According to the latest schedule published by the county government, we are four weeks away from the first official public hearing on the draft 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
While there have been numerous community workshops and input sessions over the past two and a half years as the foundation of Loudoun’s next community development guide was laid out by a large committee of community leaders, that Nov. 7 session will be the first one that counts—a step required by state law.
The county’s Planning Commission spent much of the summer debating the merits of that committee’s work and has signaled its intent to go in different directions in a number of key areas. At the same time, other segments of the community—most recently the leaders of Loudoun’s incorporated towns and the state’s largest farmer advocacy organization—have weighed in with new concerns.
Emerging is a consensus that the new plan must do a better job of protecting the county’s rural countryside, addressing the workforce housing needs, adjusting to the rapidly changing nature of commercial development in the nation’s hottest data center market, and promoting redevelopment that will enhance community life in some of the county’s oldest neighborhoods. There is a recognition that achieving our vision of Loudoun County in 2040 will require more innovation and creativity.
Recent enthusiasm to revive a government-funded Purchase of Development Rights program provides a good example of the opportunities afforded by this exercise. In the draft plan, the use of PDRs as a tool to protect some rural land from development pressure was little more than a passing mention. In fact, the plan provided few options for changing the expectations that thousands of new homes will fill the countryside in coming years. This is the time to change that projected outcome and the use of PDRs is only one of many creative preservation tools available.
It’s not yet known how far the commission will push the plan over the next several weeks of its review, but it shouldn’t be just rural or western Loudoun interest following the action. Business leaders, educators, HOA boards, restaurant owners and many others who don’t normally pay close attention to the goings on in the County Government Center should be engaged with the debate. Does the draft plan really reflect your vision for life in 2040?