The Board of Supervisors did not take a final vote on the Route 50/Arcola Comprehensive Plan amendment at its Monday, Sept. 25 work session, instead forwarding the proposal to its Tuesday, Oct. 3 business meeting for action.
The decision came after three days of work sessions, where Supervisors made amendments to the proposal forwarded from the Planning Commission and debated the inclusion of residential development near the airport.
If approved, the amendment would rezone the Route 50/Arcola corridor, an area often referred to as "the gateway to Loudoun." It would allow for additional residential, business and retail development.
The amount of residential development that would be allowed within a close proximity to Dulles Airport has been an ongoing concern of people opposed to the proposal.
In May, those concerns caused the Planning Commission to alter the plan originally proposed by the Route 50 task force, a group of landowners, developers and residents created at the request of the board. The commission removed a mixed-use development known as a lifestyle hub, which would be located off of Route 50, just west of Dulles Airport.
The lifestyle hub would allow for a variety of upscale stores, restaurants and entertainment activities in an open-air setting. It has been compared to Fairfax Corner in Fairfax and the Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, Md.
AT THEIR Wednesday, Sept. 20 work session, Supervisors heard from representatives of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The representatives said they would caution changing zoning to 100 percent high-density residential development, but that they endorsed the work done by the Route 50 task force. Representatives said they especially appreciated the fact that the task force kept residential development outside of the areas with high levels of noise.
Commissioner Nancy Hsu (Blue Ridge) explained the reasoning behind the commission’s decision to exclude residential development near the airport, including concerns about noise and light.
Hsu said that just because houses were outside the noise contours laid out by the airport does not mean those residents will not be impacted by aircrafts. She also said that lights on the ground could create problems from pilots attempting to land at Dulles Airport.
"This area is directly in the approach zone," she said.
Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) challenged Hsu’s assertion, asking her if she was a pilot. Snow said pilots do not look directly towards the ground when approaching airports, instead relying on instruments and air traffic controllers.
"The majority of airports in the United States, if that were the case, would have to be shut down," he said.
Burton countered that National Airport now has restrictions placed on it because of concerns raised by citizens.
"They have a limit on the number of gates they can have and there are limits on the number of arrivals and departures," he said.
MONDAY, SUPERVISOR Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) put forward a land-use map that would keep most of the areas along Route 50 zoned business community, which allows for 25 percent residential development. Staton’s proposal removed all residential and business development west of the Village of Arcola, zoning the area for industrial development.
The plan kept the originally proposed lifestyle hub out of the plan amendment.
In the Village of Arcola, the Planning Commission recommended limiting residential development to four units per acre and encouraged residential development above retail development. The commission also recommended not counting any second-story residential development towards the allowed density.
Supervisors voted 6-3 to encourage second-story development in the area surrounding the Village of Arcola, with Supervisors Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin), Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) and Scott K. York (I-At large) voting against it.
Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said she supported second-story housing because it promoted mixed-use development, but did not like the idea of giving it as a bonus to developers.
"My issue is whether or not you will be allowed additional density within your acreage," she said. "If this is going to be a business driven area then business should be the predominant [focus.]"
However, Waters' motion to strike the sentence allowing second-story residential development without it counting towards overall residential density failed.
In order to avoid high-rise buildings within the Village of Arcola, Supervisors voted to include a general policy stating "the county does not support residential uses above three stories."
The board will meet Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 9:30 a.m., in the Government Center at 1 Harrison St. in Leesburg.