Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In Loudoun, Less is More

Speaking of property rights - here are some residents in Loudoun who would like the board of supervisors go with a lower-density zoning in the the western parts of the county. This story doesn't say much but it's evident that many in Loudoun, including the more developed eastern part of the county, think adding thousands of households in the west will make traffic in the east even worse. After all, none of those potential new residents would be commuting to West Virginia..

The current zoning permits one house per three acres - the proposed new zoning would reduce that density... by a lot. Densities would be 20 acres and 40 acres for a house, with rezoning options as low as 7.5 acres and 15 acres.


At 9:53 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Actually that is not quite true. I have a number of hay customers who work west of here, not east. Principally, those that don't go east go to Winchester, Middleburg, and Leesburg, not West Virginia, but I'll give you partial credit.

Once again it comes down to TMT's argument about balancing property rights. People in Western Loudoun are probably right when they say development out there will cause more traffic congestion in the east. Once again this supports the argument that we need to move more jobs west, so people won't need to go to the east.

But they don't care about traffic congestion in the east, it is a red herring. What they want is to protect what they see as their property rights - the right to continue to live in the countryside.

The problem is, that nowhere in their purchase contract does it say they have the right to prevent their neighbor from issuing a purchase contract. Such a deed could be written, but it would cost a lot more than they paid for their land.

They are arguing for protection of one of their bundle of sticks, but it is one they do not own to begin with.

You know the western Loudoun zoning story is Up,Down,Up, and about to be Down again. But it won't be down as much as last time.
Also, Loudoun is much more forgiving about what you can do with rural space, so there are more opportunities for rural businesses.

Just don't kid your self that what is going on out there has anything to do with traffic. Mostly it is, "Well, I didn't move out here so I could be surrounded by other people."

That is a perfectly understandable attitude. I feel the same way. But let's call it like it is and not accord the idea as a right that does not and never did exist.

That is crossing a threshold.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

I was in eastern Loudoun yesterday, and let me assure you that nobody would ever describe that as 'the countryside.' It is an amazing place in many ways. The new flyover next to AOL headquarters at Waxpool Road and Route 28 is not to be missed.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

That's right. Going from Western Loudoun to Eastern Loudoun is like going from The Plains to Manasses. It's 15 miles and 50 years, not in travel time, but metaphorically.

Sometimes I get a call for a hay delivery, and I get directions. Following the directions I find myself driving through new, modern subdivisions, past the day care, by the golf course, onto a gravel road to some horse farm or riding facility that backs up to suburbia.

Just looking and watching, you know those days are numbered, unless a lot of suburbanites take up riding. Every year I have fewer deliveries to the east and more to the west. Every year more of my deliveries are mulch for new lawns and not feed.

I hate to think what that flyover cost, but it can't cost as much as the congestion caused by a traffic light. It wasn't that long ago that that area was countryside; I can remember a huge horse facility that backed right up to the first townhouses in Centreville. It was previously a dairy farm, and all that is left now is the silo, refurbished as memorabilia. At that time, route 28 was a ride in the country, I used to go buy lumber from a sawmill there.

Tyson's corner was once a family farm, and before that Bailey's Crossroad, and before that, Georgetown.

It's depressing, really. I live in this old place surrounded by generations of portraits, but when I go outside to work I feel like that kid in Tienanmen Square, facing down a tank. Every year a few more people move in and, after they get here, they suddenly want to preserve our rural character, by which they mean mine.

I'd love to help them, but I can't do it without adequate income. They are either going to help me, and people like me, or be surrounded more and more by people like themselves.

Or, they can swing their political weight and crush me with phony economic and political policies.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

What I was struck by (figuratively) while driving through Loudoun is how much land is given over to highways. The big flyover at Waxpool Road is just one, but even better examples are the many wide, meandering arterials that wind this way and that through the endless subdivisions. It's just a lot of acreage.

I navigate sort of by the compass directions when I'm in unfamiliar areas, but that's impossible there, because the roads spin you around like a top.

I did come to one four-way stop that I particularly liked: in three directions was residential development - townhouses, mostly. In the fourth direction the asphalt turned to gravel. God knows what the people down there think of their new neighbors.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

VDOT seems to have a penchant for making things as big as possible, look at the Warrenton bypass interchange. I'm probably wrong, but it seems as if the interchanges in New England are smaller.

One of the things that bugs me is that the highway took 60+ acres when it went through here, what, 20 years ago, and a lot of it was wasted. It is now used as a staging ground for parking VDOT equipment when needed, otherwise it's a clandestine dumpsite.

As I understand it, the family got paid the princely sum of $200 per acre. Yet under the new rules, currently crossing the threshold, if development ever does come we will then have to turn around and pay infrastructure fees, now set at $30,000 per lot.

What you are talking about with the winding arterials and endless subdivisions is different. I agree there is a sort of facelessness, lack of trees, missing neighborhood, kind of feeling. Some of that is a result of regulation. Setbacks, street width, drainage, some is just topography, and soil type.

It is visually jarring because the houses are all out of proportion to the lots: too big, too many, facing odd directions, too similar. I'm sure we can do better, but I don't know how.

I'm the guy at the end of the gravel road. I like all my new neighbors, but I'm going to hate it when they turn on me in order to save our open space.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

I think that's a good question to ask; if there's a difference between how much land VDOT wants for roads and how others do it. At the soon-to-be-built intersection of the Loudoun County Parkway and Route 7 a developer is proposing to build an 'urban' style interchange, which would require much less land than the traditional cloverleaf.

Highway engineers; masters of the universe.


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