Creating a True Transition

Creating a True Transition

With little fanfare, the Planning Commission voted 8-0-1 to recommend approval of the Upper Broad Run/Upper Foley Transition Policy Area Comprehensive Plan amendments (CPAM) at its Thursday, July 6, work session. Commissioner Nancy Doane (Catoctin), the newest member of the commission, abstained from the vote.

There was none of the dissension between commissioners, as there was during the work sessions for the Route 50/Arcola CPAM, which saw much debate over proposed residential development near Dulles Airport and several reconsiderations of their decisions.

Instead, the decisions made by the commission at its work session June 26 were simply reviewed and voted upon, perhaps because of the extensive work done by the commissioners in three separate committees.

"Once again the commission's committees worked hard and I think what we have here is way better than what we started with," commission chair Teresa White Whitmore (Potomac) said. "I am proud to send this on to the board."

Other commissioners agreed with Whitmore, saying they believed commissioners came into the process with the same vision.

"All nine of us agreed more than a year ago that the area needed to be planned," Commissioner Suzanne M. Volpe (Sugarland Run) said. "I am proud of all the time that was put in to this."

The commission's recommendation begins the 90-day clock, in which the Board of Supervisor must take action on the CPAM. The board will take its August recess next month, but commissioners said they did not believe the break would affect the board's ability to make a decision within the allowed time frame.

IF APPROVED, the CPAMs would allow greater residential density and business development in the area between the Suburban Policy Area and the Rural Policy Area. The areas in question are southwest of Route 621 and cover the north side of Route 50 to Route 621 and south of Route 50 to the Prince William County border. The proposed CPAMs were created following the submission of several potential amendments in the area by Greenvest LLC and other development companies. The county decided to bring the proposed CPAMs under one document for further study.

The original proposal would have brought residential development to the area through mixed-use communities allowing densities up to four units per acre in the Upper Broad Run subarea and three units per acre in the Upper Foley subarea.

At the June 26 meeting, however, the Planning Commission decided to change the densities to allow four units per acre throughout the Upper Broad Run and Upper Foley subareas, with a large buffer that allows a density of one unit per acre. The proposed buffer would run along the western side of the subareas to the border of the Rural Policy Area. There would also be a buffer south of the subareas to the Prince William County border, with a 500-foot natural buffer and 1,300 feet of the one unit per acre density.

Thursday, commissioners made it clear that the four unit density was only designed to dictate the average density throughout the area and they would encourage lower densities as developments moved towards the west.

"The density on the eastern side could be higher than four [units], but it should all average out to four units per acre," Commissioner Nancy Hsu (Blue Ridge) said. "I want to make it clear."

Commissioners also wanted to make clear their intentions for including high-density development in the area.

While the area along relocated Route 659 would allow higher densities, the commission said high-density residential and commercial uses would only be considered in that area and were in no way by right.

The projected build out for the four unit density was not available at the time of the commissioners' decision, but project manager Cindy Keegan said staff members have been working on getting the numbers together.

THE ONLY EXTENDED dialogue of the meeting came following a question from Doane, who was attending her first work session since being named to replace former commissioner John D. Herbert.

"It appears as though what in essence we are doing is suburbanizing the area, so why didn't we just take the Suburban Policy Area policies and move them over?" she said.

The question forced commissioners to explain the why and how of reaching the policy and density decisions they did.

"I think there was some of that discussion at the board level," Volpe said. "But we were directed to look at the scope of the area."

Commissioners said they wanted to create some clear planning specifically for the Transition Area.

"We wanted to define transition," Commissioner Lawrence Beerman (Dulles) said. "It means higher density in the east and lower density towards the west."

"We wanted to taper down towards the Rural Policy Area and not have an abrupt change," Hsu said. "I don't think these policies 100 percent reflect the Suburban Policy Area."

Whitmore added that she believed the commission had made the right decision for the subareas.

"We worked on this over a long period of time," she said. "This is what we felt was appropriate for this particular area."