County Streetlight Proposal Advances

A proposal to let local taxpayers pay to set up streetlights in unlit Loudoun neighborhoods—either directly or from the county’s tax base—took a step forward with a unanimous vote in the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee July 9

Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) proposed the measure. If the full Board of Supervisors approves, county consultants and staff members will devise a program for installing LED streetlights, which would then be handed over to a utility company. The program would be set up in service districts, which, under state law, allows the county to levy a special tax in the lighting district to pay for the lights. Some supervisors have also suggested following a similar model to other types of service districts, in which a majority of the residents in the area must vote to approve a service district to start one.

Committee members suggested the county staff talk with the Virginia Department of Transportation about areas where the state agency’s policies call for streetlights, but where it has not installed them.

“I think that this will be a benefit for our area in regard to safety, connectivity, people getting around a lot better,” Saines said. “A lot of folks are walking longer distances at different hours of the day to go to work, to go to school, to go visit family and friends in their neighborhood, so I’d like to have some light in the areas that we need them.”

Previously, supervisors have argued that the lack of streetlights are also a safety concern, and that a county program could get streetlights into neighborhoods that don’t have a homeowner’s association to pay for them.

According to a report compiled by county consultant Kimley Horn, Loudoun already has a history with streetlight programs.

In 1955, the county launched a program to share the costs of new streetlights with unincorporated, rural communities, subsidizing two-thirds of the costs. By 1977, 110 streetlights had been set up in rural areas, and the county set new, more restrictive rules, including that the county would participate only if funding was available.

In 1982, the county expanded its program beyond the rural area, through which neighborhoods would reimburse the county for streetlights and then the government would reimburse the utility. Then in 1993, the county began using funding from the new local gas tax to install streetlights; that program was suspended in 2002.

Since then, the county has paid or helped pay to install streetlights sporadically; in fiscal year 2018, the county counted 154 streetlights owned by the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, 565 owned by Dominion, and 909 owned by the county, mostly at county public facilities.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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