Rural Zoning: The Key to the Rural Economy's Growth
The viability of Loudoun’s farms and rural businesses depends on the
very natural resources they are based on.
There is no doubt that the recent growth in profit margins for the rural economy
is tied to the County's 2003 decision
to zone Western Loudoun as rural/agricultural. With the AR-1
and AR-2 zoning ordinances in place, protecting Loudoun's natural resources
and legalizing many rural business uses, citizens were able to consider rural
businesses as a viable and sustainable option.
The 2003 zoning provided protection to both businesses and residents
in Loudoun's rural areas. Many rural businesses require 20 or more
acres and need to be surrounded by open space, similar businesses,
and/or neighbors tolerant of of animals (eg. the smells) and farming
practices (eg. spraying of pesticides). Many of Loudoun's rural
businesses would not survive if surrounded by dense, suburban developments.
But the continuation of the rural economy, so important to Loudoun County's
tax base, is dependent upon appropriate rural zoning ordinances.
Nearly seven years ago, Loudoun’s Rural Economic Development Task Force
“A thriving rural economy can exist only where there are adequate
resources—a critical mass of rural/agricultural land and a plentiful, low-cost
water supply. The beginning point of any plan to maintain and grow the rural economy
must be, therefore, to secure those natural resource assets of rural Loudoun in
order that it may:
1) retain its rural character;
2) accommodate enhanced agricultural production;
3) offer opportunities for alternative rural enterprises; and,
4) continue to attract increasing levels of tourism.
Today, this natural resource base is not only threatened, it is disappearing
to residential subdivisions at an alarming rate.”
Business leaders of Loudoun’s new high-tech sector gave testimony saying:
“A linchpin of Loudoun's overall economic development effort is the
rural character of the County and the quality of life created by that rural character.”
These warnings and others led the County’s citizens—in an open,
deliberative, six-year-long process—to develop new zoning rules for Western
Loudoun to protect farmland and the rural character of the region from the threat
posed by A-3 zoning.
The AR-1 and AR-2 zoning adopted
in 2003 protected the essential character of Western Loudoun; guaranteed landowners
the right to start new rural businesses such as wineries, inns, restaurants, and
antique shops that are compatible with a rural area; and encouraged sensible and
compatible residential growth in clustered developments that preserved farmland
and open space.
"The 200,000 Acre Solution: Supporting and Enhancing A Rural Economy For
Loudoun's 21st Century"; Loudoun’s Rural Economic Development Task