After a year in which the Loudoun County Planning Commission made decisions on some of the biggest, controversial and most impactful cases for Loudoun’s future, 2018 Chairman Cliff Keirce (Broad Run) recently presented the panel’s annual report to the Board of Supervisors, looking back on a period in which commissioners also faced unusual criticism from the people who appointed them.
In March, the commission handed its draft off of the new Comprehensive Plan to the Board of Supervisors, which is still making revisions. Throughout the commission’s work, some supervisors had been critical, particularly of the commission’s proposals to drastically increase housing in areas bordering rural lands.
“Quite frankly, if I presented that exact same plan and had to approve it, I wouldn’t approve it either,” Keirce said during a May 23 meeting with supervisors. But, he said, the majority rules.
“The majority said yes, so it’s in the plan,” Keirce said. “But if I was where you were, I wouldn’t approve that either. So, I don’t take—and I don’t think any of us take—any offense that you’re going to take this and you’re going to change it quite a bit. I just hope that we provided you a blueprint for looking at where things belong.”
The commission had focused on finding places for more new housing in Loudoun, seeking to push housing prices down. For that, they faced massive outcry from the public and pushback from supervisors, who have set to work rolling back many of those proposals.
In 2018, the commission also voted on two massive Metro-area developments and the new Loudoun United stadium at Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park—among 59 cases in total last year, with 109 land use decisions. Keirce said during his time as chairman, he tried to make sure supervisors had all the same facts on hand as the commission when those applications came to the county board. In several cases, he said, supervisors did not have information crucial to the commission’s decisions.
Planning commissioners and supervisors have also said in the past that their jobs come with different responsibilities.
“I think part of it is just the nature of these positions,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “We are the ones that have to face voters, and the Planning Commission doesn’t.”
The commission elects its chairman from among its members each year. Before 2018, Keirce had been talked about among commissioners as a potential chairman, but he declined that position citing his work obligations. He works for the Federal Aviation Administration.
With 2018 and Keirce’s term leading the panel over, former Loudoun Water general manager Fred Jennings (Ashburn) now chairs the Planning Commission.