Majority of speakers decry Planning Commission's Comprehensive Plan during first public hearing
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors hosted its first of two public hearings on the heavily debated Comprehensive Plan Wednesday night. More than 100 speakers addressed supervisors during the hearing, with the vast majority urging the board not to adopt the Planning Commission's proposed plan that calls for tens of thousands of new homes in Loudoun in the decades ahead.
The new plan, which will include the county’s General Plan and Countywide Transportation Plan, will serve as the county’s guide for land use and transportation through 2040.
On March 21, the board received the proposed Comprehensive Plan from the Planning Commission, leading to the first public hearing a month later. The commission's draft can be found though Loudoun.gov/Loudoun2040.
One hundred thirty-eight speakers were slated to speak on Wednesday.
“What the Planning Commission submitted is not such a plan. In fact it does you and our citizens a disservice and is anything but comprehensive,” Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton said. “It puts our future at risk fiscally and structurally and lacks a sustainable plan grounded in defensible data.”
Dozens more speakers focused their concerns on growth, housing, traffic and land use.
“Preservation of rural Loudoun is a low-cost, low-risk investment with high returns today and for generations to come,” Mayor Roger Vance of Hillsboro said. “An authentic, robust rural reserve within easy reach of every Loudoun community is a priceless shared asset and distinctive advantage. Positive economic impacts of a strong rural economy are compounded exponentially by the relatively minimal costs of services required—especially factored against the costs of residential development.”
The minority who showed support for the plan argued it would help with the county's lack of affordable housing.
“Loudoun’s lack of housing options for our most vulnerable families cripples their ability to thrive … By not addressing this housing affordability crisis, Loudoun is actively discouraging its own children from returning home after college, trade school or the military,” Planning Commission plan supporter Tony Howard, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said in a recent letter to the Times-Mirror.
Broad Run High School graduate KC Repage, who also works for the Chamber of Commerce, encouraged supervisors to allow more development.
“If you don’t you’ll lose my generation of young professionals and possibly the next,” she said. “Don’t let our current LCPS students become the lost generation and lose out on coming back to Loudoun County to start their lives.”
The median home price in Loudoun County is around $500,000, something that forces many teachers, public safety professionals and those in the hospitality industry to live outside the county lines.
The county's current population is estimated at slightly more than 400,000.
The Planning Commission's proposal would add more than 26,000 new homes to the county's plan beyond the more than 30,000 units in the current county guidelines. Thousands of those residences would be added into the county's Transition Policy Area, which is meant to serve as a lightly developed buffer between the suburban and developed eastern portion of the county and the largely rural west.
Loudoun County's full housing market demand, which is based on population and employment projections, is forecast to be 60,120 additional units through 2040, according to county staff. The Planning Commission’s recommended plan calls for 56,370 units through 2040, which is just under 94 percent of the full market demand. That is approximately 26,900 units above the current Revised General Plan forecast through 2040.
The Planning Commission's document calls for approximately 7,180 additional single-family units to be located in the Suburban and Rural Policy areas and approximately 15,830 additional single-family units in the Transition Policy Area. This includes units that would be located in two areas that are currently in the Rural Policy Area but have been proposed to be reclassified as TPA.
“Growth is inevitable,” resident Cricket Bedford said. “I grew up on a farm in a farming family where everything grows—the cows, the corn, the population. But like a waste line, the county does not need to grow so big that it’s unhealthy for the overall benefit of the body as a whole.”
The board’s second and final public hearing is scheduled for April 27 at 9 a.m. at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building at 21000 Education Court in Ashburn. As of Wednesday night, 72 speakers had signed up in advance to address the board.
Members of the public can provide comments about the draft Comprehensive Plan to the Board of Supervisors by phone at 703-777-0115, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to Board of Supervisors, P.O. Box 7000, SE, Leesburg, Virginia 20177-7000.
Following the public hearings, the board will resume its review of the draft Loudoun 2040 Comprehensive Plan with a series of work sessions in May.
The board is expected to consider adoption of the plan during its June 20 meeting.
Prior to the public hearing's adjournment around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, the board voted to rename the Loudoun Comprehensive Plan 2040 to 2019 Comprehensive Plan. Supervisors Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Matthew Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) were not present for the vote.
“When I think about all the plans and zoning things they are dated with the years they are passed—not in the future, it doesn’t make sense to not be consistent and date this the year it was passed,” Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said. “The second reason, it’s a false statement to say this is a 2040 plan. By law we should be looking at this plan every five years, and I know we went 18 years without changing it, but perhaps if we had been doing this every five years we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in right now.”