Wednesday, Feb. 25
EDITORIAL: The perfect flip-flop
Borrowing an 18th century aphorism from a French philosopher – don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – Loudoun County supervisors have made a bad decision about a 21st century problem.
By approving the latest iteration of the Tuscarora Crossing development, they flipped-flopped their way to justifying policy that can only be characterized as haphazard.
For a few years now, supervisors have been of one mind: reject residential rezonings that cost more to support than the tax revenue that most residential developments generate. While some suggest the position is closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, supervisors have nonetheless favored commercial developments that pay the bills for an expanding county infrastructure.
Tuscarora Crossing, 250 acres of strategically situated property between the Village at Leesburg and Kincaid Forest southeast of Leesburg, has tested the resolve of supervisors.
Since 2012, the project has changed with the winds of growth – from all residential to less residential to mixed-use, roughly half of which is commercial or industrial.
Developer Hunter Lee never embraced the industrial direction, starting with a residential project of 800 homes. County planners had other ideas. They contended that the county’s Comprehensive Plan calls for primarily business uses and a smattering of houses on the industrially zoned site, which includes a utility plant, sewer plant and quarry.
Last week the project morphed back to residential with the developer reducing residential units to fewer than 500. As part of a $40 million proffer package, the developers also agreed to extend Crosstrail Boulevard through the property, dedicate 15 acres for a school or other county uses and to contribute $100,000 to two area playgrounds.
That was enough to flip Shawn Williams, the vice chair of the Board of Supervisors and the swing vote. Williams was joined by Supervisor Gerry Higgins (R-Catoctin), whose district covers the Tuscarora Crossing property, Chairman Scott York (R-At Large), Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge).
A perfect decision? Depends on whom you ask.
“At the end of the day, they didn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the amazing,” said an attorney for the developer.
“While nothing is perfect, it’s a much better application that it started out,” said Higgins.
But opponents contend the 5-4 decision to turn revenue-positive commercially zoned land to revenue-negative residential development will cost the county millions.
“I hear my colleagues all the time, all the time – ‘We have to increase the commercial tax base so we can hold the tax rate low,’” Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said, “and then some of you [supervisors] are going to turn around and vote for this application.
Buona said he couldn’t justify converting the best industrial plot of land in the county to a project to build 500 homes.
That’s just one of our concerns. For decades now, county leaders have flip-flopped over the best ways to stimulate and manage growth. That’s brought problems such as overcrowded schools, congested roads and a tax structure that’s insufficient to meet needed costs and services.
Loudoun needs a new Comprehensive Plan, a road map for decision-making about growth into the future. Until then, it excuses flip-flop decisions that exacerbate our current problems.
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