Current Threats to Loudoun's Rural Economy
|"Rural residential development has accelerated rapidly since the mid-1990's...
This activity is destroying the rural landscape and negatively affecting natural
resources, consuming rich agricultural soils, jeopardizing the rural economy,
stressing rural road capacities and raising concerns about groundwater potability.
It is also diverting limited public resources away from areas planned by the County
-- Loudoun County Revised Comprehensive Plan
Loudoun's rural economy was left hanging in the balance in the
wake of the March 2005 Virginia
Supreme Court decision, which opened the door for 45,876 new
houses to be built in western Loudoun. After refusing to simply
re-advertise and re-enact the original 2003 zoning, the Board of
Supervisors put two possible
options on the table in June 2005 that as compromises between
the A-3 zoning and the 2003 AR-1/AR-2 zoning.
But in December 2006, after a 21 month delay, three rounds of public
hearings, and citizen comments 15:1 in favor of the more restrictive
plan, the Board voted 5-4
in support of a plan to allow 18,000+ new houses in rural Loudoun.
The so-called Staton Plan is better than A-3 zoning, but not as
protective as the 2003 zoning. Supervisors York,
Burton, Kurtz, and Waters voted in opposition.
Plan is hardly a compromise for Loudoun taxpayers and commuters.
It puts our rural economy and its tax base in jeopardy, adds more
traffic to our roads, and will divert county resources from the
needs of our existing communities. During the 21 months of delay,
A3 subdivisions continued to be filed.
The failure of the Board of Supervisors to replace A-3 with AR-1/AR-2,
or something very close, commits the County to
- losing a viable, thriving rural economy;
- jeopardizing rural business owners' livelihoods and their employees;
- growing unaffordability of housing in the county;
- dwindling ground water resources (a ticking time bomb);
- putting the county's financial stability at great risk; and,
- being unable to deliver needed services to Eastern Loudoun's
Even one large development makes it impractical for a farmer to invest in haying
equipment worth thousands of dollars, to continue agricultural spraying or raising
sheep vulnerable to dogs, or to protect vineyards from increasing (and unhuntable)
Why “Opt-In Zoning” Will Fail to Support Loudoun's Rural
Following the 2005 Virginia Supreme Court
ruling, some members of the Board of Supervisors have discussed restoring
the AR-1/AR-2 zoning in Western Loudoun
on a voluntary, "opt-in" basis. That means any landowner seeking
to subdivide his land according to the A-3
zoning rules is free to do so - while other landowners around him may choose
to remain under the AR-1/AR-2 designation. The effect of opt-in zoning,
or spot zoning, would be a patchwork quilt-like landscape in western Loudoun.
Large suburban developments could be adjacent to farmland, and eventually could
surround individual farms. Such a situation would not be in anyone's best
Zoning, like any other law, is meaningless if it is voluntary. Zoning is based
on the simple principle that what happens on one piece of property affects the
entire community—its character, its economic viability, its quality of life.
The AR-1 and AR-2 zoning that Western Loudouners asked for was designed
to protect the essential resources and character of the rural portion of the county
as a whole. It can only do so if the same rule applies to everyone—not just
to those who voluntarily ask for it to apply to them.
"The 200,000 Acre Solution: Supporting and Enhancing A Rural Economy For
Loudoun's 21st Century"; Loudoun’s Rural Economic Development Task