The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors met Sept 16. for a rescheduled retreat to discuss common objectives for the balance of its term. Supervisors articulated ideas on a menagerie of issues, brought differing opinions to nearly every talking point and ultimately came to consensus on several of Loudoun’s most important topics.
The nine supervisors divided the conversation into five, often intertwined, “strategic focus areas” over the course of the day-long retreat: transportation, economic development, the county’s comprehensive plan, community needs and growth management. Though the Board didn’t come away with much concrete planning, it did articulate some of the groundwork for future accomplishments in the still rapidly growing county.
The most tangible outcome of the transportation portion, and the retreat in general, was the consensus for a “transportation summit” to better understand the complex needs Loudoun faces. Despite millions of dollars spent on infrastructure improvements, the county’s fast-paced growth has left many roads highly congested, so the Board used the meeting to prioritize which of many road issues it will take on during its pending summit.
Chair Phyllis Randall repeatedly asked her colleagues to focus on a multimodal approach to ease congestion. While roads are a major part, Randall said, the county needs to look at buses, bike lanes, pedestrian trails and the pending Metro expansion into Loudoun.
Much of the talk also focused on continuing some of the nation’s most successful economic development programs while being careful in assessing new development in the future. Supervisors spoke about greater communication between themselves and the Department of Economic Development, including more meetings. Several board members also spoke of wanting to have a better grasp on the department plans and results, particularly in international outreach programs.
Efforts to complete the review of the county’s comprehensive plan was another topic of the retreat. Supervisors expressed an array of ideas and concerns, particularly on plans around the coming Metro stations. Though nothing tangible was decided, the board reaffirmed plans to have it completed by the end of 2017 so it would have two years before the end of this terms to address potential zoning changes.
The most wide-ranging conversation came during the section focused on community health, wellness and quality of life. Championed by Randall, ostensibly to talk about at-risk Loudoun residents, the topic elicited priorities ranging from an emphasis on new parks to plans for high-speed internet in western Loudoun.
Randall did discuss initiatives for Loudoun’s most at-risk and marginalized, saying it’s time to focus attention on people who can’t take care of their own needs. She also talked about mental health reforms, explaining how programs reducing the county’s recidivism rate would not only help Loudoun residents, it could help the government save money.
Facing growth unparalleled by most of the country, the Board of Supervisors also discussed ways to handle the population influx in the county. The Board spoke on the impact growth brought to the comprehensive plan, which in turn impacts zoning, transportation, economic development and the community. It agreed it needed to better understand and optimize the cost growth brought to Loudoun, as well as the increase in services, from schools to police departments to other public services, it would need to be accountable for.
Though the Board wasn’t allowed to pass anything tangible at the retreat, supervisors relished the free-wheeling dialogue and goal setting for the future.