The majority has spoken. Now we'll learn the deftness of our elected leaders' listening skills.
More than 200 local citizens addressed the Board of Supervisors during last week's public hearings on the county's draft 2019 Comprehensive Plan. The plan will serve as the county's blueprint for land use, development, transportation and growth over the next two decades.
A clear, informed and engaged majority rejected the Planning Commission's proposed “plan,” which is now in the hands of supervisors for mark-ups, re-writes and eventual adoption. Supervisors, we hope, will spend much of May dissecting the document and writing a new one – one that will plan for Loudoun's future while preserving its past.
Like the majority of last week's commenters, we respectfully ask supervisors to take the Planning Commission's manifesto for growth and drop it into a shredder. The commission's call for more homes, more congestion and a further assault on Loudoun's unique character is an embarrassment to the citizenry.
Loudoun's Transition Policy Area, established at the turn of the century to serve as a lightly developed buffer between the suburban east and rural west, would see 14,000 more homes under the Planning Commission's scheme. Altogether, the commission's draft calls for more than 25,000 new homes beyond the 29,000 in the current county plan. That's unacceptable.
At best, the commission's plan for the transition area would lead to a Loudoun that is densely populated in the east and drops off like a cliff to the rural west. We'd prefer a more organic transition from suburbia to Loudoun's charming farms, country markets, gravel roads and wineries.
But the more likely scenario, should supervisors give way to the Planning Commission's wishes, is that 15 years down the road, after the transition area fills up, developers will demand more. They always do. The “transition area” -- if it could still be called that -- will push its way west to Waterford, to Purcellville, to Middleburg. Mile by mile, the pastures and postcard-perfect hillsides will turn to condos and congested car lots.
We hear the minority of voices in favor of the Planning Commission's draft and their rallying cry for affordable housing. In an industry notorious for modest paychecks, we couldn't agree more with Loudoun's need for diverse housing options. But the commission's guide isn't the answer. The current draft does little, if anything, to ensure affordable housing is built. There's nothing in the way of policy promising economical housing options, and forgive us if we don't foresee an onslaught of affordable dwelling units sprouting up next to the tony neighborhoods of Willowsford, Red Cedar and Creighton Farms.
If you believe the Planning Commission's blueprint for Loudoun's future was drafted with twenty-somethings and young professionals in mind, congrats, you've won our free giveaway to Loudoun Hounds season tickets.
Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition Chairman Al Van Huyck, a former planning commissioner, said it best: “You’ve heard the storyline: 'We need all this extra housing because we will build affordable housing.’ Well, my Planning Commission bought this line in 2001, and we’ve had a flood of 60,000 houses since, but only a trickle of affordable housing. So, let’s not fall for that one again.”
The people who say Loudoun needs more housing so the next generation can move here and enjoy the county's splendors don't get it; a Loudoun with 60,000 more homes scattered farther west and thousands more cars on the roads won't be a Loudoun we recognize. Simply, it won't be the Loudoun we love.