About 150 Loudoun County residents gathered at the National Conference Center in Leesburg on Monday evening to share their hopes and priorities for future development of the county.
The participants discussed topics that included transportation and taxes in the first of four “listening and learning” sessions organized by the county government to kick off “Envision Loudoun,” an 18-month process of updating Loudoun’s comprehensive plan. Three similar sessions will take place in the county this week.
“This process you’re going through tonight is the beginning of essentially a 20- to 30-year vision,” Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said to the participants. “It’s not only about land use. It’s about quality of life. It’s about economic development. And it’s about fiscal management.”
Buona said the current comprehensive plan, adopted in 2001, is outdated.
“Who would have thought Metro was coming to Loudoun 15 years ago?” he said. “Could anybody even spell ‘data center’ 15 years ago?”
Buona said rural Loudoun would not be a part of the planning process, which will instead focus on urban and suburban areas in eastern Loudoun and the “transition area,” a swath of land that was zoned to serve as a buffer between eastern and western Loudoun.
Greg Dale, a consultant hired by the county to help manage the process, said the comprehensive plan is a policy document that will guide the Board of Supervisors in making decisions on matters such as development applications, zoning regulations and budgeting for schools, libraries, fire and rescue stations, and other facilities.
The participants met in small groups to take turns answering the question, “What do we need to do to make Loudoun County an even better community in the future?” Discussion topics included public facilities, hiking and biking trails, crime prevention, taxes, accommodating population growth and development around future Metro stations.
Although some participants were longtime activists or representatives of interest groups, many were individuals attending a community input session in Loudoun for the first time. Several participants interviewed after the meeting said they appreciated the opportunity to weigh in and to hear the priorities of other residents.
Laura Fedak, 55, of Ashburn said she brought up her desire to make Loudoun “a more bike- and walking-friendly county.”
“I heard people mention green buildings, I heard people mention taxes, the Metro coming in, development and zoning,” she said.
“I’d just like to see more connection within the communities and a more urban feel around all the Metro stations,” said Jeanee Layman, who lives near Brambleton, a few miles from the terminus of Metro’s Silver Line. “There’s a lot of hodgepodge communities near where I live that are not connected.
“I’d really like to be able to see people bike to the Metro,” she added. “If I could work close to home, and my kids could bike to school and I could bike to work, I would be thrilled.”
Trevor Booth, 40, of Aldie said his top issue is to preserve the current zoning in the transition area where he lives.
“If we’re going to have future development in the county, we also have to do it intelligently, where it’s done in concert with an upgraded transportation plan,” said Booth, who recently moved with his wife into the Willowsford community from a more densely populated area.
“The transition area is where I fear that we’ll just continue to expand,” he said.
Chris Griggs, 45, of Neersville said he was “caught off guard” to learn that western Loudoun would not be a part of the Envision Loudoun process.
“It kind of surprised me, because I do think there are definitely things [in rural Loudoun] that need to be considered — not just protecting the land, but also growing our economy, our businesses,” Griggs said.
“There is just so much potential out there, and a lot of it is just going to waste,” he said. “Some of it gets turned into little McMansions.” He said there is also a need for affordable broadband service in western Loudoun.
Three more community input sessions are scheduled this week:
●Monday at the Washington Dulles Airport Marriott, 45020 Aviation Dr., Sterling.
●Tuesday at the Clarion Inn Historic Leesburg, 1500 E. Market St., Leesburg.
●Wednesday at J. Michael Lunsford Middle School, 26020 Ticonderoga Rd., Chantilly.
All sessions will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m.