Ashburn Residents Pinpoint Community Priorities

Ashburn Residents Pinpoint Community Priorities

From outside appearances, the Ashburn Suburban Area meeting was the same as the Dulles meeting held three weeks ago.

There was a presentation at the beginning about the county’s 20-year comprehensive plan, followed by the same facilitated discussion groups. The 69 residents there divided into seven groups, coming up with nearly the same list as Dulles residents for implementing the plan. They said they wanted the county to improve transportation, build new public facilities, maintain open space and keep school clusters consistent with community boundaries in the Ashburn community.

“It’s similar to what they report back, but it’s different,” said Marilyn Dunnill, community relations manager.

“We’re getting a sense of the community’s top priorities,” said Supervisor Mark Herring (D-Leesburg). “They may be different in the different communities, so looking at these area plans is helpful.”

The county held the second Suburban Area Community Meeting on Saturday where the residents’ concerns differed in the detail. The residents said they wanted a multi-use community center with a library and meeting spaces, along with transportation improvements to Route 659 between Route 7 and the Dulles Toll Road, renovations to the roads in old Ashburn and increased monitoring of speed limits on some of Ashburn’s roadways.

THE SUBURBAN POLICY Area defines planned land use in four eastern Loudoun communities, specifically Ashburn, Dulles, Potomac Falls and Sterling, where most of the county’s growth has occurred in the past 15 years. The comprehensive plan calls for a mix use in each area, a town center, open space for recreation, and separation from the other communities by open space and major roadways.

The Ashburn Suburban Area is north and west of the Washington Dulles International Airport and extends west to Goose Creek and north to the Potomac River. The suburban area includes Ashburn, Ashburn Farm, Ashburn Village, Belmont, Broadlands and Lansdowne.

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Mercer) said Ashburn residents expressed the same concerns as those in Dulles about the speed in which the county provides new county facilities and schools, and mentioned the school board’s just-in-time building policy. “Because of that, we’re getting these tremendous boundary changes every year, and there’s a social cost to that,” Burton said.

Schools end up becoming the de-facto definition of community, said Supervisor Bill Bogard (R-Sugarland Run). “People want the communities to fit together,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re inclusive, don’t overlook communities and ... understand the different perspectives people are going to bring to these things.”

THE RESIDENTS GAVE their suggestions for improving communication with the county. They said they wanted more input and liked the town meeting forum.

“We feel our input is not anywhere in the process,” said Henry Walbesser, an Ashburn resident. “We get a chance to comment on how the process went, but we don’t get to change what we would like to change.”

“What do you see are some of the needs the board should address early on?” said Dick McCafferey, national consultant from McCafferey Associates who conducted the meeting. “There are hard choices to make where to put resources to make this plan viable.”

McCafferey said Loudoun faces a different problem than other communities he has consulted, some of which are older and have more development already in place than does Loudoun. “The effort to change things is more difficult. … Loudoun deals with high growth. That’s not true with all communities. Some deal with growth and huge older areas,” said McCafferey in a follow-up interview, adding that Loudoun still has open space and areas that are not developed. “It’s an intriguing community. It has potential. It has people. It has space. It has land. In a sense, Loudoun has a better problem to manage. … You’re not starting with a big negative.”

Bogard said talking to the residents eliminates the guesswork. “It gives people an opportunity to get down to the next level of detail on planning,” he said.

“There’s are always things that come out of these [meetings] that we haven’t thought of before,” said Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run).

“It’s very important for the Board of Supervisors to have input from the public so we understand the needs and concerns of communities,” said Chairman Scott York (At Large).

Suburban Area Community Meetings are scheduled for Potomac Falls and Sterling in March. The board plans to develop community plans for Ashburn, Dulles, Potomac Falls and Sterling.