Loudoun County continued to rank as Virginia’s fastest-growing county over the past decade, and not by a little.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Loudoun grew by about 35% over the past 10 years. The next fastest-growing county in the commonwealth was New Kent County, which grew by 24.5% over the past decade—up to a population of 156,927, well under half of Loudoun’s reported 420,959 residents. Across the state, the population grew by 7.9% over the past decade, and the national average was 4.7% growth.
That was enough growth to catapult Loudoun into the fourth-place spot among Virginia’s most populous counties. And that growth happened mostly in a relatively concentrated area of eastern Loudoun, especially southeast Loudoun.
That growth will guide electoral politics in Loudoun for the next decade, as the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors this term will draw the new local election districts for the next county board and the School Board.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), whose district encompasses Dulles Airport and the southeastern corner of the county, said that will mean changes in the way Loudoun government thinks about its priorities.
“I do think that the part of the county that I have represented is underrepresented in terms of focus on the board,” Letourneau said. “That’s not necessarily anybody’s fault, but the population now is such that there’s going to have to be more attention paid to how those districts are drawn.”
The new districts will have to be roughly equal in population. That’s far from the case today.
The Blue Ridge District, considered a western district, in fact reaches from Loudoun’s western border to the edge of Dulles Airport and encompasses half the county by acreage. It is also the largest district by population, with an estimated 86,000 people, more than twice as many as the least populous district, Sterling, with 41,000 people.
Current districts can also look very odd to anyone going by their names. The area most people would consider “Ashburn” is in fact divided up between the Ashburn, Broad Run, Algonkian and even Dulles districts. And the Catoctin District, the county’s northwestern district with communities like Lucketts, Neersville and Hillsboro, wraps all the way around the Leesburg District to include River Creek to the east of town.
Those districts were drawn that way in 2010 at least in part to fold in enough population to put two western Loudoun supervisors on the county board. Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (D-Blue Ridge) has said he plans to ask the board to put two western supervisors on the board again, but that becomes more difficult the larger the difference in population between east and west.
Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said, “I’m not going to gerrymander for any reason, including gerrymandering for the purpose of getting two western Loudoun seats.”
“I think the numbers are the numbers, and you can only do so much with numbers,” Randall said. “One of the things that’s always bothered me a little bit about the way districts are drawn right now is, although we have two western Loudoun County seats, the way they’re drawn, no supervisor has to live in the west.”
Loudoun’s population changes and the new districts that follow, Letourneau said, will have to be reflected in how the county spends its money—such as on road projects. While the county has completed a long-running project to convert intersections on Rt. 7 to interchanges, relieving traffic through the northern part of the county, Rt. 50 in the county’s south remains snarled in long backups.
“It made sense to do that at the time—that’s where the population was, and that’s where we had traffic congestion,” Letourneau said. “The only thing that concerns me is that I don’t want the board to now lose focus on the fact that we have the same problem on Rt. 50, except arguably it’s worse.”
And for residents of the Dulles District today, he said, the county’s services are hard to find—they are centered in Leesburg and Sterling.
“It’s great to have a wonderful trail network, I’m all for it, but we have people with mental health needs in the South Riding area that we’re not meeting, because we’re not anywhere need them,” Letourneau said.
That’s reflected in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, which contains long-range plans to put a new government center—akin to the offices on Ridgetop Circle in Sterling, a miniature version of the services gathered at the central government building in Leesburg—in southeastern Loudoun.
State and federal guidelines for drawing new districts hold that communities with similar interests should be kept together. Letourneau said that’s not the case today.
“It’s always been preposterous that StoneSprings Hospital is not in the Dulles District, even though the people that it serves are across the street,” Letourneau said.
County supervisors have already made one decision on the new districts—there will still be eight districts and one chair-at-large voted on by the entire county. The county board plans to hear a report on the new census data in October, with a publicly available mapping tool launching on Nov. 1 and taking public submissions until Nov. 30. Supervisors plan to see a summary of possible scenarios on Jan. 18, 2022, and on March 15 choose which to send to a public hearing on May 11.