Loudoun Growth Wars

The battle still rages over the development future of the South Dulles area of Loudoun County. The board of supervisors considered a compromise plan last night. See the Washington Post’s coverage here.

TimesCommunity.com previews hearings on redevelopment plans for Rt. 50 here.

Meanwhile, it’s back to school for Loudoun children. But there’s not enough room for them all — even the trailers are full. The WaPo has that story here.

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11 responses to “Loudoun Growth Wars”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Thanks for the links.

    some thoughts:

    What is going on in Loudoun… is also going on… in Prince William, Warrenton, Culpeper, Stafford, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania.

    The “what” is two-fold

    * – more jobs in the NoVa area
    * – more new employees and their families who need a place to live

    The only way to “slow” or “stop” growth is to outlaw new businesses from locating in the NoVa area.

    If one county actually succeeds in stopping growth.. or even slowing it… the overall numbers won’t change. Instead it will be a balloon that gets sqeezed in one place and swells in another.

    NoVA, in turn, would seem to have two choices with respect to impacts… which in some respects rightly belong to them because they are the jurisdiction that is most benefiting from the new businesses.

    1. – Develop more efficient (higher density) settlement patterns to accomodate the influx


    2. – don’t allow more density and instead watch as all those new employees who come to all the outlying counties commute on NoVa roads to their NoVa jobs.

    perhaps there are other choices… that I’m not seeing….

    Most of the outlying jurisdictions are now collecting proffers to pay for the 10K per student school capital costs as well as fire/rescue and libraries and the like.

    The wild card… is who is going to pay to expand/improve the commuting infrastructure.

    Again, it would seem that NoVa will end up with the lions share of traffic… unless a radically different approach to land-use is waiting in the wings.. to be implemented.

    what say others?

  2. Sounds like what I said below. If you wan’t to reduce traffic congestion, outlaw new businesses coming to the area: make people poor, that will reduce congestion. It is one way to tie land use to transportation.

    Increasing the density assumes that the high powered employees will want to live that way and watch their high pay pay go to the landlords. I don’t se there is evidence that will work: people want their space, their own space and public space as well.

    People in the outlying areas can come on the trains, if we build enough trains. But if transit turns out to support sprawl instead of density, then it is working against itself.

    And if it gets much harder to get in, then employees will make their voices heard in the corner office, and the companies will eventually move. See Paragraph one.

  3. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Ray, sounds like the “we need more places” argument again. I attended a meeting on Tysons Corner this evening and made the same argument. We need good jobs in locations outside the Fairfax-Arlington-Alexandria core. With the exception of a couple of people who work for companies that own office buildings, most people agreed.

  4. Loudon’s fate is sealed. Metro is going through Tyson’s, above ground.

  5. “The Washington Post reported that Loudoun County is now the wealthiest county in our Nation, followed at not too far remove by Fairfax and Prince William (all three in the top ten). Who would have thought a few years ago that Loudoun would have outpaced Fairfax?”

    from Too Conservative.

    Noe this raises an interesting issue. Where is Fauquier in this list with thirty years of slow growth policy?

    The wealth in Loudoun is shared by far more people, and many of them new people, but I would suspect that given the enormous difference in developed property, even the per capita income is higher in Loudoun than in Fauquier, even though Fauquier is home to many of the states wealthiest citizens.

    What does this say about the “Public Benefit” that we hear so much about? And if Loudoun is the wealthies county in the nation, why are their children running out of trailers?

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Reducing businesses doesn’t make people more poor/less wealthy Ray.

    And more jobs does not mean higher salaries and conversely less jobs does not mean lower salaries.

    More people, however, mean the need for more infrastructure such as schools in Loudoun.

    I agree it IS ironic that Loudoun with it’s high-dollar demographics… does not have enough roads or schools for it’s population.

    It would seem the answer should be simple. If a locality needs infrastructure – then the folks that live there would have to pick up the tab for that infrastructure – right?

    People in Loudoun do have a clear choice. If the current tax rate does not provide sufficient revenues for needed infrastructure then it would seem to me that their choice is higher taxes or insufficient infrastructure.

    So… haven’t Loudoun’s residents essentially made their choice? I don’t see them massing at the courthouse to demand higher taxes… (or maybe they have and I missed it)…. 🙂

  7. I think you are taking me a little too literally about the poor business. After the dot com bust traffic in silicon valley declined precipitously. The people out of work may not have been poor or felt poor. Considering the kind of money that was being made, they might be able to afford to sit on their hands, or they might have gone somewhere else.

    But the point is that traffic IS closely tied to economic activity, and if that activity declines, someone will feel the pinch.

    And, you are right, we don’t have to have the infrastructure. We can do without and live as they do in Carribbean countries. Dirt tracks, narrow and poorly paved streets, kids ride horses to local schools, hey, its not all bad. Life can be good without VCR’s, Gameboys, 400 HP cars and 4000 ft homes. I don’t think Loudoun residents have made that choice, either.

    Loudoun residents tossed out their slow growth board and put in a pro development one, but that result was widely decried by slow growth factions as not being the true voice of the people.

    Does Loudoun have a widespread, properly run survey to see what people want, like PW? I don’t see that a BOS election every four years is a very good or fast acting barometer. Are there people out there voluntarily sending in extrt taxes? I doubt it.

    Part of this isn’t about money. Loudoun may have enough money to do what needs to be done, eventually, and they have plenty of borrowing power. But even with borrowed money, what needs to be done is going to take time.

    And part of it isn’t even about infrastructure. I use the aproaches to New York harbour as an example. The ocean is equally paved everywhere, no infrastructure required. Yet New York harbour and its approaches are still crowded and congested. If Loudoun paves the entire county, they still won’t be able to go to Fairfax to work.

    You are going to have to put more jobs where the people have chosen to live. Especially as long as we have a system in which homes are subsidized by business taxes.

  8. tobias jodter Avatar
    tobias jodter

    If the current tax rate does not provide sufficient revenues for needed infrastructure then it would seem to me that their choice is higher taxes or insufficient infrastructure.

    Well, if you are going to be that unreasonable perhaps there is another option?

    The only way to “slow” … growth is to outlaw new businesses from locating in the NoVa area.

    Of course, that is a non-starter, but the pro-tax, pro-uncontrolled growth, no-developer-left-behind crowd paints everything as all-or-nothing solutions.

    And if Loudoun is the wealthies county in the nation, why are their children running out of trailers?

    It is my opinion that a major part of the reason is simply because of the massive nature and speed of the expansion. That is exacerbated by incompentent politicians and poor to no planning.

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Are we seeing anything truly unique with respect to the growth, land-use, congestion, infrastructure issues et al in the Wash Metro/No Va area?

    If so.. what are the primary differences as compared to other expanding urban metro regions?

    Isn’t it more likely that other urban metro areas have very similiar issues to this area?

    My point is this. If something is being done wrong.. incompetently, etc… in this area… as compared to other areas – what is it?

    People don’t move to metro areas for the hell of it. Most have a new job in hand or good prospects for one. Otherwise the welfare ranks would sell enormously.

    My point is that JOBS.. in particular – New Jobs are what causes population growth. Ray Hyde believes this is the exact opposite of 3rd world countries and we should revel in such a nirvana – that people are the better for it.

    Others decrie the impacts of “growth”.. which they usually cast in terms of influxes of new people served by greedy developers.. only to happy to make a buck off on the housing need

    However, folks usually perceive a new business’s main impact to be the physical footprint it occupies.. and not the new jobs which are perceived usually as a benefit not an impact.

    I’m saying the new jobs have huge impacts that may… exceed their net benefits. I’m saying at the least that if you’re going to have new jobs/new people and you have no cogent regional plan to accomdating them in terms of infrastructure that … well…we’re pretty dang stupid… and doubly so.. if we think that those infrastructure needs are going to be paid for by folks who don’t live in the Wash Metro/No Va area.

    If we are really interested in actually dealing with the issues at hand – we have to be pragmatic as to what the problems truly are … from the get go…

    I don’t think we are going to outlaw businesses nor people… anytime soon… so complaining about either.. or wishing one or both to go somewhere else.. does not get us anywhere other than using gums for ceiling fans. 🙂

  10. Anonskeptic Avatar

    In response to Mr. Jodter, even if a locality has a very experienced, professional and dedicated planning staff (like Loundoun’s) and a national award-winning planning program (as Loudoun does), unless the appointed planning commissions and elected board of supervisors follows the advice and guidance of their staff and plans, the result is likely a mess. I will say again from 30+ years in the planning profession, decision about land use, zoning, development, etc. are POLITICAL decisions. You would not have all these problems if planners ruled!

  11. tobias jodter Avatar
    tobias jodter

    My comments were not intended to be a reflection of the planning department in Loudoun as in my very few interactions with them they appeared to highly professional and knowledgeable. You are quite right that POLITICS in Loudoun control the lack of planning (and I might add the folks in the planning department know this and have said as much).

    I am not a planning professional and I can only speak to what I see and experience. It’s a mess and it’s been done badly in the Dulles South area.

    I think we need to see a more clear debate about whether or not population growth is nirvana or should be the end game of business. If rapid economic growth/business growth must by definition equal a population explosion than perhaps we have a problem.

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