The Mason District Council of Community Associations has requested that its member civic and homeowner associations distribute to residents the following information regarding proposed changes to land use policies near Dulles Airport:
Dulles Noise Policy - PA 2020-CW-3CP
Fairfax County is proposing to amend a long-standing policy limiting residential development close by Dulles airport. In the past county land use policy discouraged residential development near the airport for two reasons: First, to protect residents from moving into areas of loud aircraft noise that are unavoidable at Dulles, and second, to protect the airport from dealing with a deluge of noise complaints from frustrated residents who moved into noisy areas. Large hub airports and residential neighborhoods are not compatible. They should be kept separated, and, for the past 60 years Dulles has been in operation, county land use policy largely has kept them apart.
However, the last Board of Supervisors rescinded and the current Board is rescinding policies protecting residents and the airport. Two papers with background information are available online at https://holmesrun.org/2022/04/01/westfields-issues/ . Of the two papers, the paper identified as Paper Two is the better introduction to the situation. Paper One will be interesting to some but perhaps not all.
Dulles began operation 60 years ago on a green field away from towns and residential developments. The objective was to avoid exposing residents to highly annoying aircraft noise, which is unavoidable near airports. It was intended that county land use policies would assure that new residential developments did not later encroach upon the airport. Aircraft noise, like the noise many experience near Washington National today, can be traumatic for residents, and it can damage airports when residents sensibly petition their local jurisdictions for relief. Complaints create political pressure that can cause an airport to limit operations and plans for growth. Washington National, surrounded by residential uses, can generate 76,000 noise complaints in a single year. Dulles, today largely protected from such uses, is the source of perhaps 2,000 complaints in a year, a manageable number. Current county policy discourages residential and other noise-sensitive development anywhere inside the 60 DNL noise contour surrounding the airport.
An illustration of Dulles noise contours is provided here: https://holmesrun.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/dulles_noise_contours_1pg.pdf
Development inside the 60 DNL contour now is principally office and industrial, including an 1100 acre failed/failing office park, Westfields. In May 2019, the previous Board adopted an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan that recommended mixed use development of the Westfields area, including up to 5500 dwelling units and 600,000 sq ft of retail. Departing from the policy that has protected Dulles so well for so long, the amendment also allowed residential development inside the 60 DNL contour. The Board has since authorized subject plan amendment (PA 2020-CW-3CP) that would allow residential development everywhere inside the 60 DNL contour, not only in the Westfields area. Residential would not be allowed inside 65 DNL.
The Board’s campaign is not only bold, it’s also reckless. The Board engaged a consultant for advice on these matters and then ignored his recommendations. They have refused to discuss the issues with the airport, and they have ignored advice offered in hearings by aviation industry experts including airlines who have brought their business to Dulles. The Board’s apparent attitude is, they will take care of failing office parks like Westfields; the airport can take care of itself.
The Board’s next proposal to roll back protections at Dulles is a Comprehensive Plan amendment designated PA 2020-CW-3CP. The hearing before the Planning Commission is scheduled for May 18 with the hearing before the Board of Supervisors on June 28. Hopefully, enough residents will take an interest and submit emails opposing the Board’s proposal. The Mason District Council of Community Associations will distribute additional information on this issue as the hearing dates approach.
Each of us can add support to this issue. Please email your supervisor and send the same emails to the entire Board and to the Planning Commission.
-Let them know that you are concerned about recent Board decisions promoting residential development inside the 60 DNL contour at Dulles.
-Let them know that you are concerned about the Board’s lack of cooperation with airport authorities on land use matters.
-Let them know that you expect the Board to join hands with airport authorities and work out win-win solutions that don’t compromise the welfare of residents (noise) or the future capacity of Dulles.
-Let them know that you don’t want Dulles to turn into another Washington National quagmire.
-Let them know that you care about the airport and disapprove of their withdrawing the support past supervisors have provided.