The weather outside was sunny as Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) gave his State of the County address Tuesday.
His review of the county’s accomplishments in the first two years of the Board of Supervisors’ four-year term was also sunny.
“In the past two years, we have brought badly needed order and stability to our efforts to plan for growth and provide economic development opportunities while still managing our fiscal house and provide transportation and educational services,” York said toward the end of his 25-minute address.
York outlined the county’s successes in the past year in terms of land use, transportation, economic development, education and fiscal management. The county planned for managed growth and adopted the revised comprehensive plan toward that end. York called the plan the county’s “blueprint” to implement the vision, saying it was the board’s most important accomplishment for 2001.
“The voters urged us to do something, and the comprehensive plan is that beginning step,” York said. “It provides for a reasonable level of residential growth by reducing the number of homes that could be built in the county by a third. And second, it reduces the number of housing units that can be built in all parts of the county.”
As a result, the comprehensive plan reduces the number of new schools planned to accommodate growth and aims to alleviate traffic congestion by promoting mass transit, pedestrian trails and other transportation options.
TRANSPORTATION has become a pressing issue for the county, York said. The county opened a new Office of Transportation Services to look strategically at planning, operations and public transit issues. York outlined several transportation projects that were completed or continued in the county last year. The county:
* Installed dual turn lanes at Routes 28 and 606.
* Built a 750-space park-and-ride lot at the Dulles North Transit Center.
* Continued work on a public/private partnership for Route 28 improvements.
* Continued planning for the Bus Rapid Transit and rail service to the Dulles Corridor.
“With the state budget in shambles, progress towards needed transportation improvements will become much harder to come by,” York said, suggesting the county consider other alternatives for funding transportation improvements, such as using low-rate bonds.
York mentioned economic development as another county issue. The Board of Supervisors established the Rural Economic Development Council and set a goal of permitting 3 million square feet of non-residential growth a year to offset the cost of new residential growth. In 2001, the county permitted 3.1 million square feet of non-residential development and a total of 10.7 million square feet in the past two years.
York outlined several economic projects that occurred in the county in 2001:
* Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced plans to build a $500 million biomedical science center at Janelia Farm Technology Park.
* Lowes, Best Buy and Sam’s Club and other retailers opened for business.
* Several hotels and restaurants opened in the Route 7 and Route 28 corridors.
* A new airline, Jet Blue, is flying from Washington Dulles International Airport.
* The National Transportation Safety Board broke ground in January for a new academy at the George Washington University, in Ashburn.
York highlighted several county projects in 2001, including adding 100 new positions to the sheriff’s office and another 100 positions for public safety, remodeling older schools in Sterling and opening three schools across the county.
“Even with augmenting services and funding new initiatives, our real per capita expenditures for county government are less than those a decade ago,” York said. “This board’s spending policies have stayed below historical levels and allowed enhanced services as demanded by our citizens.”
York said, in 2000, the board envisioned the county as a vibrant sustainable community with a rural and broad-based economy and as a crossroads for the information technology industry.
“We said that we would work to preserve our historic and environmental heritage and the character of our towns and neighborhoods. We stated we would strive for a Loudoun with robust economic, educational and recreational activities,” York said as he began to conclude the address. “We said we wanted Loudoun to be a superb place for families and individuals to live, learn, work, worship, invest and visit.”