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Votes

Mixed Use Made Easier

Board prepares to vote on zoning that would bring new mixed-use development to Route 50 and beyond.

Mixed-use development may be on its way to the Route 50 corridor.

Among the matters discussed at the Board of Supervisors’ public hearing last Tuesday, Dec. 11, was one of the last recommendations of the Route 50 Task Force, a proposal to add a new mixed-use designation to the county’s zoning lexicon. Currently, the only zoning designations that permit, for example, office space located above retail outlets, are a town center zoning and transit centers.

In a later interview, Mark Stultz, the county’s project manager for the proposal, said the biggest difference between a town center district and the drafted mixed-use business district is that the new proposal leans more toward business development, with minimum requirements for a variety of business uses and a lower minimum requirement for residential space.

The new designation was proposed in order to allow properties along the Route 50 corridor to consolidate and build attractive developments, but property owners countywide could apply for the zoning if it is approved.

The board voted to send the matter to its next business meeting on Dec. 18 for action, with only Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) opposed. He and Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) expressed concern that the proposed designation would not be limited to the Route 50 corridor.

TWO PEOPLE who own property along Route 50 showed up to support the proposal.

"I believe that, as it’s written, it does a lot to encourage the development of the smaller properties, in that it gives us options that don’t currently exist," said Thomas McKay.

"Our property has an unusual shape to it, so it makes it difficult to fit into different development plans," said Eric Rogers, whose property includes the site of the Dover Saddlery. He said he and neighboring property owners had received complaints about the aesthetics of their developments. With only 10 acres, he said, the ability to consolidate with adjacent parcels would open up more options for improving the lot.

"This will allow these landowners that have the smaller and weird-shaped parcels to be able to cobble together 25-acre lots and be able to bring in something that’s of substance," said Supervisor Steve Snow (R-Dulles), who spearheaded the Route 50 Task Force in 2004.

When Delgaudio asked why the new zoning would be available countywide, Chairman Scott York (I) pointed out that anyone who wanted to take advantage of the new option would have to be cleared by the county for a rezoning.

Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said she had asked that the mixed-use business designation be applicable countywide. "We often hear from applicants that they want to have mixed-use — true mixed use, with vertical integration," she said, adding that several areas in her district would be well-served by the new zoning.

"My impression has been pretty much a Route 50 Task Force proposal and I’ve supported it up to now," said Delgaudio. "I’m opposed to it now and will be voting no."

SNOW ASKED him to reconsider his stance before the next meeting, saying the nonconforming lots to which the designation would apply are rare in the Sterling District.

Stultz said the zoning could be applied to any area designated for business by the Comprehensive Plan.

As the proposed "planned development mixed-use business district" designation is now written, it envisions districts of at least 25 acres with a mix of office, light industrial, retail, service, civic and high-density residential uses linked by walkways, bike paths and greenways. Each district would have to include a central plaza of at least 10,000 square feet.

The development’s total floor area would not be more than half the acreage of the district on which it is located, and at least 40 percent of its floor space would have to be devoted to employment uses. Minimums of 5 to 10 percent would be set for commercial, residential, civic and park uses and residential density would be capped at 16 units per acre. At least half of the development’s buildings would have to house a vertical mix of at least two different uses.

Incentives of increased floor space would be offered if the developer included such features as parking structures, affordable housing, adult day care, a performance theater, a shuttle system, a full-service hotel or environmentally friendly buildings, or if the district is at least 100 acres in size.

THE BOARD also forwarded an application for the rezoning of 25 acres, located north of Old Ox Road and west of Oakgrove Road, to the Dec. 18 business meeting for action. The application would allow for the construction of the Townes at Autumn Oaks, a residential development consisting of 179 townhouses at a density of 7.2 dwelling units per acre.

Board members voted to send the application for a rezoning that would allow the construction of the proposed Ridgewater Park development, to be located in the Transition Policy Area in the Catoctin District, to the Dec. 17 land use and transportation committee meeting for further review.

About 25 members of the public commented on the application, most of them to discourage the board from approving it. They expressed concern that the project could set a precedent of suburban development in violation of the Transition Area’s low-density zoning, as well as traffic concerns and the possibility that the development would compromise the nearby Goose Creek Reservoir, which provides drinking water for Loudoun and Fairfax counties. Board members were also wary of approving a project whose latest set of proffers had not yet been reviewed by the county.

Although it was a public hearing, the board went ahead and improved several items, including:

* A special exception to reduce the required number of parking spaces for the planned Greene Mill Preserve Community Center, to be located on the north side of Solti Way and just north of Black Branch Parkway, from 25 spaces to two handicapped spaces. Also approved was a zoning modification to permit the center to build fourth-story lofts, so long as it does not exceed the 40-foot height limit.

* A zoning modification to reduce the minimum yard requirements on three parcels of Dulles Town Center. The yards being reduced border Loudoun Valley Estates, and the three lots being modified are zoned for general industrial use.