About 80 people packed a small meeting room at the Dulles South Multipurpose Center in South Riding on Jan. 22, as Loudoun County launched a community outreach project intended to help shape development in the rapidly growing area west and south of Dulles Airport.
County planners unveiled several strategies they will use to engage area residents and businesses to establish what project manager Joe Griffiths called “a dialogue with stakeholders of the Dulles community.” Plans include public meetings, online surveys, social media communications and Web-based technology, he said.
The county planning staff will compile a report on community needs and priorities identified through the outreach process and present a report to the Board of Supervisors this year, Griffiths said.
Loudoun Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau told the audience that the planned expansion of the multipurpose center “is the epitome of what can happen” through community outreach. The original plans for the facility in 2003 had been shelved, he said, but Dulles South residents and community associations kept pressure on supervisors to complete the project.
“And we did,” Letourneau said. “We got it in the budget, we got it funded by the voters and we are going out to bid next week . . . to build the indoor recreation center, aquatic center and a full-scale senior center.”
Loudoun used similar community outreach methods in Sterling and Ashburn in recent years, Griffiths said. The Ashburn project, which began in 2011, showed that residents can influence major planning decisions, Letourneau said.
“What came through very clearly from the Ashburn plan was frustration on transportation and the need for other options, including public transit and Metro,” Letourneau said in an interview. “We were dealing with the Ashburn input at the same time we had to make a decision on opting into Metro . . . and we saw very strong support for additional spending for transportation and for being part of Metro.”
The Dulles planning area is bordered by Broad Run and Ryan Road to the north, Route 659 and power line easements to the west, Braddock Road to the south, and Dulles Airport and the Fairfax County line to the east, said Cindy Keegan, Loudoun’s program manager for community planning. South Riding, Kirkpatrick Farms, Stone Ridge, Loudoun Valley Estates and parts of Brambleton are among more than 40 homeowners associations in the area.
Keegan showed the audience aerial photos of the area from 2002 and 2014 to illustrate the breakneck pace of growth in that part of the county. The population in the area swelled from 6,700 in 2000 to about 40,000 in 2010. It is now estimated at 55,000, she said.
The Dulles area now has 19 public schools, three fire and rescue stations, Gum Spring Library and four county-owned parks, Keegan said, adding that the area still needs more public facilities, particularly athletic fields.
“We sometimes are a little bit forgotten,” Letourneau said to the audience. “We’re one of the newest parts of the county, one of the last to develop and one of the last to get services.”
At the meeting, Keegan also reviewed major transportation projects that are planned or already underway in the Dulles area, some of which will affect people who drive to or from neighboring Fairfax and Prince William counties for jobs or shopping.
Route 50 will be widened to six lanes from the Loudoun County Parkway to the Fairfax County line, with new interchanges and parallel service roads to provide access to businesses along the highway, Keegan said.
The Northern Virginia North-South Corridor and Bi-County Parkway, which would connect Loudoun and Prince William counties, are still in the planning stages, Keegan said.
Letourneau acknowledged in an interview that the Dulles area lacks shopping, dining and entertainment options, and suggested that commercial development and improved connectivity with Prince William could change consumers’ habits. He said that many people in the South Riding area use Gum Spring Road to drive to Manassas for shopping.
“That’s where people go in this area,” he said. “There is a lot of back-and-forth, and now that we’re developing our retail in the [Route] 50 corridor, I think people in Prince William will be coming out to us, too.”
Barnes is a freelance writer.