Loudoun County's reward for being named the second fastest growing county in the nation does not come in the form of a plaque or a ribbon.
"The reward we receive for it is continuing to build [schools] at a fast clip to keep up with the fast growth," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (R-At Large). "What it means is we're continuing to grow at a pace that puts stress on us fiscally."
The U.S. Census Bureau ranked Loudoun County second to the nation's fastest growing county of Douglas County, located near Denver, Colo. with a population of nearly 200,000. For the Board of Supervisors that means continuing to try to keep Loudoun affordable while providing the services demanded by growth, York said. "The work this board is doing will have an impact on managing growth in the future. But in the near term, we're subject to the market because of past rezonings by previous boards," he said referring to the 36,900 homes already approved for development.
The Board of Supervisors recently revised the 1991 comprehensive plan, approving it in July 2001. The 20-year county planning document decreases the number of new homes that can be developed by 41 percent and reduces zoning densities in the west, while keeping the suburban densities in the east the same.
"The growth could be more balanced if we spread it through the county instead of concentrating it in the east," said Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling). "We're getting disproportionately too many people in the east."
The revised plan predicts the county's build-out to be 109,000 new units in 20 years, compared to 186,700 new units outlined in the 1991 plan. The revision accounts for the 36,900 approved units.
LOUDOUN COUNTY was named the fourth fastest growing county in 1998, when the population was 141,000 and more than double the population in the early 1980s. The county became the third fastest growing county in 1999, slipping to fourth place in 2000 and later returning to third place, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The census taken from April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2001 marks Loudoun as the second fastest growing county, as shown by population estimates released last month.
"It doesn't surprise me that that's where we came out. It's evident we're still trying to grapple with the problems with unchecked growth," said William Bill Bogard (R-Sugarland Run).
Loudoun County's population increased by 12.6 percent during the 15-month period, while Douglas County grew by 13.6 percent. Nationwide, the growth level was 1.2 percent with 55 percent of the nation's 3,141 counties showing growth. Nine of the 10 fastest growing counties were in the south, including three counties in Texas, three counties in Georgia and one county each in Virginia, Kentucky and Florida. The only county in the north from the top 10 list was Douglas County.
Loudoun County's growth brought another 21,400 residents to the county during the 15-month period, pushing the population to 190,900 in July 2001, compared to Douglas County's growth of 23,900 new residents during the same time period.
"It's higher than our estimates were," said Clark Draper, Loudoun County demographer. "We weren't expecting 21,000 people. We were expecting about 16,000 people in the 15-month time period. That's what we planned our service delivery level on."
ACCORDING to the annual figures, Loudoun's population grew from 169,600 residents in 2000 to nearly 184,900 residents in 2001, an increase of 9 percent, compared to 8.5 percent from the year before.
The school population grew at a slower rate from 38,700 students in 2000 to 31,800 students in 2001 and 34,500 students in 2002. Enrollment is expected to continue to grow by 7.5 to 8.4 percent through 2008, according to the Public Schools.
"The numbers still look high, but they don't generate as many kids," said John Andrews (Broad Run) of the School Board. "The number of kids going into the system aren't [increasing] at the same rate. They are starting to decline as a percentage. I think this year, we'll see a substantial decline in the numbers over last year."