New Airport Noise Map Sees Developer Pushback, ‘Deceptive’ Mailer

The county’s work to update the airport noise overlay in the Zoning Ordinance to reflect an updated study has drawn pushback from developers hoping to push forward with residential development near Dulles Airport.

The new maps are based on a 2019 study of aircraft noise around the airport, both now and in the future with plans for more air traffic and a fifth, east-west runway on the southern end of airport property. That overlay doesn’t control air traffic, an authority reserved for the federal government.

And in the highest-noise areas, county policy forbids residential development. That has gotten protest from developers who were hoping to build homes in some areas that have newly drawn into that high-noise rule—and a strongly-worded response to those developers’ tactics from Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority representatives have long warned that permitting homes in high-noise zones around the airport isn’t just bad for the people living there—it could also lead to complaints to the Federal Aviation Administration, which can lead to restrictions on flights paths and hours, limiting business at the airport. The airports authority has already seen that happen at its other airport, Reagan National Airport in Arlington.

During a June 28 Planning Commission public hearing on the new noise maps that also featured concerns from residents living near the airport, representatives from several major developers and related companies in Loudoun urged the commission to either recommend the county not adopt the new maps, or to carve out exceptions or grandfathering for their projects.

“The ‘live, work, learn and play’ planning that goes into what can be a world-class community, that can go away,” said Chris Garland, representing developer Beatty Companies which owns the Dulles Landing shopping center, and referring to the Board of Supervisors’ vision statement for Loudoun to be a place “where everyone can be proud to live, work, learn and play.”

“That’s going to go away, even though we don’t know what might not come in the future. When is a fifth runway going to be built, that ‘live work learn and play’ is going to go away,” Garland said. “…. That’s going to turn into trucks, service, storage and distribution. It’s your choice. You guys can do something about it now, and we are ready to work with you and collaborate.”

Representatives from other developers, like Toll Brothers, made similar cases.

Land Use Planner Michael Romeo from the law firm Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, which frequently represents large developers in applications to the county, said “there is no publicized or compelling need to change the noise contours at this time.” He argued existing homeowners in the newly drawn high noise zone would not be able to make improvements to their homes, which he said would become non-conforming uses under county zoning.

A map of the proposed new Airport Impact Overlay District. [Loudoun County]

“Even if a creative solution is provided to issue permits for additions and decks for these homes, it will not change the fact that affected homeowners will now own nonconforming homes,” he said. “This classification will negatively affect the marketability and sales perception of these homes. And for what purpose?”

The outcry from developers also led to a mailed and online marketing campaign from Dulles Landing urging residents to oppose the new noise overlay—which drew a strongly worded response from Letourneau in a newsletter to constituents, titled “Dulles Landing’s Deceptive Campaign to Build Apartments.”

“Unfortunately, the material from Dulles Landing is quite deceptive and obfuscates their real intent—to build 600 apartments at the shopping center,” Letourneau wrote.

He wrote it’s “not a secret that Dulles Landing is struggling.” He said he has been trying to help the shopping center since it opened, which he said is hampered by the developer’s decisions not to build access to Rt. 50, the mix of businesses in the shopping center, and inadequate signage—with the county having approved new sign plans more than a year ago, but so far no new signs going up.

“The plan that the Dulles Landing developers came up with for the future of the shopping center is to build 600 apartments on what was supposed to be commercial space—actually a restaurant park in their most recent approvals—on their property,” Letourneau wrote. “They say that if they are able to do this, they would potentially be able to finance other parts of the project to bring additional components to the shopping center. I have made it absolutely clear to them—directly—that I am not going to support residential development in that location.”

He said there is nothing from the county government preventing the developer from bringing in the “highly desired recreation, entertainment, dining, shopping, and gathering spaces for outdoor concerts, farmers’ markets, and community celebrations” mentioned in the mailing, which does not mention apartments.

“If you do support the 600 apartments in this location, then you certainly can let us know, and we may respectfully disagree—but at least now you have the facts,” he wrote.

The Planning Commission voted 8-0-1, Vice Chairman Jeff Salmon (Dulles) absent,  to send the new overlay to a work session for more consideration.

7 thoughts on “New Airport Noise Map Sees Developer Pushback, ‘Deceptive’ Mailer

  • 2022-08-24 at 4:26 pm

    Developers continue to be the greedy, arrogant members of society. It warms my heart to see house sales tank this summer, maybe some developers who only vision is to pave over the world, loses their shirts in this downward trend. Instead of working with the airport and future residents, all they want to do is block, block and block. They must all be GOP supporters who know about throwing barriers in the way of humanity. Shame on them.

  • 2022-08-24 at 6:42 pm

    The developers are doing what they do best..develop..with no forthought for tomorrow.Hiw much money can they run with now irregardless of what’s in the future. Good grief! Leave some space, the noise will continue and there will be more. Loudoun needs to put their “big boy” pants in and say NO!
    Enough is enough, proffers and all those other goodies on the table do nothing for the County or the quality of life.
    Just say “NO”!

  • 2022-08-25 at 9:12 am

    A pilot told me they are required to climb out steeper to lower noise in surrounding neighborhoods around Reagan/National DC airport. Apparently it doesn’t change the direction the plane flys, but just gets it up higher faster. Why don’t they do that at Dulles too? Anyone out there know??

    • 2022-08-25 at 10:43 am

      Obama mandated that airplanes take off as low and slow as possible because it consumes less fuel and is better for the environment.

  • 2022-08-25 at 10:26 am

    The changes to approach/departure procedures at any airport require the approval of the FAA. The changes made specifically at DCA were made under an effort to improve the overall efficiency of airspace in the Washington Metro area – Washington Metroplex. The FAA has undertaken these efforts at many major congested airspace areas throughout the USA. Many of those communities have filed lawsuits against the FAA as a result of these changes.

    • 2022-08-26 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks Valpurcell. So the steeper/less noise takeoffs at DCA are overall efficient for the Washington Metroplex, but steep takeoffs at IAD are not efficient for the Metroplex? Is that what you are saying? It seems you understand this, and I am just not sure we mean the same thing. I was/am not referring to the direction of the plane over the ground, but how fast they go up to make less noise.

  • 2022-08-26 at 10:51 am

    It sounds like this comes down to greed and maybe some kickbacks?!?!?! The land around the airport was undeveloped, but Dulles airport has been there since 1962. So let me get this straight, you decide to build or buy near an existing airport and then you want to complain about the noise? That doesn’t sound very reasonable, it’s an inherited problem. If you are too dumb to realize it is going to be loud by an airport you need your head examined. Stop with all the nonsense.

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