Supervisors stress need to fund Metro, look at future housing needs at chamber
As they craft a new comprehensive plan, prepare for continued growth and brace for a new regional transportation system, supervisors stressed the need for more Metro funding, and they touched on the county's future housing needs.
“We were given real and honest numbers about what Metro is going to cost us going forward,” Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said, speaking at a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 PolicyMaker Series event. “The numbers are startling, and they are concerning.”
Randall voiced concern that almost no local jurisdiction will be able to afford the transportation system’s operational costs.
“It is literally impossible. We don’t have it,” the first-term chairwoman said.
Randall said Metro needs “dedicated sources of funding” from the federal government and the General Assembly to help cover the bill.
“If the Metro goes down, the federal government workforce goes down,” Randall said.
The Democratic chairwoman said people have asked her if it was possible to change course on Metro and stop it from coming into Loudoun. She said that was out of the question and estimated the county would lose between $500 million or more even if it were possible.
“We cannot pull out of Metro. We can make Metro work,” Randall said. “That will involve the coming together of the business community, transportation community, politicians from both parties to get Metro on track.”
However, when asked for a ballpark on the cost figures she had received, Randall said since Loudoun will not become a part of WMATA's compact until Metro arrives, she didn't have exact numbers.
"Looking at other jurisdictions' numbers does inform us as to what Loudoun's could be, but it would not be appropriate for me to release the numbers of other jurisdictions, not to mention those numbers could adjust so they may not be hard numbers at this time," she added.
The chamber event came less than a month after a draft housing needs assessment report surfaced from George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis and housing needs analysis firm Lisa Sturtevant & Associates, LLC.
The report found that by 2040 the county will be 17,860 homes shy of what it needs – this at a time when Loudoun is expected to house 7 percent of the region’s jobs.
Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said the county needed to do a better job on growth and housing projections over the next several decades.
Buona noted the GMU study was “unconstrained” and did not consider land use and zoning or what was permitted under the county’s comprehensive plan.
The GMU study he said, looked at demographics, population projections and the projected number of jobs coming into Loudoun, while the county’s projections were “constrained,” and looked at what has already been approved and what the comprehensive plan permitted.
“We do a good job of projecting things for the next few years,” Buona said. “But I think we need to do a better job of projecting things for decades to come.”
Randall echoed the need to understand the extent of what types of housing needs are facing the county.
“I think housing is the one issue that could really derail economic development and job growth,” Randall said. “If you think about it, if everything else in the county is spot on, if our schools are perfect, if our taxes are perfect, our roads are clear, if everything is perfect and we don’t have homes, we’re not going to be able to attract jobs to Loudoun County.”
Buona said he is currently working with the fiscal impact committee to predict the county’s needs by 2045.
“It’s one murky crystal ball, but it’s absolutely necessary to do that,” Buona said.
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