Editor: Since 2000, Loudoun has been one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. The Planning Commission’s draft of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan forecasts 56,960 new homes by 2040, with 19,740 of those in the 36-mile strip called the Transition Policy Area. But “forecasted” numbers are county estimates, not what developers could build.
Using the draft’s proposed densities, a medium-scenario build-out of just the TPA results in 33,621 new homes. Justification for massive density increase is an unconstrained market analysis showing over 60,000 homes could be sold in Loudoun by 2040. The analysis focused “solely on what the real estate market would support” without barriers to development.
We suffer from one of the nation’s longest commute times. A traffic modeling study tested the county’s planned 2040 road network against the forecasted density in the Planning Commission’s November 2018 draft, showing many roads still at or near capacity in 2040. The March 2019 draft, however, increased density over the November 2018 draft.
Children often attend class in trailers because new schools are over capacity. Redistricting forces children into new schools regularly. In their 2020 budget, the county noted that by 2030 funds needed for school renovation would exceed funds needed for new schools because our population is decreasing. The draft, however, will force the county to build at least 33 new schools.
Loudoun is currently lacking sufficient parks and trails to support the current population. Under the Draft, the TPA will lose 3,700 acres of green space because the 70 percent open space areas will be reduced to 50 percent. Loudoun also loses 10 percent of the state’s most productive farmland every five years to development.
We cannot afford (literally) twenty years of unmanaged growth framed around market demand, hoping that a sea of data centers will always fund it.
- Innovative solutions, such as those implemented in Denver, that create affordable housing for our workforce, senior citizens, and younger generations.
- Urban planning that maximizes walkable housing around our metro stations similar to the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor.
- Data centers around airports to mitigate them driving up land prices and driving out small businesses, which—like data centers—are zoned “light industrial.”
4. Infrastructure that supports the current and proposed population in an area before adding density.
- Land bays P1, P2, and Q1 to remain in the RPA.
- TPA open space requirements to remain as open space placed in a permanent easement held by the county.
- Land bays Q2 and L to be the only TPA areas to receive higher density. Infrastructure exists here to handle increased density.
- Northstar Boulevard to be four lanes maximum and a hard line—no high density development or transition community centers west of Northstar.
In sum, our Board of Supervisors need to chart a course for smart, managed growth that will create a diverse economy and affordable housing while focusing on ways to retain the TPA, green space, and rich farmland that make Loudoun unique.
Neil Conley, Aldie