The Year in Review: Envision Loudoun Held Up by Workload, Controversy

The effort to overhaul the comprehensive plan, the collection of documents that describe Loudoun’s vision for the long-term, will continue well into 2018.

The Envision Loudoun initiative will guide development in the county for the next 20 to 30 years, and includes review of the General Plan, last revised in 2001; the Countywide Transportation Plan, which was updated in 2010; and a number of strategic plans on specific topics and areas, such as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan, the Heritage Preservation Plan, and the Arcola Area/Rt. 50 Corridor Plan.

As the year began, county planners and a team of consultants had just wrapped up the first of the two rounds of public input. That series of public sessions across the county brought in hundreds of Loudouners to give their opinions on their county’s future.

That gave the board-appointed stakeholder steering committee—a 26-member group made up of representatives from industries and special interests ranging from Realtors, to developers, to the airport, and conservation groups—a starting point. But since then, its work has been bogged down and delayed.

The Board of Supervisors had tried to handle the county’s planning work around its future Metro stops separately, but in June, decided to fold that work into the Envision Loudoun program. Some board members at the time estimated that could double the workload, considered in terms of the number of homes it will affect.

Consultant C. Gregory Dale works with members of the Envision Loudoun Stakeholder Committee to develop goals for the new plan.

The stakeholders committee has met long and often to get up to the task of revising more than 1,200 policies in the comprehensive plan, and consultants hired to help the process along have a proposed a completely restructured general plan. The committee’s first report to the Board of Supervisors drew strong criticism, with board members worried that the committee would open up the Transition Policy Area to higher density development, and left committee members frustrated that the report was too premature to give an accurate picture of their work.

Their work has also been complicated by the numerous housing needs studies the county has examined over the past several years, all of which are based on different assumptions and looking for different information, making it difficult to assemble them into a comprehensive view of the future of the county’s growth. Those studies are also complicated by big changes coming to Loudoun, particularly around its future Metrorail stations and planning for urban-scale development around them.

Between the workload and internal divisions, what was envisioned initially as an 18-month process for the stakeholders committee is well behind schedule.

But the committee has recently started taking consequential votes on what will ultimately be its recommendation—including on the Transition Policy Area. Despite fears from the Board of Supervisors, and conservation groups, those votes so far have only tweaked the existing development policies for most of the area.

After the committee wraps up its work, it will go to the Planning Commission before heading to the Board of Supervisors for last revisions and adoption.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

Middleburg Councilman Bridge Littleton looks on as Loudoun County Planning and Zoning Director Ricky Barker provides an update on the Envision Loudoun project.
[Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]

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