Loudon Open Land Planning Threatens Middleburg Buffer Zone
With Loudoun’s New Comp Plan Comes Potential Dangers for Middleburg
The Town of Middleburg is in the midst of writing its new Comprehensive Plan. Many people from the local community have participated in the visioning sessions to help our Planning Commission and us on the Town Council understand the needs of the community and to guide the Commission in their development of our plan – this has been the essence of great civic participation. But what is a comprehensive plan? In the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is an extremely important policy document that chiefly guides our land and use development. In fact, the Code of Virginia requires that a “comprehensive plan shall be made with the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the territory which will, in accordance with present and probable future needs and resources, best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants…”
What may not be widely known is that Loudoun County is also in the process of developing and writing its new Comprehensive Plan. Just like Middleburg, Loudoun’s plan will define the land use, character, housing/commercial development, public services, transportation and growth policies for our county through 2040. This plan directly impacts us in Middleburg as we are surrounded by the County. The County’s last plan was written in 2001 and at that time it created 3 specific zones, known as Policy Areas. The Suburban Area (Eastern Loudoun), the Transition Area (the changeover zone between Eastern and Western Loudoun) and the Rural Area (Western Loudoun and towns such as Middleburg). The goal in creating these 3 areas was to focus development in the Suburban Area, using the narrow Transition Area as the buffer zone and for the protection of the Rural Area (see map). This framework of protection is now in jeopardy.
The Loudoun Board of Supervisor’s 3 year, million-dollar initiative to create a new plan is known as “Envision Loudoun”. At the heart of this work is a 26-member Stakeholder Committee who have been tasked with doing the detailed work of drafting this plan. Envision Loudoun has been underway for over a year and the Stakeholders Committee began its work in earnest this Winter. This plan is crucial as it will define what the protection will be for rural Loudoun and our local community over the next 20 to 25 years from sprawl.
Since attending all bi-weekly Stakeholder meetings beginning this summer, I have become increasingly concerned with the direction and specific recommendation for our buffer zone in the Transition Area – a mere 6 miles from Middleburg. There have been two recent developments however which are most troubling. The first of these was the Stakeholder Committee overwhelming vote to increase the number of approved housing units in the already crowded buffer zone by nearly 200%, from the current allowed amount of 10,000 units to over 38,000 units, an increase of 18,000. In another vote many areas of our buffer zone saw the housing density (the number of house allow on a specific size of land) be increased from 1 unit per 3 acres to a staggering 4 units per 1 acre. This change alone will permit 12 units to be built on a 3 acre parcel where previously only 1 could be built. I was astonished to witnessed these votes and many others.
What does this mean for Middleburg, it’s not good. Increased housing and density in the Transition/buffer zone means the suburban sprawl of eastern Loudoun is moving west. It means our transition/buffer zone is disappearing. It means more traffic, more shopping malls and strip centers, less open areas and country side which are what makes our community unique to begin with. The plan that is being writing today will be what either permits or restrains the explosive types of growth we have all witnesses in Loudoun over the last 20 years. If we fail to protect these areas now, they will be gone for future generations. It is our duty and protect them now and to pass them on.
What next: In the coming weeks and months the Stakeholder Committee will finalize their draft plan for the County and submit it for review. Several County Supervisors have recently expressed their concerns with some of the votes on the Transition Area by the Stakeholder Committee. This is promising but is by no means a majority. This is an important time to make our voices heard!! What can you do about it: The time is now! Write to the Board of Supervisors and voice your concerns about the Envision Loudoun lack of focus on protecting the Rural Area and Transition Area. It is up to them to ensure Middleburg is protected. Also, log on and sign this petition – every signature matters! Pass it along to friends. Once we have 1,000 signatures it will be sent to each Supervisor in Loudoun.