Timeline of Rural Zoning in Loudoun County
Loudoun County’s outdated comprehensive
plan calls for suburban densities throughout the county, including the western
portion of the county. The western portion of Loudoun County is zoned
A-3, or one house per three acres.
Loudoun’s Rural Economic Development Task Force warns that the
county’s rural economy, worth millions to the county, is being threatened
by rapid, inappropriate growth. “A thriving rural economy can exist only
where there are adequate resources,” their report reads, and those resources
are “disappearing to residential subdivisions at an alarming rate.”
Loudoun County posts a record year for growth, becoming the fastest growing
county in the nation. Growth is propelled by the growing Washington metropoiltan
region, and developer-friendly politicians whose land use policies and zoning
ordinances were less restrictive than neighboring jurisdictions (such as Fauquier
and Clarke Counties, and Montgomery County, MD).
The County conducts an extensive public input process to develop a new
comprehensive plan for the county. After three years, four public hearings,
and sending two mailings to 64,000 residents, the Board of Supervisors voted to
protect Loudoun’s rural economy and businesses by zoning western Loudoun
as rural (AR-1 and AR-2).
Smaller lots already subdivided within the new AR-1 and AR-2 districts were not
affected, except that they could not be further subdivided.
The enactment of the AR-1 and AR-2 zoning ordinances stimulates lawsuits
against the County brought by speculative developers. These suits were later
consolidated. The case is contested up to the Virginia Supreme Court.
The Virginia Supreme Court rules in favor of the landowners (the plaintiffs).
The Court’s decision was based
on a procedural technicality - a controversial interpretation - and not on the
validity of the rural zoning. The case returns to the Circuit Court.
The normal remedy in such a case is for the Board of Supervisors to correct the
defect by re-advertising and re-enacting the rural zoning ordinances. Doing
so would allow the adopted AR-1 and AR-2 zoning to stand.
The Board of Supervisors, whose membership changed with the 2003 elections,
refuses to re-advertise and re-enact the rural zoning provisions. 25
affected landowners from Western Loudoun, with the support of the Piedmont
Environmental Council, file a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of
AR-1 and AR-2 zoning.
The Circuit Court decides that the Western Loudoun zoning reverts to pre-January
2003, the A-3 standard. The Circuit Court certifies the case for immediate
appeal to the Supreme Court. The intervenors file a notice of appeal and
are given 90 days to prepare their petition. If is uncertain whether this
does or does not suspend A-3 subdivisions during the appeal process.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors propose two
compromises that would bridge the differences between the old A-3 zoning and
the 2003 rural zoning, AR-1 and AR-2. The proposals are just two of the many possible
options for Western Loudoun. Two public input sessions are held.
The Board of Supervisors vote 5-4 to send
Option 1 (also known as the Clem/Burton Proposal) to the public hearing process.
A final vote on the rural zoning issue will likely happen by the end of 2005.
The Board of Supervisors votes 6-2-1 to move forward with consideration
of Option 1. The six voting to forward the process were Burton,
Clem, Kurtz, Tulloch, Waters, and York. The next step is a public
hearing. Meanwhile, A3 subdivisions continue to be filed.
The Planning Commission held two public hearings on the proposed
The Board of Supervisors held two public hearings on the
proposed zoning changes, but failed
to take a vote.
The Board of Supervisors held yet another public hearing
on July 24 -- but failed to take a vote on the proposed changes.
The Board of Supervisors again fail to take a final vote
on the matter, and Supervisor Mick Staton put forth a last-minute
plan that would allow 18,000 new houses to be built (about 4,000
more than the Clem/Burton Plan would allow). The Supervisors announce
they will again hold a public hearing. When will it end?
After a 21 month delay, three rounds of public hearings,
and citizen comments 15:1 in favor of the more restrictive plan,
the Board voted 5-4 in support
of a plan to allow 18,000+ new houses in rural Loudoun. The so-called
Staton Plan is better than A-3 zoning, but not as protective as
the 2003 zoning. Supervisors York, Burton, Kurtz,
and Waters voted in opposition.
Plan is hardly a compromise for Loudoun taxpayers and commuters.
It puts our rural economy and its tax base in jeopardy, adds more
traffic to our roads, and will divert county resources from the
needs of our existing communities. During the 21 months of delay,
A3 subdivisions continued to be filed.
Special thanks to Mr. Bruce Smart for his assistance with content.
"The 200,000 Acre Solution: Supporting and Enhancing A Rural Economy
For Loudoun's 21st Century"; Loudoun’s Rural Economic Development Task