Members of the committee guiding the county’s comprehensive plan rewrite had to reassess their work after a sharp rebuke from the Loudoun Board of Supervisors.
“I feel that circle of trust is broken,” said member Alta Jones, who represents the Rural Economic Development Council on the committee, at its meeting Oct. 16. “I was so shocked when I looked at the video and the presentation that was given to the board to find that the stakeholders group had voted and approved the number of houses.”
At county board meeting earlier this month, county planners reported that the 26-member stakeholders committee was examining three possible scenarios for the area that serves as a low density buffer between the county’s rural west and suburban east. One of those was the status quo, another that would allow up to 12,000 more homes, and another that would allow up to 18,000 more homes.
Supervisors criticized the notion of allowing dramatic increases in the numbers of homes in what is known as the transition policy area.
County planners also offered the caveat that the committee’s concepts were very much works in progress. Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Salmon (Dulles), who also chairs the stakeholders committee, pointed out that both he and planners had cautioned supervisors that the report was preliminary. But he said that’s not what the board or the public heard.
“In my mind, the paper is what the public responded to,” Salmon said. “They didn’t respond necessarily to what [Project Manager] Chris [Garcia] and [Planning and Zoning Director] Ricky [Barker] said. What Chris and Ricky said, maybe they could have jumped up and down and had flashing lights behind them, but they said the right stuff. They weren’t heard.”
Jones asked that in the future, stakeholders get a look at reports to the county board before they go out.
“I feel that we have wasted some capital—political capital—with Loudoun residents by this faux pas of putting out a scenario that we don’t really say is a scenario, and that as far as I’m concerned, I don’t remember voting on it,” Jones said.
But other members of the committee seemed to stand by their work so far, even if it arrived at allowing more development in the transition area.
“I think the votes were overwhelming,” said Algonkian District appointee Chris Glassmoyer. “I didn’t misunderstand what we were voting on last week, and you know, like 80 to 90 percent [consensus] is not an accident.”
And John Andrews, who represents the county’s Housing Advisory Board, said “the status quo gets use zero affordable units” and that “I understood completely where I was going,” which included requiring 50 to 70 percent of the transition policy area be preserved as open space.
“To get the max [buildout], you were going to have to have more open space, which would create smaller lots, which would create more affordable lots, which would create more affordable housing,” Andrews said. “So, I knew exactly what I was doing in order to create a more affordable community, and not to continue creating an elitist community.”
Committee members and the county staff agreed that the presentation itself was flawed.
“It wasn’t couched in the proper context, I don’t think, when we presented it,” said Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning John Merrithew.