Dulles South Rezoning — Dead as a Doornail

I haven’t kept up with this story as I promised, but it looks like Greenvest LC’s push for greater development densities in the Dulles South area of Loudoun County is heading for defeat. According to Dusty Smith with Leesburg2day:

The board of supervisors last night signaled the defeat of a proposal to increase the residential densities in Loudoun’s Transition Policy Area near Rt. 50, even after offers came to reduce the number of new homes permitted from more than 33,000 to fewer than 8,000.

What comes next, I don’t know. The virtue of the Greenvest project was that it made an honest effort to create a growth-that-pays-for-itself business model, in which the developer would have used the Community Development Authority mechanism to make massive up-front contributions to local schools, roads and other infrastructure. Foes raised legitimate concerns that Greenvest wasn’t taking all costs into account, and made a strong argument that growth could be more efficiently accommodated in other parts of the county.

Now the county has new issues to deal with: If Greenvest and neighboring developers cannot build an additional 33,000 homes in Dulles South, as they proposed, where will those 33,000 houses go — and what kind of monetary contribution will Loudoun County get from the developers of those homes?

Will growth leapfrog to Clark, Warren, Frederick and Fauquier counties, forcing people to commute longer distances and congesting even more miles of Interstates and arterials? Or will developers focus on Leesburg, Ashburn and Sterling, overloading Route 7 and other local roads? If so, will they match the financial contributions that Greenvest was willing to make?

My high-altitude perspective from down here in Richmond is that channeling development into the Route 7 growth corridor makes the most sense — if the development is done right. It needs to be compact, it needs to permit a finely grained mix of uses, and it needs to allow spots of urban-level density. Developers and planners also need to integrate shared-vehicle systems such as buses and vans into the design. If Loudoun just gets more of what is already there, it will be a disaster.

Perhaps readers from Loudoun can illuminate where the inevitable growth will occur and what that growth will look like.

Update: It’s official. The Board of Supervisors has spiked the rezoning. The Washington Post has the morning-after report here.

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9 responses to “Dulles South Rezoning — Dead as a Doornail”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Well in the July BR blog:

    “By VDOT’s calculations, the increase in the number of housing units to 28,000 would generate an additional 250,000 to 300,000 automobile trips per day. While Loudoun County’s previous analysis looked only at the impact on Loudoun roads, VDOT contended that negative traffic impacts would spill into neighboring Fairfax and Prince William counties.”

    I’d say… these numbers… had impact…

  2. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    From what I’ve seen with respect to estimates for Tysons Corner, adding housing units without restricting, by tax, fee or regulation, parking/cars in that same area will result in added car trips. Density, in and of itself, does not reduce car trips.

    I would suppose that one could construct housing (33,000 units) and associated commercial/retail space on the AOL campus. (Time Warner should send me a check for the suggestion.) But unless AOL workers elect to live in that area and also limit their vehicles, we have more car trips — more traffic.

    I suspect that many AOL employees would not want to live on top of their work location (and even many of those who did, might find themselves laid off and then working elsewhere). I also suspect that most current residents of Loudoun County would just as soon that these 33,000 new homes are built in some other county, except Loudoun.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar

    TMT has hit the nail on the head: we cannot predict what travel will happen, and we all want growth someplace else.

    As long as we think this way it is a guaranteed prescription for higher costs, higher taxes, and more unhappiness.

  4. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Everytime I tread on this issue, I fear EMR will Alpha-Beta me, but I would like to know whether there are examples of suburban or even smaller town communities that successfully built mixed use areas of substantial size, where auto traffic is much less than in neighboring areas and where a significant portion of the residents also work in the same community. I won’t argue that it hasn’t happened. I’d just like to know where and see the data. If it works, I’ll spend the time to understand the Alphas and the Betas thoroughly.

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar

    The people who would live in those 33,000 homes have already happened.

    Bacon is right. Where will we put them?

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Yes – two things for sure:

    1. – The people ARE coming – new jobs bring people – NoVa is generating about 70K new jobs per year.

    2. – People EXPECT to be MOBILE. Whether it’s to go to work, or buy a loaf of bread or visit the beach – our
    culture is that we can do this whenever we want to and wherever we want to.

    I don’t know about 1. – If the Fed Government goes on a diet – it might change for NoVA

    number 2. has been in place since the Model “T” though I bet I’m not the only one these days that thinks
    twice before deciding to visit relatives during the Holidays… because of the traffic. The point being
    that folks WILL defer/cancel SOME auto trips depending on circumstances but almost no one is going to
    give up their car if it means giving up mobility.

  7. I don’t know TMT. I’m not encouraged. When I look at Marshall and Warenton I see two more towns that have given up on main street in favor of strip malls on the fringe.

    I think we will have 20 hp power cars that get 100 miles to the gallon before we give up on cars. There are an awful lot of people commuting in behemoths running on 300+ HP at five miles an hour that could get where they are going just as well with something a lot less consumptive.

    I think there is a awful lot of elasticity in demand in this area. We care more about getting where we need to be than we do about taking two tons of automobile with us.

  8. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Ray, my only point was that the new Congress is likely to slow the growth rate in defense and homeland security-related contracts to other areas that are of greater priority to the new leadership and majority members. The Ds won’t abandon defense or homeland security, but do have different priorities than the GOP had. Some of these big office buildings beging constructed on the hope that defense and homeland security firms would fill them might just sit empty a bit longer.

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    BRAC is the perfect opportunity to get into the jobs, land-use, transportation game.

    Right now.. my perception is that the smart growth guys.. are primarily focusing
    on the transportation angle… and advocating.. light/heavy rail investments.

    The MWCOG/TPB did a study.. that … showed stress on the transportation network and the smart growth guys are weighing in with advocacies of using light/heavy rail in lieu of new road capacity.

    But here’s a question… if the BRAC results in MORE traffic to the re-located jobs… doesn’t that imply that somewhere else on the network.. that there will be LESS traffic… since we talking “elastic” here.

    where have I gone wrong in my reasoning?

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