The following text was pulled from an email alert sent out by PEC’s Loudoun field representative Gem Bingol. To sign up for email alerts from PEC visit pecva.org/signup.
A Plan for Residents or Speculative Developers?
Late last month, the Loudoun Planning Commission voted to send the draft Comprehensive Plan (a.k.a. Loudoun 2040) to the Board of Supervisors for review and action.
Unfortunately, the current draft plan reads like a speculative real estate developer’s wish list — and the increased scattered residential development would come at the expense of existing residents.
It would add ~28,500 more units to the ~45,000 that are already allowed under current zoning. This would result in more traffic, more school boundary line adjustments and more open space lost.
But now that it’s in their hands, the Board of Supervisors has the opportunity to fix this. They can choose to focus growth at Loudoun’s new Metro stations and prioritize the needs of current residents by doing things like improving public trails and parks, increasing alternative transportation options and protecting natural resources.
Two Major Issues with the Draft Loudoun 2040 Plan
Loudoun 2040 sets the county up to continue an unsustainable rate of scattered real-estate development.
Issue #1: Too Much, Too Fast, Too Scattered
Source: Loudoun County staff report, Tischler Bice Fiscal Impact Analysis
- ~28,500 more residential units would increase the total buildout to more than ~73,000 units — a 50% increase over the 136,602 units that currently exist in Loudoun.
- Loudoun’s population is projected to grow by 208,000 residents between now and 2040. The additional units being added to the draft plan aren’t necessary to accommodate that growth. They only increase the likelihood that we grow in a sprawling manner, instead of a focused one.
- A total of 33 new schools would need to be built under this new plan. Loudoun already needs 18 more schools for the ~45,000 units that can currently be built. This would mean even more school boundary line adjustments.
- For too long, County revenues have not covered the cost of residential growth. So in order to balance the books, the County has had to either 1) raise taxes or 2) cut back on the amount they spend on services for residents. The additional residential development allowed in Loudoun 2040 would force more of the same.
Issue #2: It’s a Plan to Destroy the Transition Policy Area
The Transition Area is currently planned for lower density, low intensity uses. This helps protect sensitive natural resources and safeguard the water we drink.
The Transition Policy Area (TPA) provides a distinct visual and spatial separation between the heavily suburban development in the east and the rural area to the west.
It was intended to permanently protect important drinking water sources, as well as environmental and heritage resources. However, speculative developers have long eyed the area for other purposes.
- The Loudoun 2040 draft would increase total residential buildout of the Transition Area from 11,382 units to approximately 35,000 units (tripling in size).
- It would allow an additional 6.5 million square feet of scattered commercial and industrial development throughout the Transition Area.
- It would diminish drinking water source protections for the Goose Creek and Occoquan reservoirs by reducing required open space from 70% to 50%. More development also increases impervious cover, lowering water quality.
What should the Board of Supervisors be pushing for instead?
New development near Ashburn Station. Photo by Jim Hanna.
Growth at Metro, infill and redevelopment:
- Transit-oriented growth at Loudoun’s new Metro stations would add fewer car trips, thereby reducing future pollution and traffic congestion.
- In addition, they should focus on completing road connections and the street grid around Metro, as well as adding bus, bike and pedestrian connections to nearby neighborhoods and across the suburban area. This would help avoid the higher costs of sprawling development and result in better use of current infrastructure.
- Prioritizing infill and redevelopment in the Suburban Policy Area (e.g. in existing strip malls) would encourage investment in and revitalization of existing communities and support residents’ property values.
In your spoken or written comments to the Board of Supervisors, be sure to mention what you appreciate about the county, your concerns for the future of the County and why it is personally important to you.
Looking for more in-depth information? We’ve posted a copy of the presentation and notes from our recent community meetings on the draft Loudoun 2040 plan on our website. Learn more >>
As always, thank you, and please reach out to me if you have any questions!
Loudoun Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council
- For more on the Loudoun Comprehensive plan visit pecva.org/Loudoun2040 >>
- Or view additional detail contained within Gem Bingol’s recent community meeting presentations on Loudoun 2040 >>