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Campaign for Loudoun's Future: Promoting Sensible Limits on Future Growth
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Why Rural Zoning Matters to Suburban Loudoun

By Andrea McGimsey, Sterling resident

If you can make the time this coming weekend, I encourage you to take your family on a drive out into rural Loudoun and see for yourself what is at stake for our community. (Suggestions for day trips)

Choose one of the main roads going west, Route 50 or Route 7, and then take some of the smaller roads, and then maybe even a dirt road if your car can handle it. (Warning: I did this the other day, and the road disappeared into a big stream!)

Rural Loudoun is 230,000 acres, which starts east of Route 15 and extends all the way out to the Blue Ridge Mountains, from just south of Rt. 50 up to the Potomac River in the north. Harper's Ferry, a one hour drive from Ashburn, is across the river from the northwest corner of the county.

As you drive through this huge, undeveloped area, imagine one house per three acres, which is our current rural zoning. Imagine the roads, schools, fire and rescue, etc., that will be needed to support all those houses. Listen to our Board of Supervisors debate the transportation issues for just one high school in rural Loudoun vs. the transportation needs in eastern Loudoun; the lack of roads, sewer and water, etc., in western Loudoun is a great challenge. Then imagine the county's mounting debt and your mounting tax bill if we need to build and operate multiple schools in the rural area.

We still need so much in eastern Loudoun -- paved roads, stoplights, interchanges, schools, fire and police stations, etc. So many more houses have already been approved but not yet build in our communities -- 17,000 more houses in Asbhurn, 11,000 more house near South Riding, etc. We do not need more competition for scarce state and local funds.

Note as you drive that there are no employment centers in western Loudoun, except our rural economy, which is in jeopardy under the current zoning. Think about how far these houses are from the Route 28 employment corridor, the Dulles Toll Road jobs, Tysons Corner and Washington, DC. Think about the commuters from 46,000 houses joining us on the Greenway, Route 7, and Route 50, squeezing in between the Potomac River and Dulles Airport -- because both of those large, physical barriers prevent a decent road grid. We do not need tens of thousands more commuters on our congested roads.

Some suggested drives / trips for your family in rural Loudoun

You can have a lot of fun!

Bear's Den and the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail has beautiful views of rural Loudoun and is a fairly easy trail to hike for little ones, because it follows the ridge line (my dad and mom have been taking me on it since I was a little girl.) Bear's Den is a wonderful old stone house where local Loudoun groups often meet and have and potluck suppers. Right now, the mountain laurel along the trails should be beautiful. Not far from the house is a rock outcropping with a gorgeous view of the Shenandoah Valley.

Harper's Ferry
This historic town has a view that Thomas Jefferson loved and is full of Civil War history. Although Harper's Ferry is in West Virginia, most of the beautiful drive is through rural Loudoun. There is also plenty to do in the area.

Historic Leesburg and Oatlands Plantation
Come and see where the public hearings are being held, in the heart of historic Leesburg, a vibrant town since the colonial days. Then take a drive south on Rt. 15 to Oatlands Plantation, one of my very favorite places in Loudoun.

More of Andrea's favorite places in Loudoun County

About Andrea McGimsey
Andrea McGimsey is the former director of the Campaign for Loudoun's Future and a former employee of the Piedmont Environmental Council, a member of the campaign's coalition. She is also a former five year employee of America Online where she worked for a senior executive, a former member of the Sterling Volunteer Fire Department for which she raised $80,000 and received the Administrative Member of the Year award in 2003, a member of Our Savior's Way Lutheran Church in Ashburn, and a former Ashburn resident. She has lived in Loudoun County since 2001, worked in Loudoun since 1998, and is a native of suburban, northern Virginia. She currently lives in Sterling.