Outgoing Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) told the next board—which will be elected in November, and which he will not seek to join—to “stay the course” during the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s annual PolicyMaker Series breakfast with county supervisors this morning.
“We’re all so focused on how we go forward, and that’s great, but at the same time we need to stop, take a breath, and think about how wonderful a place we live in,” Buona said.
Now in his eighth and final year on the Board of Supervisors, Buona has seen the Board of Supervisors vote to bring Metrorail to Loudoun, make major investments in economic development, shift more than half of its capital construction budget to transportation projects, and launch an overhaul of the county comprehensive plan. And the next board, he said, will have to keep up that work—including implementing the vision of the new comprehensive plan with nuts-and-bolts zoning regulations.
“Land use drives everything,” Buona said. “Land use is the core to economic development. Land use is the core to what our county’s going to like in the future, and as we go through the comp plan, that is so important that we get that vision right.”
That, he said, will mean a balance between Loudoun’s competing interests and putting them “in the right place.”
“Data centers are a good example,” Buona said. Although he had earlier pointed out the industry’s massively positive effect on county tax revenues and real estate taxes, he said “I’m now seeing them start to encroach where, personally, I don’t want to see them, like next to existing neighborhoods.”
Finally, he said, the next Board of Supervisors—like the current one, which he gave a “B+” for keeping out of politics—must work on being nonpartisan.
“Why? Because what does the Board of Supervisors focus on? The quality of life for the citizens of Loudoun County,” Buona said. “Not the issues that are dragging down DC, or even Richmond at this point in time. So stay focused on what matters—like getting people to work, like keeping people’s taxes at a normal level, like good schools, and you’ll be just fine.”
Supervisors also faced questions on—among other things—transportation and attracting more young people to Loudoun.
Clerk of the Circuit Court Gary Clemens asked supervisors how the county can bring in millennials. County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) referenced the Nighttime Economy Ad-Hoc Committee, a subcommittee of the Economic Development Advisory Commission whose work culminated in 2016 with a report laying out options for urban, walkable, transit-serviced communities where people can live, work, and play without needing to get in a car.
Randall said the key to bringing younger people into Loudoun is threefold: more affordable housing options, a thriving nightlife with things to do for young people, and the arts.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said economic development and transportation are often the same issue.
“In reality, if we can bring a job close to where our residents live, then that’s also fixing transportation, because we’re really fundamentally changing their commuting patterns,” Letourneau said. “We can’t control too much that happens outside of the county.”