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Community Outreach Begins On Silver Line Zone Development Study

© Leesburg Today - 05/29/2015

The public outreach phase of a new Loudoun County exercise to review development policies along the Metro rail corridor kicked off Thursday night.

More than 60 people attended the workshop at Moorefield Elementary School.

During the next several months county planners and a team of consultants will be taking a new look at the policies guiding development of land between Silver Line stations planned at Rt. 606 and Rt. 772.

Currently, county plans call for most of that acreage to be developed as ""keynote employment"" uses-as office campuses with some accessory retail uses, but no housing. That land-use concept hasn't found a strong market since it was developed in the 1990s, and other areas planned for keynote office development, along Rt. 7 and Rt. 28, since have been converted to mixed-use centers.

It was a 2014 analysis by an Urban Land Institute study panel that urged the county board to change the plans to allow a greater mix of uses-including residential development-in the area. Supervisors signaled resistance to that change, citing worries about increasing costs for schools and other public services, and about the impact of allowing more homes to be built under the Dulles Airport flight paths. Another looming concern is to ensure the planning policies generate enough development to support the special tax districts created along the rail route to finance Loudoun's share of the Metro construction cost.

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The board-initiated study of development options is expected result in a final recommendation this fall. If supervisors agree to move ahead with plan changes, that work will follow with another round of public review and public hearings, starting with the county Planning Commission.

But there is a lot of work to be done to reach that point.

During Thursday night's work session, the crowd-a mix of developers, Dulles-area residents and Board of Supervisors candidates-started with the basics. Project Manager Rich Klusek and Matt Noonkester, a community planner with the Stantec consultant team, solicited input on their priorities for the area. Participants used wireless keypads to provide real-time polling on issues such as the best land uses, and the types of roads and housing that should be considered as planners begin drawing up alternatives.

Judging from the responses collected from participants, the community-generated scenario will have lots of walkable, mixed-use centers, multi-modal roads with room for cyclists, more mid- and high-rise apartment/condo buildings, and outdoor spaces for neighborhood concerts and gatherings. Participants also gathered in groups around maps and photos to talk with members of the county planning staff in more detail about issues ranging from transportation to housing styles.

During the next community meeting, to be held at the school Aug. 26, participants will use special software to create a vision plan for the study area.

More work will be going on behind the scenes before then.

On Friday, the consultants met with landowners in the study area to gather information on their plans and suggestions for policy change. Next week, at Stantec's Charlotte, NC, office, the consultant team will hold charrette work sessions to begin creating specific development options. In the end, there will be four, including one developed at the community meetings. Those will then be subject to additional studies, including economic impact and transportation analysis.

On June 17, the project team is scheduled to provide the Board of Supervisors with a status report on the project.

You can learn more at silverlinescenarioplanning.com/.

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