Loudoun Supervisors See Massive Protest at Comp Plan Hearing

More than 130 people signed up to speak to the Board of Supervisors during a public hearing Wednesday night on the latest draft of the proposed new county comprehensive plan, and the vast majority were not satisfied.

“I’ve never in my life been to a public political event, but seeing what was going to happen with all these increased houses got me here,” said John Bonsee. “And I think there’s probably a great number of your other constituents that have that same visceral reaction.”

The debate around the new comprehensive plan continues to center on housing—and around the Planning Commission’s proposal to allow much more in Loudoun than previously planned. The current plan is forecasted to bring more than 29,000 new residential units into the county by 2040; the Planning Commission’s draft, almost double that to more than 56,000.

The Transition Policy Area, which buffers rural west from suburban and urban east and is about 7 percent of the county’s area, would absorb more than half of the difference in housing between the plans.

In addition to the speakers that night—and half as many already are signed up to speak at another public hearing Saturday—Katie Patru, of Willowsford, brought supervisors a petition with more than 1,000 signatures opposing increased development density in the transition area.

But while the majority of concerns stemmed from proposed changes to the transition area and a perceived threat to the rural area, they stretched beyond the county’s open space to its congested roads.

I’m asking you to re-look at this plan,” said former Planning Commissioner Gladys Lewis, who helped write the county’s Choices and Changes General Plan in 1991, and spoke of planning development to match the limited-by-road capacity. “Throw out the growth that is going to require a 10-lane roads, and all other kinds of bad things.”

Michael Myers, executive director of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, said he and his wife are both young professionals working for nonprofits.

“In many ways we are the epitome of the type of resident that I keep hearing Loudoun County wants to attract, and yet the reality is we will probably never be able to afford to buy a home here in Loudoun County,” Myers said. “But that doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice our open spaces for more homes and data centers, just because developers say there is a demand.”

The hearing began with comments by the mayors of all seven Loudoun towns, who through the Coalition of Loudoun Towns, have drafted a coordinated response to the draft plan, “The Loudoun Way.” It outlines 10 principles for planning in Loudoun, such as tempered growth to catch up on infrastructure and other needs, realistic housing goals, the permanent protection of the Transition Policy Area—and losing no more farmland.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that Loudoun had lost 10 percent of its farmland—about 20 square miles—from 2012 to 2017, faster both than the state at large and than the previous five years.

“You have the exciting privilege to do what few boards have done before you, a once in a lifetime chance to create a plan that can make Loudoun a place of international acclaim,” said Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton. “You can​ ​set the principles of truly smart growth.”

Several speakers criticized the plan for what they saw as a lack of vision and creativity.

“It is difficult to support a plan that, rather than being comprehensive and bold, setting ideals in place to direct the way that Loudoun develops, is devoid of creativity or imagination,” said Hillsboro Councilwoman Laney Oxman, “a plan that is so based on growth, that it has really lost its place.”

She added, “as an artist, I simply don’t start creating a piece without a vision of what I want to create.”

The input Wednesday reflected a trend across the three-year process of writing a new comprehensive plan so far. At each opportunity for public input, the majority of comments have come from people asking the Board of Supervisors to limit growth, protect green spaces, or catch up on infrastructure such as roads.

But some people spoke up in support of the plan’s proposal for more housing, and for extending the county’s industrial areas into the transition zone to accommodate data centers there.

As both residential construction and housing costs have skyrocketed over decades in Loudoun, some argued allowing more housing will bring more affordable housing into the county. That included representatives from the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and the Dulles Area Association of Realtors.

“We believe the Loudoun 2040 plan advocates for sensible policies that will help address the cost, diversity and availability of housing for Loudoun’s workforce,” said chamber President and CEO Tony Howard. “To ignore this issue is to increase the suffering that housing costs impose on Loudoun’s seniors, young professionals, teachers, public safety workers, even the disability community.”

“Our housing costs are making it impossible for businesses to pay their employees what it costs to live here,” said DAAR CEO Christine Windle. “If we can’t attract the talent, they may be pushed out of the county.”

One such business owner is Tony Stafford, of Ford’s Fish Shack. He told supervisors across his three restaurants, he is still short 40 employees, which he put down to many of his staff members being unable to afford to live in Loudoun. He said hiring those 40 people would increase his revenues over 20 percent.

“As you can see, this lack of housing in Loudoun County has a direct impact on my business,” Stafford said.

Others included the residents of the Goose Creek Bend neighborhood, who, along with the owner of the nearby Holyfield farm, have asked that their land be rezoned to allow data centers.

The hearing, which ended just before midnight, outlasted many Loudouners who had come to speak, along with three supervisors, Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).

During the session, supervisors also voted to rename the plan, which was titled Loudoun 2040, to the Loudoun County 2019 Comprehensive Plan, upon a motion from County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). Supervisors voted 6-0-3.

The Board of Supervisors will hold one more public hearing on the proposed comprehensive plan this Saturday, April 27 at 9 a.m. at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building, 21000 Education Court in Broadlands.

See the current comprehensive plan and the latest draft of the county’s new comprehensive plan at loudoun.gov/compplan.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported only two supervisors left before the hearing ended.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

18 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors See Massive Protest at Comp Plan Hearing

  • 2019-04-25 at 4:01 pm
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    What if Loudoun sees a surge of new houses, as encouraged by developers as a way to reduce home prices and make houses more affordable? That’s what Economics 101 would say, but consider the consequences for every existing homeowner.

    With a wave of new, “affordable” houses, prices would fall. All present homeowners would see the value of their houses decline. How will these voters feel about their supervisors if their homes suddenly lose, say, 10% of their value?

    There’s another economic wrinkle, too. With all Loudoun houses losing value, the only way for the County to fund its budget is to increase taxes across the board.

  • 2019-04-25 at 5:00 pm
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    “Katie Patru, of Willowsford, brought supervisors a petition with more than 1,000 signatures opposing increased development density in the transition area.”

    That’s really funny, considering Mrs. Patru’s home was built in 2016 in the TPA… In a subdivision that’s not even 5 years old.

    How did the Willowsford residents feel about that when beautiful farmland was replaced by the Grant subdivision I wonder?

    I’m kidding. This is not funny. This is a recurring theme. “Do as I say, don’t do as I did”. I called out Karen Jimmerson on the exact same thing in her letter to the editor just yesterday.

    • 2019-04-26 at 11:32 am
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      Willowsford was developed in accordance with the current comprehensive plan, the RGP. I have not heard anyone request that no development take place in the TPA. They just to keep the policies in the RGP. How is that hypocritical?

      • 2019-04-27 at 5:58 am
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        Hope, how is it not hypocritical to be part of the hyper growth of the region and say it must stop?

        You are missing the point. It’s not correlated to the current zoning density. It’s about what was there before the neighborhoods went up.

        The zoning is all in the county’s books. I am talking about the actual real world increase in density when the houses are built. There was nothing, and then there is something.

        And somehow there is the belief the density should remain the same forever, completely ignoring the fact that Ashburn did not even exist 35 years ago.

    • 2019-04-26 at 11:32 am
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      Jeff, I have seen a few of your trolling comments without looking at what people are asking for. We are not saying no development, but keep the zoning like it is or close to existing plans. Many people bought into these areas moving from other highly populated areas based on the zoning in place. This opened up houses in those areas for people like you that want the crowds.

      • 2019-04-26 at 2:15 pm
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        loudounres, I did not realize calling out hypocrisy was considered trolling. A lot of people are, in fact, asking for a complete halt to development, including the democrat and independent candidate for Catoctin.

        Since they expressed this in writing, I can’t wait to see how you’ll prove me wrong:

        “I have been talking to my friends and neighbors around Catoctin for the past 18 months and many of them want me to tell you that Catoctin is full”

        “A lot of people seem to feel bad about closing the door behind them after moving here. They shouldn’t, it’s the only sane reaction after living here and seeing the deficit in roads, schools, etc caused by insane growth. I have no interest in old vs new divisions, to me it’s all the folks that currently live here vs all the folks that might want to live here.”

  • 2019-04-25 at 7:15 pm
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    This is a plan that tries to thread the needle between “we don’t need to do anything to promote development until we catch up on the quality-of-life issues in Loudoun” and “we always support whatever developers want to do.” Of course that’s not a needle you can thread…they’re two ends of the spectrum. If the supervisors approve this land grab we need to make sure we get 9 new ones next election and then go to work undoing this plan.

  • 2019-04-26 at 7:22 am
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    It was again disappointing but not unexpected to see some supervisors at the public input session obviously looking at their phones instead of listening to citizens–even at the start of the evening. The 2015-2019 Planning Commission has established itself as the hands-down winner of the Ignores Citizens Award. This BOS is not far behind–not each supervisor, but a majority of them. Watch the archived video of the input session (at http://loudoun.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=77&clip_id=5854) to see who listened and who didn’t, and who left the room for long periods (exclusive of the breaks).

  • 2019-04-26 at 8:27 am
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    Let’s review some factors that could be causing the push to develop Loudoun all the way to the West Virginia border REGARDLESS OF WHAT POLITICIANS SAY.

    1 . VPAP reports that both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Chair of the BOS have received large donations from self – identified developers. I am running as an independent taking no campaign donations and have spoken up about what high density residential is doing to Loudoun ever since being on the school board where student generation was thoroughly studied.

    2 The State of Virginia via the composite index extracts hundreds of million from Loudoun every year

    3 . The State of Virginia is addicted to the growth in income taxes from new residents coming to Loudoun and pushes at every opportunity for greater growth in population

    4 . The State of Virginia under funds VDOT, authorizes expansion of above ground power lines to support growth in Loudoun yet does not support needed infrastructure to mitigate the effects of commutation and population growth.

    5 . The 30 or so cents worth of new data center revenue did not flow to Loudoun taxpayers as our tax rate is still around 30% higher than the average in Virginia and now we are further insulted to hear about a new license plate tax to be added to an inspection fee without stickers.

    6 . When the transition area and Eastern Loudoun are fully developed with density ranging up to 23 residences per acre why would anyone believe all those developers are just going to take their equipment and political clout and leave or will there be another transition area or some pretext to “meet housing demand”

    7 When new housing is for studio apartments or be age restricted there is at least some expectation it will not generate students and therefore be tax friendly, however, when multi-bedroom units are built they are likely to pressure taxes upward and that is before we have the almost $400 million payment due to be paid to Metro.

    Simple conclusion: Stop complaining or ONLY vote for representatives who have voted AGAINST STUDENT GENERATING DENSITY EVERYWHERE IN LOUDOUN. Remind your neighbors and friends to vote on November 5th for candidates who will use fairness, efficiency and community support in all decisions they make on your behalf. Consider independent candidates as well because both parties are infiltrated with developer sponsors.

    • 2019-04-26 at 2:45 pm
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      1. I would think the second they believe you are a chance of winning they’ll send you a big fat check. What will you do if that happens and could be the difference between losing or winning the election? Are you going to return it?

      2. True

      3. True

      4. Oh boy. This is so true. Our road tax dollars are being funneled to Metro. This is the biggest ongoing scam in Loudoun orchestrated by Richmond.

      5. That’s an interesting point, I have not researched this but it would be nice to see where the downfall from data centers went. We funded the school budget, salaries went up (good for the ones who deserved it), and the county is hiring, apparently to “catch up”. Catch up on what? What was so horribly wrong with the services provided by the county before? Where else did the money go?

      6. No they won’t. But the county CANNOT control demand and I feel that’s what people don’t understand. Folks who get new jobs in the region (70,000 jobs a year! Growth is a good problem to have!) are still going to want to move here. And how are they going to afford it when the county limits offer?

      7. I have no idea what this means.

  • 2019-04-26 at 9:19 am
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    Charles Houston, in the last 15 years, when has a developer built “affordable” housing in Loudoun? There is not a profit in that so it will never happen. More housing does not lead to affordable.
    Jeff Mach, I have been working/living in Leesburg since 1985, it has always been the “last one in” mentality. The problem is, the board has always been in bed with developers, some things never change. The slogan used to be “Don’t Fairfax Loudoun”, that didn’t last long! 🙂

    • 2019-04-26 at 2:30 pm
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      downtownres, you’ve been here a lot longer than me, and I’m glad there’s still folks around who already lived here when Ashburn was nothing but a crossroads.

      I already said it and I’ll ask again, I don’t understand why it was okay for folks to move here and destroy farmland but now it must all come to a halt.

      I don’t get the whole schools and roads are bad argument.

      We have great schools. We have great teachers. I get it’s no fun for the students who have to move to a different school on a regular basis but LCPS could easily work this out by granting exceptions.

      Roads, we have a few major arteries that must be widened and improved, and the golden goose that are data centers can pay for this.

      But a lot of the same people who push back on housing until we get a better road network also push back on data centers.

      You can’t be against everything under the sun and then expect better roads and all the bells and whistles like the emerald ribbons, paved roads to wineries, broadband internet in rural Loudoun and so on and so forth. At some point you have to say yes to something.

  • 2019-04-26 at 10:49 am
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    Let’s see……maybe 100 people out of a county of over 400,000, mostly chanting a “now that I live here, don’t let anyone else in attitude” constitutes a “massive protest?” Really. You need to be around more massive things……like a Trump rally!

  • 2019-04-26 at 10:53 am
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    IF the county were serious about affordable housing–and not just using it as the latest fig leaf to cover the fact that they’ve been tools of developers for years–then they’d do something like this: establish a fund for architects to compete to design a house that would qualify as affordable for a $65000 income (roughly $250K) and then figure out a place in the county to put a cluster of those houses…a newer sort of Usonian idea. Loudoun would become well-known for this project and it would help the housing crisis for middle-income folks in Loudoun. Letting a developer come in and put up the junk they build will make housing affordable only to the degree that every house built in Loudoun diminishes the value of the one you own…

  • 2019-04-26 at 10:32 pm
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    HAHA..that is a funny thing to say about massive being a Trump rally…there are not that many dumb people in Loudoun that would fit a “massive” size for Trump. Loudoun has too many smart, sane people to be caught dead with the miscreants who attend Trump rallies.

  • 2019-04-28 at 6:55 pm
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    Randall says bring John Earnest to our Loudoun jail we can pay to rehab him and while in rehab he can vote for her!

  • 2019-04-29 at 8:26 pm
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    Higgins ignores the current comp plan to do all sorts of favors for BFF, developer lawyer Minchew. He ignored the plan to destroy the character defining street and alley network in Waterford. He is bending over backward and gave Loudoun Mutual Insurance $42,000 to re-zone their property commercial, in historic Waterford. He re-zoned the property to build a mega gas station along the JTHG. The plan is a sham document when the BoS members want what they want for their buds. When the average Joe wants to do something, they say, “oh sorry, it is not in the plan.” These guys and gals are the swamp that needs to be drained.

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