Another big mixed-use project in southern Loudoun faces a reckoning as new restrictions on residential development due to airport noise inch their way toward likely approval.
A trio of owners, led by an affiliate of development giant Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL), wants to build a mixed-used community dubbed Cedar Terrace at South Riding, including some 1,100 multifamily units and 81,000 square feet of commercial, on five parcels comprising about 51 vacant acres. Those parcels sit just southwest of Dulles International Airport, sandwiched between U.S. Route 50, Tall Cedars Parkway and the Home Depot at Riding Plaza. Of the assemblage, about 42 acres, mostly owned by Toll, would require rezoning to allow the multifamily construction envisioned there. An application to that end, filed with the county last year, is currently wending its way through the entitlement review process.
It looks unlikely it’ll get the desired green light in time, adding another wrinkle to the site’s setback-fraught history. In 2016, The Peterson Cos. had the Toll Brothers property under contract, with plans to incorporate it into the Avonlea mixed-use project, which sits next door to the west. That deal fell apart and Toll Brothers subsequently forged ahead with an earlier version of its present plan, now facing a fresh derailment.
Echoing his recent warning shot across the bow of another nearby planned development, Dulles Landing, County Supervisor Matt Letourneau, R-Dulles, said he won’t support Cedar Terrace as it’s currently designed. For one thing, he thinks it includes relatively too much housing and too little commercial. But whatever the ultimate mix, something like half of Toll Brothers’ property — where filed plans locate an apartment building, an income-restricted affordable housing building and numerous multifamily attached units — could soon fall within a boundary that would prohibit new residential development due to airport noise.
“I will not support new residential in the 65+ area,” Letourneau said in an email, referring to that boundary’s designation in an updated Airport Impact Overlay District, or AIOD, currently under consideration by the county’s Planning Commission. He’s said previously the local government should prohibit development in such areas to protect would-be residents, who may not fully appreciate the noise they’re signing up for when they choose to live near the airport.
The AIOD, last drawn in the 1990s, maps noise levels in concentric contours around the airport. The closer to the runways, the lower and louder the airplanes are as they take off and land. County policy prohibits new residential development within the loudest contour, otherwise known as 65 LDN, a measurement of decibel level day and night. Cedar Terrace currently falls outside that boundary, but a big part of it could come to fall within a redrawn version.
The Board of Supervisors hasn’t approved the updated AIOD, but in March formally initiated steps to do so. A public hearing on the matter will take place in November, a county spokesman said.
Residential rezonings that the Board approves prior to any new AIOD adoption, but which are subsequently mapped into the loudest contour, would not have their approvals rescinded — a protection likely already afforded under state law, but which the Board also voted unanimously to reiterate last year. The Board could incorporate language to grandfather certain applications that are not approved prior to a new AIOD, but which had already been filed or achieved some level of progress through the review process. But the new AIOD as proposed makes no such provisions, the county spokesman said.
There’s very little chance the Cedar Terrace rezoning application, which is still in a relatively early administrative stage, would come to the Board before any new AIOD is adopted. Letourneau expects the Board will wrap up the airport noise issue this year, whereas it probably won’t consider Cedar Terrace until 2023, he said.
“The impact of the newly proposed noise contours would be far-reaching, including impeding the ability to meet the County’s previously stated goals and objectives for this vibrant area,” including a “diverse array of housing options” and other mixed uses, Mark Simms, a Toll Brothers VP said in a statement. He hopes parties affected by the new AIOD “are afforded ample time to understand its full implications,” he added.
In April, the Board, with Letourneau’s support, approved a similar rezoning application for Peterson’s Avonlea II immediately to Cedar Terrace’s west, which would include nearly 450 multifamily units, a 220-bed continuing care facility, offices and retail.
But Avonlea and Cedar Terrace differ in three ways.
First, Avonlea was much further along, having already obtained a positive recommendation from the Planning Commission before the Board initiated steps toward a new AIOD in March.
“It is my belief that, out of fairness, the applicant [for Avonlea] had already been involved in a process for over a year, that we could not hold them to the new 65 LDN lines,” Letourneau said at an April 19 Board meeting, referring to the AIOD’s loudest noise contour that precludes new residential. “I do believe that, once we formally adopt those lines, every application moving forward is subject to those lines.”
Second, Avonlea is more evenly balanced between residential and commercial, the supervisor said.
Finally, the Cedar Terrace assemblage includes a sizable southern portion that would not be subsumed into the no-new-residential noise contour. Letourneau said he’s given “consistent feedback” that Cedar Terrace’s residential component should be relocated into this portion, where new residential would continue to be allowed.