Mayor Bridge Littleton presented his annual State of the Town address Wednesday evening, highlighting the government’s solid financial standing and outlining the challenges ahead.
In front of a small crowd of Town Council members, advisory group volunteers and business leaders gathered in the Middleburg Community Center—and streaming live to an online audience—Littleton said the town navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic well. That’s no small feat for a municipal government that relies on a visitor-based economy and draws nearly two-thirds of its revenue from tourism and meals taxes.
While helping residents and businesses work through the pandemic, the council also has advanced its effort to build a new Town Hall—a project 15 years in the making—to the construction stage. A contractor is expected to be on board by year’s end and a December 2022 move-in date has been penciled in.
Among the top concerns in the months ahead, Littleton highlighted the council’s focus on providing more attainable housing opportunities and preventing the loss of existing homes affordable to moderate-income residents from being swallowed up by redevelopment. It’s a concern of town businesses and for the future sustainability of Middleburg, he said.
“The average household income in the Town of Middleburg is about $55,000 to $56,000 a year, but the average home price is now approaching $500,000. We do not have a town staff member or police officer who actually lives in the town they work in and we need to address that,” Littleton said.
The council is pursuing ordinance changes that could limit house sizes in some neighborhoods, as one tool in that effort.
Other challenges are coming from outside the town’s boundaries.
The westward expansion of residential and commercial development under the control of the Loudoun County government is a concern, he said.
“I know it is a huge concern for me. I know it is a huge concern for council and everybody in our community. We don’t want to lose the nature and character of rural Loudoun,” he said. “We’re working as hard as we can to bring those issues to the forefront and to make sure they’re on everybody’s mind.”
“There is a lot of business interest in focused on development. How do we balance that with not killing the golden goose of what the special nature of western Loudoun is?” he said.
Town leaders have been active in working with the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission as well as community organizations to promote desirable growth policies. Also, Littleton is representing the Coalition of Loudoun Towns, which has also been active in the development debate, on the county committee that is rewriting the Loudoun Zoning Ordinance.
He encouraged town residents to get involved as well. “Let them hear your voice and if you want to volunteer, volunteer because that’s the only why we’re going to win this battle.”
He said the town also is closely watching the redistricting effort to establish new county election districts and is advocating to maintain two western Loudoun representatives on the county board.
Littleton also noted the long history of volunteerism in the town and the important role residents play in the community.
“What makes Middleburg unique and special? It’s not the buildings. It’s not the restaurants. It’s not the hotels. It’s the people. That is why people come to Middleburg. All of those other things are very important. You get an environment from those things, but you get a feeling from the people and the community here,” Littleton said.
We he talks with weekend visitors he hears they are attracted by the “positive, enjoyable feeling” in town. “It would not be that without every one of you. From the council and from myself, we thank everybody for what they do to make Middleburg truly special.”