What are the Candidates' Priorities for Economic Development, Schools, Transportation, Recreation, and Other County Services?
We, the residents of Loudoun County are proud of our great schools, our great neighborhoods, our economic success, and our history, scenic landscapes and natural assets. Protecting and enhancing these assets will keep Loudoun competitive and attract major employers and talented workers.
At the same time, we are concerned that our quality of life is threatened by the extent of our school needs; unrelenting traffic (particularly on east-west commuter routes); millions of square feet of empty office space; and the failure of the private sector to contribute adequately to our infrastructure needs.
- Commuting to jobs on key commuting corridors like Route 7, Waxpool Road, the Dulles Greenway and Toll Road, and Route 50 has become harder every year.
- We have faced multiple rounds of school redistricting to deal with the pace of development, and we still need to catch up on libraries, parks, ball fields, and other services. The county needs to build 16 new schools in 2017 and a total of 31 by 2021. (Loudoun County Fiscal Impact Committee, FY17-26 Capital Needs Assessment (CNA))
- Estimated needs for schools, police and fire stations and other services will cost about $3.3 billion between now and 2021 (per CNA), yet the development community has been excused from $350 million in contributions over the past eight years.
- We know that 30,000 houses have been approved by prior Boards of Supervisors, but are not yet built. Our challenges could have been worse had the community not acted in 2005-2006 to stop approval by an earlier Board of Supervisors of another 85,000 houses.
- The vacancy rate in Loudoun County office buildings is 15 percent of total space (2nd quarter of 2011 according to the County’s Department of Economic Development).
Is an Outer Beltway really an answer to these challenges?
We raise this issue becausePrince William County Taking Over State Funds from I-95 to Rte 7, and Loudoun's Chamber of Commerce and suburban developers have made this highway a top priority in this election. It would run near the Kirkpatrick Farms development and Rte 659 Belmont Ridge Rd, north to Rte 7, and some want to push it through the Rivercreek development and across the Potomac.
We believe that this Outer Beltway would make our problems worse, adding too much residential development, too much traffic, and too many trucks upstream of our already over-crowded commuter corridors. Given that we have very little transportation funding available here, or statewide, our scarce funds should be applied to fixing our biggest problem -- east-west commuting congestion. Other public investments, in our schools, public services and job centers would also do much more than an Outer Beltway to enhance our economy and our attractiveness to employers and workers.
We believe the following policies are important:
· Focus transportation fixes where gridlock exists for current residents, especially on east-west commuter routes like Route 7, Waxpool Road, Greenway/Toll Road, and Route 50.
· Provide more commuter and transit options, particularly given high gas prices and ever-higher tolls on the private Greenway. The Governor should invest state funds into Dulles Rail instead of putting most of the burden on Loudoun's toll payers. In addition, add improved express bus service on dedicated lanes to speed service.
· Limit residential development to that already approved, because our east-west commuter corridors are overwhelmed beyond their capacity and we lack enough funds to address the backlog of needs for schools and other services.
· Enhance the competitiveness of our existing office centers by creating a real sense of place with the coffee shops, restaurants, and recreation that attracts the best companies and mobile, tech-savvy professionals.
· Design our communities to give us safe and convenient opportunities for walking and bicycling, and shorter car trips to schools, recreation, and stores.
· Ensure we provide a high quality of community services -- schools, libraries, parks, recreation centers, trails, and police and fire protection.
· Protect the agricultural economy of western Loudoun, because our 165,000 acres of farmland require few public services and generate net revenue to the county while providing healthy, locally raised food and increasingly valuable scenic and recreational opportunities.