Supervisors Consider Giving Arcola School Property for Affordable Housing

County supervisors are considering giving away the Old Arcola School to be used for a 74-home affordable housing development despite protests from neighbors.

Supervisors on Feb. 9 held a public hearing on a proposal from Capretti Land Inc. to take five to six acres including the Arcola School to develop 10 price-controlled units inside the school, and another 64 units in a new building attached to the school from behind. Those would stay price-controlled for at least 75 years.

They would be joined by another estimated 226 for-sale units on a 20-acre parcel across the street, including single-family houses, townhouses, some also price-controlled. The developer also would build public recreational and parking facilities, a public recycling facility and two bus stops at the portion of the Arcola School site that would remain under county ownership.

Transferring the land would kick off a rezoning application on that land, in which the county government and developer would be co-applicants. Closing on the land transfer would only occur if the developer secures financing for the development and the rezoning is approved, and the land would revert to the county if construction does not begin within two years.

The plan drew concern from people living nearby although the public hearing found the majority of supervisors arguing against the issues community members raised. Many of the people who came to the public hearing argued for a senior center and more engagement with the project’s neighbors, and worried about traffic along the two-lane road, which the county has no plans to widen.

South Fork HOA President Doug Munger said the impact on homeowners would be “crazy.”

“I watch daily, and this afternoon along with my fellow homeowners and community members, emergency vehicles struggling to get up and down the road. When this construction [begins]—because it’ll probably eventually take place, because everything passes—we are going to be bottlenecked. It’s going to be a nightmare for us. It’s not fair to us or other community members,” he said.

“Loudoun County should take a leading role to proactively collect, consider and include community input, which should result in a plan that complements, strengthens and benefits surrounding communities,” said Loudoun Historic Villages Alliance Chairwoman Madeleine Skinner.

“Work with the community so that they are included in the discussion of what happens in Arcola. As the people who will be most directly affected, getting them involved at the beginning is really important, and it really hasn’t happened, it seems,” said Gem Bingol, of the Piedmont Environmental Council.

The developer, Michael Capretti, who also serves on the county’s Fiscal Impact Committee and Zoning Ordinance Committee, also spoke.

“This is really, from our perspective, just an opportunity for us to file an application. We certainly intend to meet with everybody around and talk about our ideas and our plans, and listen to their concerns,” he said. Capretti said he is “just asking for the opportunity to file an application, meet with the residents, and do something better than what’s currently approved there.”

The majority of supervisors expressed support for the proposal. County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said approving the land transfer would “start the conversation.”

“If we only say yes to housing developments when the community around the development wants us to say yes, we would never say yes to a housing development ever including the ones you all are living in yourselves,” Randall told the people who had come to speak during the public comment section of the meeting.

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said the application offers a chance to address existing traffic concerns through proffer agreements with the developer, and that cut-through traffic in the area would be reduced by road projects underway in the area now.

“Now on this parcel across form the school, approved, moving forward, is 268,000 square feet of commercial. Distribution, warehouse—we’re talking trucks,” Letourneau said. “I’ve been sick to my stomach about this for years because it was mostly by-right, and all the board could really do was have a little negotiation on the end to try to make it little better.”

It is not the first time the property has been considered for affordable housing. In 2016, supervisors voted down a proposal from the Windy Hill Foundation to renovate the building into apartments and build a separate two-story, 36-unit apartment building on the property. Supervisors at the time cited Dulles Airport’s high noise zone—at the time, Windy Hill was requesting an exception to county zoning to allow homes in an area of high airport nose. The maps depicting that airport noise are undergoing revision to reflect a new noise study, but district Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said the difference is minimal and the area still noisy.

“Planes are still flying right overhead. It’s super loud,” Buffington said. “If I wouldn’t want to live there, I’m not going to approve housing for someone else to live there because they make less money than me.”

Supervisors voted 7-2, with Buffington and Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) opposed, to send the land transfer to their meeting March 1 for a vote.

7 thoughts on “Supervisors Consider Giving Arcola School Property for Affordable Housing

  • 2022-02-14 at 5:54 pm
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    If this is implemented like the existing affordable dwelling unit process it will be a sham. The original goal was to provide affordable housing to county employees like fire, police, teachers and others who are on the lower pay scale of the county. In reality this did not occur.

  • 2022-02-14 at 6:31 pm
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    This is long overdue!!! for years I have been driving by and it is unacceptable this property has fallen into disrepair. The building should have been demolished long ago.

  • 2022-02-14 at 8:22 pm
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    Putting 300 units in this small space will essentially cut Aldie/Stoneridge off from the rest of Loudoun County. Getting to Brambleton and Ashburn will be a nightmare if this is completed. It’s funny how bad ideas are always outside the control of the county board. The worse the idea, the less the board can do about it. We had thought we might retire in Loudoun but increasingly that looks like a catastrophic choice.

  • 2022-02-15 at 1:25 pm
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    Sell the property for what it is valued and reduce taxes with proceeds.

  • 2022-02-17 at 10:34 am
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    Does no one see a slight conflict of interest in this?

    “The developer, Michael Capretti, who also serves on the county’s Fiscal Impact Committee and Zoning Ordinance Committee, also spoke.”

  • 2022-02-21 at 5:53 pm
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    Not some price controlled but ALL price controlled and allow a private non-profit charity to manage it like the Good Shepherd Alliance. 🙂

    • 2022-03-18 at 8:36 pm
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      I suggest you read this article from Brookings as to how rent control can actually increase housing prices for those who aren’t the lucky few to get a rent controlled price and can lead to a housing crunch. This is Arcola right? Why would anyone put rent controlled places in auto dependent area such as Arcola? One of the greatest expenses to those on the lower income spectrum is owning and maintaining a car, which would be a sure requirement in Arcola. If the county actually wanted to discuss public transit plans there, that is one thing, although it would be stupid with the density that is in that area.

      https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-does-economic-evidence-tell-us-about-the-effects-of-rent-control/

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