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Comprehensive plan stakeholders committee tour Loudoun as they get to work on new plan

Current map of Loudoun County. Times-Mirror/Sydney Kashiwagi
Members of the 26-member Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders Committee and county staff toured western and eastern Loudoun on Aug. 19 to familiarize themselves with the areas as they begin putting together the new roadmap that will guide future economic and community development around the county.

Over the course of the next year, the stakeholders' team and the county will need to figure out how to plan in the rural, transition and suburban policy areas and decide when and where future developments should occur in the new comprehensive plan.

“Overall I think it was an excellent activity for the stakeholders and it was good for them to get familiar with our staff,” the committee’s Community Planning Manager Christopher Garcia said after the tour. “We had some of our consultant representatives so they kind of get a feel for what’s going on in the county as well.”

“Today was more about just having a wider view of all that is Loudoun,” Garcia said.

The tour began along Route 15 through the rural policy area in the west -- the largest of Loudoun’s three policy areas which take up more than half of the county’s total land.

The discussions along Route 15 focused on the development of rural roads and businesses such as wineries, land preservation and how conservancy lots in the rural west should be used.

The first stop was Quattro Goomba’s Winery, where owner Jay DeCianno talked about how he moved from the corporate world to rural western Loudoun to launch a wine business and fixed up an old farm and built a company which now serves pizza and is also a craft brewery.

Quattro Goomba’s Winery owner Jay DeCianno talks to the stakeholders committee and county staff about his rural business. Times-Mirror/Sydney Kashiwagi

“Certainly I think preserving western Loudoun is critical to the entire county working fiscally and as a community because it’s a huge resource,” said Gem Bingol, a stakeholder representing Clarke and Loudoun counties as a land use officer at the Piedmont Environmental Council.

Bingol said the committee would also need to figure out what to do in the transition policy area -- which serves as the buffer area between Loudoun’s rural west and urban east-- and think about it as an “additional resource area” not just only as a rural area.

The group then drove along Braddock Road into the transition policy area which stretches over 22,800 acres and takes up about 6.8 percent of the county’s total area separating the suburban and rural policy areas.

In the transition policy area, the tour made a stop at the WIllowsford community-- a development made up of 4,000 areas of homes, farm and environmental preservation. Willowsford’s executive vice president Mark Trostle talked about how the development served as an example of how the county could develop Loudoun’s transition zone.

The tour continued along Braddock Road where the suburban policy and transition policy areas touch the northern and southern sides of the road. Staff showed the stakeholders some of the developments along Braddock Road such as the Kirkpatrick West Commercial Center and Virginia Manor-- areas which they suggested the committee take a close look at going forward.

Willowsford’s executive vice president Mark Trostle talks to stakeholders and staff about developments like Willowsford in Loudoun’s transition policy area. Times-Mirror/Sydney Kashiwagi

Next, the group entered into Loudoun’s 60,000 acre suburban policy area -- an area which has experienced the most residential and commercial development growth since the last comprehensive plan was adopted.  

The bus moved along the county’s medical cluster heading into the urban east going past StoneSprings Hospital, the Arcola Center and then into the industrial sites neighboring Washington Dulles International Airport and through noise contour areas between developments and the airport.

Keith Meurlin, a stakeholder representing the Washington Airports Task Force, said that moving forward the committee will need to figure out how to build compatible uses around Dulles Airport that preserve the quality of life for residents near the airport and “guarantee the future economy” around the transit hub.

“We’ve got an airport out there that’s a huge asset that any community in America would beg for,” Meurlin said. “But we’ve gotta make sure that we preserve its ability to grow and expand and serve the needs of this region, so we’ve gotta make sure that it’s compatible uses and compatible uses is not putting residential right up against the airport boundary and we can do that with mixed use and other use.”

After moving along the Dulles Airport corridor the bus passed by data center and office space clusters -- and made a pit stop at Loudoun Station -- the site of one of Loudoun’s future Silver Line stops.

At Loudoun Station, the committee looked over at the now vacant land across from the development that will soon become the region’s first smart city development in the Gramercy District.

Department of Economic Development’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives James David shows stakeholders and staff his new office at Loudoun Station and the area that will soon become the new smart city in the Gramercy District. Times-Mirror/Sydney Kashiwagi

While the county begins putting together its new comprehensive plan, Loudoun is also in the midst of putting together its Silver Line Small Area Plan which will eventually lay out the design for a mixed-use urban center around the Silver Line stations.

As the county moves forward with developing itself in the west and particularly its eastern corridor, Bingol said perhaps thinking about more about the environment while headed toward build out is critical. The county has already taken the environment into account in its current development plans.

“We have enough land to do a good job in protecting our resources and build, so I think that’s kind of critical,” Bingol said.

After stopping at Loudoun Station, the bus passed through Sterling and Sterling Plaza -- one of the earliest planned developments in eastern Loudoun which helped transform the east into a suburban area making way for more residential and eventually the construction of Dulles Airport.

Currently, though the county is trying to revitalize Sterling and after touring through the aging Sterling Plaza, the bus drove through the newer Cascades Marketplace retail center and staff asked stakeholders to imagine what types of uses they would want to see in those areas in the next two decades.

The tour finished up going past major developments in the east such as Dulles Town Center, One Loudoun, the Janelia Research Campus and Inova Hospital before driving back along Route 7.

At the end of the tour former Loudoun Planning Commission Chair Al Van Huyck -- who helped put together the last plan comprehensive plan -- said that it was still too early to talk about the plan and any strategy in detail, but that overall he thought the trip was successful.

Van Huyck, now the stakeholder representing the Loudoun Preservation and Conservation Coalition, said the trip was “very informative” to him especially because he was able to see more of the eastern part of the county and all the development there.

“For the last 15 years, I’ve essentially only been working on the heritage and environmental issues and so this is the first time for me to come back and actually look at land use issues,” Van Huyck said.


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