The Loudoun County comprehensive plan is in its final stages of being written. Despite two years of work and effort, the comprehensive plan currently being drafted sets Loudoun down a dangerous path which could see the erosion of rural Loudoun and financial distress. While there are numerous concerns with the plan, we focus on two here: Unchecked growth in the Transition Policy Area (the TPA), and the plans fiscal impact on the County.
Over the last 20 years, the County has seen explosive, unconstrained housing growth in eastern Loudoun. In 1990 Loudoun had 87,000 residents. This year we will top 400,000. Nearly all of this growth occurred in eastern Loudoun. For decades the west has been protected by the TPA, the small buffer zone of land shown on the map in light green. The TPA was created to protect western Loudoun from the sprawl in the east. Currently, only 10,000 homes are permitted in the TPA, by design. Unfortunately, the draft comprehensive plan sets to change this. The Loudoun Planning Commission, the authors of the new plan, propose to put an additional 20,000 more houses to the buffer zone, tripling its housing density. This will effectively destroy the buffer zone between east and west and open rural Loudoun to the next wave of development over the next 20 years.
The fiscal impact of this plan is a critical factor in understanding its sustainability. While housing is an important element and needed for residents there must always be a balance as they create more cost then they can support. For example, the average house in Loudoun pays $5,016 in real estate taxes. However, each student in Loudoun costs $13,800/year, and each house has an average of 1 child. The results are that each household in Loudoun costs the County Government $8,700 more per year than they pay in taxes – just for education. This does not include the funds needed for roads to the new homes, utility expansion to provide water and sewer, additional police and firefighters, or the host of additional services they County must provide for these new residents. This chart shows just a few examples of how our already overbuilt housing is impacting the Counties fiscal stability. The draft plan will only make it worse.
In closing, it is important to remember why we must protect rural Loudoun. Recently, the Coalition of Loudoun Towns, known as COLT, comprising all the Mayors of the 7 towns of Loudoun, expressed this sentiment in a letter to the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors: “Western Loudoun is a unique place with its natural beauty, rich history and bucolic way of life. Communities like ours are quickly disappearing across the Commonwealth and indeed our nation… Over the last 20 years, Western Loudoun has transformed itself from sleepy insulated towns and dormant pastures to a unique and vibrant part of the County, filled with wineries and breweries, equestrian sports and events and our popular historic destinations. This evolution enhances the lives of those who live there, but more importantly, offers a balance of life for the busy residents in eastern Loudoun. It has become THE tourism engine for Loudoun, drawing in over $1.8b dollars annually, supporting over 18,000 jobs and nearly $700m in wages – top in the Commonwealth. This is the definition of successful land use for Loudoun’s rural area; a diversified, growing, low intensity and low impact, prosperous place to live and visit. What’s more, rural Loudoun delivers a net positive in taxes to the County compared to the services the County provides, which too is unique in relation to the other parts of Loudoun. Western Loudoun’s bountiful existence has been achieved by hard work, innovative thinking and a desire to create a positive economic impact for our citizens in a way that honors our past and ensures a legacy for future generations.”
Please reach out to the Board of Supervisors and let them know your concerns on this plan. Their joint email is BOS-EMAILS@loudoun.gov.