Editor: In 2018, my family moved across Loudoun County so that my husband’s commute to the same location for the past two decades would be reduced from nearly an hour and a half to 15 to 20 minutes. In the seven years we lived in Purcellville, his commute increased by an hour proving that our infrastructure is not keeping up with the enormous growth.
The private enterprise of a developer is conducted on a very public stage since our government regulates the zoning that dictates what can be built and where. Our zoning ordinances are borne from a Comprehensive Plan that is created with public input for the public. The limits placed by zoning are part of the social contract that protects residents and their right to a safe place to live, attend good schools, enjoy open spaces, and have adequate streets. When the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of zoning ordinances in 1916, it was to “keep the pig out of the parlor, even if pigs may not be prohibited from the entire community.” Zoning is to protect residents’ quality of life.
The current Loudoun County Board of Supervisors adopted a Vision and Strategic plan that states, “Loudoun County maintains the high quality of life it has achieved, shapes a future that represents the best of both worlds, and creates a place where its residents are proud to live, work, learn, and play.”
Looking at the vision and strategic statements for the county and towns in Loudoun, the phrases and words used most often are focused on residents, not for large developers or landowners who often don’t reside here. The Town of Middleburg states its mission is to sustain their “historic character, natural beauty, and small-town charm.” Purcellville’s states, they will “implement an agenda to nurture and preserve our residents’ quality of life.” Leesburg’s asserts that it will be “carefully planned to preserve our sense of small town and neighborhood.” Lovettsville’s values and vision supports “maintaining a peaceful, small-town feel that foster sustainable essential services,” a poignant statement considering the possible proposed growth path for Loudoun is unsustainable.
In November 2017, the Loudoun supervisors adopted a Strategic Plan Update, which states they will Incorporate Envision Loudoun 2040 into the board’s Strategic Plan. The current draft of Envision 2040 is quite contradictory to the vision statement of Loudoun, its towns, and the values of residents. It fails the litmus test that voters put to you nearly four years ago when they voted each Supervisor into office.
The growth in Loudoun is fueled by a cycle where developers come in and fund some or all infrastructure to build their project and Loudoun gets a short-term infusion of money with a long-term liability that our taxes are unable to pay to maintain let alone replace when they wear out after a few decades. Our elected have put us in and keep us on an unsustainable path where the only way for the county to survive is to keep growing or take on more debt and sometimes both.
The meager financial contributions from development are politically justified as being in the public interest, even if it means the quality of our life continues to deteriorate. Our elected flout the need for growth as progress for the public good to provide new roads, affordable housing, or schools until we realize that it never truly materializes.
During the Envision Loudoun planning stages and public meetings, 80 percent of comments were focused on preservation and conservation. Respondents overwhelmingly expressed a desire for less residential growth and no changes made to the Transition and Rural Policy Areas of the county.
Taxes, traffic, and losing open space have been the biggest concern for Loudoun residents for the past 20 years I have lived here. The public has a vested interest in shaping projects in their community. Those who chose to live here made the most significant investment of their lives. Collectively, we should consider everyone in Loudoun a neighbor and be good neighbors through our policy and decisions.
With so many developments going up so quickly and so little concern given to our quality of life by the current draft Envision 2040, it must be revised until it reflects the resident’s input. There is no suggestion that we close the county to development. It is time to stop making decisions based on an economic Ponzi scheme. There are thousands of more residents who vote than developers, so our Board of Supervisors need to listen to the electorate that placed them there and preserve the high quality of life we have all come to enjoy.
Karen Jimmerson, Aldie