As the Loudoun leaders continue work on a new master plan for long-term development, the vision statement of the project emerged as an unexpected stumbling block.
County supervisors were divided on Tuesday over specific wording—particularly whether the vision statement should specifically mention the Transition Policy Area, which sets tapering off of density from the east, and is seen as the firewall against allowing development in the suburban east of the county from creeping into the rural west.
The first draft of the statement, developed by staff and revised by the board-appointed 26-member stakeholders committee, read: “Loudoun County continues to evolve as a prosperous and inclusive community. Its well-deserved reputation for great places, natural and built as well as historic and new, in rural, suburban, and urban settings, will foster economic innovation, fiscal strength, and sustainability.”
Some supervisors felt “transition” needed to be mentioned specifically in the vision statement, prompted by the use of the words “rural” and “suburban.” Supervisors Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge) and Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), who was absent, had requested before the meeting that the board work it in to read: “in rural, transition, suburban, and urban settings.”
“We read it and instantly said wow, there’s the rural, there’s the suburban, and they even added one that we don’t even have,” Buffington said.
Others argued that the vision statement is a high-level idea that doesn’t deal in specific policy areas, and that mentions of “suburban” and “rural” do not connote the policy areas in the county. They felt that would not fit into the high-concept, aspirational nature of the vision statement—or that it was even nonsensical.
“Can someone explain to me what a ‘transition setting’ is?” remarked Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run).
“This is not intended to be a proxy fight for whether one support the [transition policy area] or not,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), pointing out his record of voting against high density applications in the transition area. “…[T]he current policies are what brought us the erosion of the transition policy area that we all know exists. None of that has anything to do with the Board of Supervisors vision statement.”
Ultimately, on Letourneau’s recommendation, supervisors voted to sidestep the issue by taking all mention of rural, urban, and suburban out of the vision statement, replaced with the phrase “a variety of settings.” With some other tweaks—such as replacing “evolve” with “flourish”—the board arrived at:
“Loudoun County continues to flourish as a prosperous and inclusive community with a well-deserved reputation for great places, natural and built as well as historic and new, in a variety of settings. The County will foster economic innovation, fiscal strength, and sustainability.”
That statement passed a straw vote 6-2-1, with Supervisors Buffington and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) opposed, and Higgins absent. Supervisors will take formal action on adopting or rejecting the vision statement at their meeting May 18.
Learn more about the comprehensive plan review here at http://envision-loudoun.org.