When 2020 ended, many people were celebrating the end of a difficult year, looking ahead to one that would surely be better. Instead, 2021 began with a riot in the halls of the U.S. Capitol and is ending with record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 infections.
But Loudoun carries on—there’s always more work to do, and plenty to look ahead to.
New Election Districts
This was the year Loudoun began receiving much-delayed results from the 2020 U.S. Census, which are followed by redistricting at the federal, state and local levels. The work to redraw Virginia’s General Assembly and Congressional districts for the first time fell to a constitutionally mandated redistricting commission—which fell into partisan gridlock and failed to come to an agreement, sending the job of drawing new districts to the state Supreme Court.
The new districts could even trigger a new General Assembly election next year depending on the results of a lawsuit arguing the 2021 elections were unconstitutional since they fell under the outdated district maps.
Loudoun will have more say in Richmond—as it should, as one of the state’s and the nation’s fastest-growing localities, growing by about 35% over the past 10 years according to Census data.
Under the current district lines, only one House district, the 32nd District seat held by Democrat David Reid, is solely a Loudoun district, and only three of the seven House Districts extending into the county are represented by Loudoun residents. Of the three current state Senate districts extending into Loudoun, none is a Loudoun-only district and only one senator, Sen. John Bell (D-13), lives in Loudoun.
The plans approved by the Supreme Court give Loudoun five House districts and part of a sixth shared with western Fauquier County. The state Senate map creates a district for much of eastern Loudoun and Ashburn and a second district that covers the rest of Loudoun and also stretches into western Fauquier. In each of the shared districts, about 90% of the population lives in Loudoun.
Meanwhile, the county’s own redistricting process continues apace.
In Loudoun, the Board of Supervisors still draws their own districts. The current districts show the fruit of the previous effort—strange, sprawling districts in the west that wrap around to the east; a southeastern Dulles district split in two by an international airport; a district that mostly—but not quite—encompasses Leesburg. It is widely acknowledged to be a local attempt at gerrymandering.
This time county supervisors have sworn not to do that. Their process started with seven model maps produced by county planners and a website for Loudouners to submit their own proposals. County staff members have been reviewing the submitted maps, evaluating them against the criteria set down by state law and direction by county supervisors, and are expected to present the results to the county board on Jan. 18.
With the growing population difference between suburban east and rural west, drawing two western districts—a priority of some supervisors—will again require bringing together some disparate communities. Various scenarios, such as folding the Town of Leesburg into one of those districts, have been pitched. Districts in the east are similarly up in the air. One thing about the new districts is already decided: there will once again be eight districts and one at-large seat on both boards.
Metrorail Coming to Loudoun, for Real
2022 should be the year that Metrorail finally begins service in Loudoun, but as Loudouners have learned through years of delays, there are no promises. The project reached substantial completion, a major construction milestone, in December, and test trains have begun running regularly on the new tracks.
The new construction, conducted under contracts by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, includes both the rail and stations reaching into Ashburn and a 90-acre railyard on Dulles Airport property. Latest projections would have that new construction turned over to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority—Metrorail—sometime in January.
But when commuters will actually be able to hop a train in Ashburn will depend on Metro, which must first run the project through extensive testing. That testing is expected to last around 90 days, which could put passengers on Metro trains from Ashburn by March or April, but Metro representatives have emphasized that there is no date set, and that beginning service will depend on safety first.
Rewriting Loudoun’s Zoning Ordinance
Loudoun supervisors adopted a new county comprehensive plan, made of a county General Plan and Comprehensive Transportation Plan, in June 2019 after more than three years of work
Now, the county is working to turn the visions in the comprehensive plan into codified, enforceable ordinances—although that work, too, is delayed. Originally planned to put a proposed ordinance in front of the Board of Supervisors last July, it’s now hoped to wrap up sometime next year.
The Zoning Ordinance Committee, which replaced the former Zoning Ordinance Action Group, is still working through revising the county’s zoning ordinance with no clear end date. The latest work plan would see a proposed ordinance in front the Planning Commission in mid-2022, and in front of the Board of Supervisors in mid to late 2022.
This article was updated Dec. 31 at 5:03 p.m. to correct information about redistricting.