The Loudoun Board of Supervisors this week voted to embark on a broad-based community effort to rewrite the countywide General Plan.
In concept, it is a $1 million, two-year undertaking that will refine, more than redefine, our vision for Loudoun’s future.
The current plan was created in the early 1990s amid the first waves of Loudoun’s growth boom and was updated a decade later. The current community development policies have served residents well during the past 15 years. Updating them should be done with care and supervisors have made it clear from the start that they understand the opportunities and risks involved.
This new effort to revise the General Plan will differ from those two previous exercises in significant ways.
First, the proposal calls for the early work to be led by a citizen group with its appointed members representing a wide range of interests and perspectives. In the past, it has been the nine-member Planning Commission that did the heavy lifting, conducting outreach, working with consultants and then passing a complete draft to the Board of Supervisors for final review.
Second, this round of review will largely be conducted by county officials and staff members who weren’t involved with the creation of the previous plans. For example, the most tenured supervisors are in only their fifth year of service and the planning director is new as well. That’s sure to bring a fresh perspective.
For their part, county supervisors recognize that the results of this planning effort likely will serve as the legacy of their term. They’ve already set some important parameters, such as not tinkering with rural policies that have helped preserve thousands of acres of Loudoun’s countryside while giving rise to new tax-positive rural enterprises, and not expanding the boundaries of the county’s growth area.
Instead, supervisors hope to address concerns on which previous boards failed to focus, such as revitalizing existing neighborhoods. Eastern Loudoun also will be the focus as the plan is adapted to accommodate 21st century business opportunities, recognizing that the demand for 100-acre office parks that once were viewed as the backbone of Loudoun’s economic development strategy never really materialized. And this plan will be designed around a working commuter rail line, rather than the conceptual future one that was included as a line on maps in the earlier plans.
Tuesday’s vote was only the very beginning of a long process. Good planning is rooted in a community dialogue about a common vision for the future. By inviting others to sit around the table as that conversation gets started, supervisors are starting off on the right track.