Open Communication

Open Communication

Input encouraged on proposed Route 50 mixed-use business district.

Residents are being asked to weigh in on the details of the proposed Route 50 mixed-use business district. At the first community meeting on the district, Monday, March 5, representatives from the county and consulting firm AKRF Inc. opened the discussion to all citizens and landowners living and working along the Route 50 corridor.

"People's input will be applied to our feasibility study, which is scheduled to be presented to the county in May," Jim Cannelli, AKRF's project manager, said.

THE DEVELOPMENT of the mixed-use business district was a recommendation from the Route 50 task force, which was created by the Board of Supervisors in 2004 to address development-related issues along the Route 50 corridor. The task force recommended that the district be included in the Loudoun County zoning ordinance as an option for landowners. The district would also implement some of the policies included in the recently adopted Arcola Area/Route 50 Comprehensive Plan Amendment, which was approved by the board Oct. 17, 2006.

The county asked AKRF Inc. to develop any amendments to the zoning ordinance needed in order to create the new district, along with supporting documents such as flow charts, maps and a development review process for landowners that would seek rezoning to the district.

AT THE MEETING, county representatives made it clear to the landowners in attendance that they would not be automatically rezoned to the new district; it would only be a new option available to them under the zoning ordinance.

"This would be 100 percent owner-initiated," Mark Stultz, assistant zoning administrator, said. "They do not have to go to the mixed-use business district. It would totally be up to the individual landowner."

Charles Yudd, assistant county administrator, said that the Board of Supervisors' vision for the new district was only as a way for the board to better implement the long-range plan of the approved Comprehensive Plan amendment.

"This doesn't rezone anyone's property," he said. "After this process with [AKRF] we will have a set of regulations for developments with a mix of residential, business and retail uses."

BOTH THE county and AKRF are seeking residents' and landowners' input on incentives the county can give to encourage applicants to rezone their property to the mixed-use district once the zoning regulations are in place.

Yudd said it is not possible for the county to lessen or remove the study of an application's required transportation or capital facility contributions, but that the county is interested in seeing if the long application process can be mitigated.

"We are trying to come up with tangible incentives to make it more attractive to landowners," he said.

Some residents at Wednesday's meeting said they would be interested in seeing changes to the time frame in which applications are reviewed by county staff and the burdensome amount of work required for applicants, some of which are individuals or families without many resources.

"It would seem to me that if the county sees this as a good thing for the county, then the county should make it easy for [landowners] to opt in to the district without incurring enormous costs," Stephanie Smith, president of the South Riding Board of Directors, said.

THE FIRST STEP for AKRF, Cannelli said, is to figure where along the Route 50 corridor it would be feasible for a mixed-use zoning to occur.

For example, he said, the land within Dulles Airport's noise contours is not allowed to be developed with residential housing. Some available land, he said, might be located adjacent to a development already underway, which could limit the amount of residential, retail or business development allowed on the undeveloped property.

"We are screening locations [along Route 50] for possible mixed-use districts," Cannelli said. "We are looking at other mixed-use districts [in Virginia] that might have applicability to this district."

Cannelli hopes to be able to present the feasibility study to the board by May 3.

"But the schedule is subject to change," he said.