came armed with photos.

At the first Planning Commission public hearing on the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment (CPAM) that would rezone the Route 50/Arcola corridor, Munsey produced photos of the intersection of Route 50 and Gum Spring Road.

In the photos, Munsey showed the Loudoun County Planning Commission a structure that had previously been obstructed from view by a cedar grove.

"As they chip away that cedar habitat to improve that intersection, you can see a structure there," Munsey said. "What we have here is a possible former business emerging from a cedar grove because of an interchange that should have been built years ago."

Pointing out the characteristics of the frame of the old building, Munsey voiced her support for the proposed amendment.

"I am here to urge you to support the recommendation of the [Route 50] task force because, as you can see from the photos, years and years of doing nothing is really not a good option."

MUNSEY WAS one of the 23 Loudoun residents and developers that spoke about the proposed CPAM, which, if approved, would allow for additional development along Route 50, an area that has been named the "Gateway to Loudoun."

The current land use for the area allows for commercial light-industrial uses, such as car dealerships, gas stations and commercial nurseries. Next to the corridor, south of Route 50, there are residential neighborhoods, such as Tall Cedars Estates and the planned communities of South Riding and Stone Ridge.

If approved, the new zoning would allow for an additional 3,890 residential homes and 522,904 square feet of retail space. In addition, the amendment would cut the number of industrial square feet almost in half to 2,925,255 square feet. The amendment would allow for residential development under the flight paths of Dulles Airport, which was a concern to many residents who were present.

Ed Gorski, a Piedmont Environmental Council land-use officer, spoke to the Planning Commission as an expert who has been called in by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Authority to help work with citizen groups and airports about airport noise.

"In each and every instance," he said, "the citizen groups that I worked with were outside the [flight path] and they all had issues with noise. This proposal will increase development inside that area, which will only increase the noise."

THE PROPOSED amendment is a result of the recommendation of the Route 50 task force, a group that was formed in late 2004 at the Board of Supervisors' request to address land use along the Route 50 corridor and to make recommendations on how to create an attractive corridor into Loudoun County.

The task force was made up of members of various organizations, such as the county's Economic Development Commission and the Loudoun Convention and Visitors Association, property owners, developers and area residents.

Those that participated in the task force were pleased with the process and were anxious to see the amendment approved and the development started.

"I spent a year and a half on this task force," Arcola resident Mark DiLuigi said. "That area down there looks horrible and I mean horrible with a capital H. We've got to put these things together."

RESIDENTS AND DEVELOPERS in support of the task force's recommendation said they wanted to see the Route 50 corridor problem finally be dealt with.

"I wasn't a part of the task force, but I am a long-time observer of the corridor and I have been a resident of Loudoun County for 27 years," John Nicholas said. "It is time to solve a problem that has not been solved in 27 years."

In addition to encouraging the commission to begin a project they believed was long overdue, residents who supported the plan amendment hoped it would bring much needed retail and shopping opportunities to the area.

"I know everyone talks about traffic problems," Arlene Hill said. "Well, there is nothing you can do about it, it's already here. But retail is desperately needed in that area. There is nothing in that area where people can come and spend their money."

"I am sick and tired of traveling to Fairfax County to spend my money," DiLuigi said. "I live here, I work here, I want to spend my money here."

THOSE PEOPLE opposed to the task force's recommendation and the proposed CPAM were concerned that development would overrun the natural areas along Route 50 and would lower the overall quality of living they moved to Loudoun County for.

"Why should you improve this CPAM?" Leesburg resident, Jennifer Harrington, said. "I want to see how this would improve the quality of life. I think this is a gateway for development, it is not a gateway to Loudoun."

Many residents that spoke against the amendment also believed that more citizens should have been included on the task force.

A. Jeyanathan said he thought the recommendations that came out of the task force were "probably a little slanted and needed more public input."

A Dulles South resident, Jeyanathan said he questioned Supervisor Stephen Snow's (R-Dulles) vision for the area.

"There are some of us who would like Loudoun's gateway to look a little greener," he said. "There are some of us that think the gateway to rural Loudoun should look a little more rural."

Following the public hearing, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to forward the proposed amendment to its next work session to be held Monday, April 24, at 6 p.m.