LOUDOUN NOW: Loudoun Mayors Address Envision Loudoun, Countywide Issues by: Patrick Szabo 3/13/2019
Five of Loudoun’s seven mayors came together this week to give a crowd of about 150 a glimpse of how they, and their residents, view the county’s most pressing issues.
Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk, Lovettsville Mayor Nate Fontaine, Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton, Hamilton Mayor Dave Simpson and Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance met at the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s State of Loudoun’s Towns event Wednesday morning at the Middleburg Community Center to address issues affecting their individual towns and the county as a whole. Those points included transportation, affordable housing and Envision Loudoun—the county’s rewrite of its comprehensive plan that the Board of Supervisors is slated to adopt by July.
During a brief overview of life in their towns, the mayors agreed that business in each is prosperous. When Burk mentioned that Leesburg is nearly at full build out, Vance jokingly mentioned that Hillsboro has been fully built out for the last 150 years.
Burk also said that Leesburg is an important town not only because it’s the largest in Virginia, but also because it’s at the center of the county and acts as a gateway to all directions. To that, Fontaine pointed out that Lovettsville is “the top town in Virginia,” geographically speaking.
Joking aside, the mayors were asked a few questions about their towns’ impact in the county. When asked to describe in a word or two what the “biggest benefit” their towns offer, Fontaine said “a hub;” Simpson said “community;” Vance said “authenticity,” noting that Hillsboro is a “museum of early America;” Burk said “services,” since Leesburg residents are taxed for, and have the opportunity to take advantage of, many different public services; and Littleton described a trip to Middleburg as a “dynamic, unique, endearing experience.”
The most thoroughly-discussed topic dealt with Loudoun 2040 and its language that suggests increased development in the county’s Transition Policy Area—the 36-square-mile area that acts as a transition from the more urbanized development in the east to the rural west.
Littleton took the lead on that discussion and made it clear that the best policy for a municipal government to adopt is to focus on building infrastructure, like utility systems and roads, before allowing for increased development. “Once you put it in the ground, it’s there forever,” he said.
Vance said that Hillsboro residents are “very alarmed” by the potential for increased development in the transition area and are “fearful” that it could set the stage for the county to encroach upon the 356-square-mile Rural Policy Area in the next Comprehensive Plan update.
Simpson said that he views everyone in western Loudoun as family and that decisions on land use should be made by looking centuries ahead, referencing, he said, how the Iroquois Native Americans consider how the ways that their decisions might affect the future seven generations. “That’s what we need to do,” he said.
The mayors were also asked about their take on public transportation. Littleton said that it’s a “broken system” and that it will take “bold leadership” to put such a system in place. Burk said that the towns should work to create an interconnected transportation system throughout the county.
When asked about their views on supporting business communities beyond their towns’ corporate boundaries, Fontaine said that it’s a “good neighborly practice” to do so and that businesses outside the Lovettsville town limits help ensure the vibrancy of the town.
Littleton agreed, noting that there’s only one winery within Middleburg’s town limits, but that there are five or six within the surrounding 2-3 miles.
Vance said that Hillsboro tackled that question in 2016 when it formed the Greater Hillsboro Business Alliance to create a forum for area business owners to collaborate and network.
The mayors were also asked about their views on affordable housing for the local workforce, to which Burk said the topic was a “huge issue” that’s been discussed for a while with no solution yet.
Fontaine said that people shouldn’t think of affordable housing as a multi-story Section 8 housing complex, but as communities that fit in with existing ones. He said that restaurants in Lovettsville oftentimes can’t find employees who aren’t in high school because the cost of living in Loudoun is too high.
Following the event, the mayors met at the Middleburg town office for their March Coalition of Loudoun Towns meeting to discuss their next course of action regarding Loudoun 2040.
They’ll be voicing their concern about the new comprehensive plan’s language at the Board of Supervisors’ April 24 public hearing.