The years-long project to rewrite the county’s comprehensive plan has reached its final step: the Board of Supervisors.
One of the first things the current Board of Supervisors did after taking office was launch an update of the county comprehensive plan, an overhaul many said was overdue after nearly 20 years. State code guides localities to update their comprehensive plan every five years. Planned in the spring of 2016 and launched that summer, Loudoun’s comprehensive plan review was originally scheduled to be an 18-month project.
“This is a heavy lift, but I am sure that we are the board to do this, and this is the time to do it, and I am confident that we have the right plan, the right charter, the right staff, and the right board to get it done,” County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said at the time.
Now, in the final year of their term, supervisors are scheduled to wrap up work on that plan in June, more than three years after launching work. Both former Planning and Zoning Director Ricky Barker and former project manager Christopher Garcia, the two staff members who were to lead the project, have since left Loudoun County government. One of the county’s senior-most officials, Deputy County Administrator Charles Yudd, was put directly in charge of the project and tasked with getting it back on track. Under Yudd and new Planning and Zoning Director Alaina Ray, the plan was reported out of a stakeholder steering committee that worked on it for two years, and has been through Planning Commission review.
The timing has worried some people, as discussions on the county dais already begin showing the effects of election-year politics.
“This is going to be about balance,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), who pointed out he is not seeking reelection. “And I know it’s an election year, and it’s very unfortunate that this got to the board in an election year, because decisions are too important on this comprehensive plan to play politics with. Too important. This is going to guide the county for a long time.”
Supervisors are also asking if they might get away with taking longer than the state-mandated 90 days to review the commission’s version of the plan. That clock will start with a formal vote by the Planning Commission on March 26.
The plan includes new design standards, a new format, and would allow up to approximately 27,500 more forecasted homes by 2040 than the county’s current comprehensive plan. In response to studies that showed housing demand far outpacing Loudoun’s supply, and that a family making Loudoun’s median income cannot afford a median-price house in Loudoun, the Planning Commission focused on expanding housing in Loudoun in its work.
Community organizations like the Loudoun Preservation and Conservation Coalition promised to keep the pressure on supervisors as planning work enters its last leg.
“We believe Loudoun can accommodate additional residential and commercial development, especially at Metro, but it must be managed in the public interest so as to preserve the quality of life of present and future citizens,” said coalition President Al Van Huyck, a former Planning Commission chairman. “The draft plan now before you needs some modifications. We will demonstrate the plan as proposed has too high a risk to the county’s future fiscal base, our land use pattern, and could lower the quality of life of present residents.”
Supervisors will hold their first work session on the plan April 3. Public hearings are scheduled Wednesday, April 24 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 27 at 9 a.m. in the county government center in Leesburg.
More is at loudoun.gov/loudoun2040.