Loudoun Villages Team Up to Tackle Comprehensive Plan

LoudounNow, Mar. 3, 2019

Loudoun’s nearly 30 unincorporated villages might not have formal municipal governments or the power to make decisions on land use, but six of them have banded together to create a united front with an amplified voice.

The villages of Aldie, Bluemont, Lincoln, Taylorstown, Unison and Waterford recently formed the Loudoun Historic Village Alliance to take a unified stand on Envision Loudoun—the county’s rewrite process of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan that includes draft language to move about 1,000 acres from the Rural Policy Area to the Transition Policy Area. It also does not change existing policies in the Rural Policy Area that allow for more residential development. The alliance is specifically focused on addressing concerns of increased traffic, encroaching development, zoning enforcement, utility system functionality, proposed construction of public buildings and pressure from the county to close smaller schools.

The six signing members of the alliance are the Aldie Heritage Association, the Bluemont Citizens Association, the Lincoln Preservation Foundation, the Taylorstown Community Association, the Unison Preservation Foundation and the Waterford Foundation—all tax-exempt nonprofits. The villages of Philomont and Lucketts also plan to join the alliance, with their representatives having already attended a few meetings.

According to Peter Weeks, the alliance’s vice chairman and the president of the Bluemont Citizens Association, the idea to form a multi-village group arose about six months ago, when he and other residents felt the urgency to get more involved as the Planning Commission was busy drafting and holding public input sessions on Loudoun 2040. He said that urgency translated into the formation of the alliance about a month ago.

“It’s important that we have one unifying voice for each of these villages,” he said. “We feel that together we can accomplish a lot more.”

So far, the alliance has met three times, with another meeting planned for this week. Each meeting includes an overarching discussion on ways to push back on some of Loudoun 2040’s draft policies.

Because the alliance also discusses and works to solve specific issues affecting individual villages, such as possible increased traffic and development, it doubles as a support mechanism. “If there’s something that needs to be done as we’re working on the Comprehensive Plan, that will be done,” said Madeline Skinner, the alliance’s chairwoman and the head of the soon-to-be Philomont Village Foundation nonprofit.

Alliance members have discussed in detail several incidences of low well water levels among Waterford residents, the Board of Supervisors’ drive to demolish three historic buildings to build a $19 million, 18,000-square-foot firehouse in Aldie, and the county’s past discussions of closing the Lincoln Elementary School to save money. “[Lincoln Elementary is] always on the endangered list—it’s an ongoing issue,” Weeks said.

The alliance’s efforts to stay involved in the Comprehensive Plan rewrite and to work as a team to sort through specific village issues are what make it so similar to the Coalition of Loudoun Towns—the group of Loudoun’s seven mayors that’s working to accomplish the same goals.

With a mirrored mission between the two groups, Skinner said they’ll be joining forces and holding joint meetings “as often as needed.” Weeks said that the alliance and COLT are also preparing a presentation for the Board of Supervisors that will further reveal their opposition to certain language in Envision Loudoun. “There’s a natural alliance [with COLT],” he said.

Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance, who attended the alliance’s first meeting to provide members with an understanding of COLT’s function and goals, said that Loudoun’s seven towns “welcome and encourage the villages to join together” and that COLT would be “very supportive” of the alliance.

Moving forward, the alliance is welcoming Loudoun communities, specifically residents in other historic rural villages, to become members as long as they’re represented by a 501c3. There are more than 25 similar communities, including Airmont, Morrisonville, Neersville, Paeonian Springs, St. Louis, Stumptown, White Pump and Willisville.

Moreover, the alliance is working to attract the attention of the Board of Supervisors and Loudoun residents as much as possible leading up to the board’s tentative July 2 vote to adopt Loudoun 2040.

“Anything we can do to try to save this landscape is incredibly important,” Skinner said.