Loudoun & Charlottesville

What I am listening to tonight: Managing Growth: A perspective from Loudoun County Supervisor Jim Burton.

Will our community become even more ridden by sprawl and property tax increases? That’s what happened in Loudoun County, according to Jim Burton of the county’s Board of Supervisors.

Courtesy of Cvillepodcast.

I have never heard Jim Burton speak before, so I will take what he has to say at face value until proven otherwise. A lot of what he says sounds like it could be applied to the CharlAlbemarle/Central Virginia region and projected five to fifteen years down the line.

Fire and rescue, schools – basic government services – sound, from what he has to say, to be at the point of being overwhelmed. The goal, one would think (and hope) is to learn from Loudoun’s mistakes before what makes this region special is no more.

Loudoun and Albemarle have very different demographics. One questioner stated that 70% of Albemarle’s citizens do not have children to which Mr. Burton responded – “that is the opposite of Loudoun.” A quick search at census.gov shows that 24.8% of Albemarle’s population is under 18 while 29.8% of Loudoun’s population is under the age of 18. These numbers are from 2000; an awful lot has changed in 5 years.

Wise planning and implementation may be able to prepare adequately for the growth that is coming. The missing piece is trust. Trust that the elected “representatives” in government, developers, NIMBYs, even YIMBYs will act with integrity is nonexistent. When a politician has the audacity to say this:

At the end of a recent budget work session, Caravati informed his fellow councilors that because he isn’t seeking a third term in May, he’ll be able to take politically unpopular positions.

“What I’m saying is, don’t be bellyaching about ‘we’ve got all this new money and we want to cut rates to reduce the amount of money,’ and then not talk about services,” he said. “We all do it, and I’m saying I don’t have to worry about it this year, so I’m going to raise hell about it.”

How in the world is one supposed to trust him? If his fellow politicians had any integrity, they would publicly question what he has been doing the rest of the time he has “served.” Those who do not should find themselves publicly shamed and guilty by association.

“Smart growth” “Slow growth” “no growth” – The term “smart growth” has been bastardized and politicized to the point that it is a counter-productive term. It polarizes many to the point of causing either side to stop listening to the other. Smart growth could be just that – smart growth, without the political firestorm that accompanies the term. Plopping 6,000 homes without adding to the affected infrastructure is, frankly, pretty stupid. That trend may be changing, however.

I have confidence (perhaps a bit of false confidence, but that’s my right) that our region will right itself and plan appropriately. The people are beginning to be heard; now they have to follow through. You may be asking yourself – “why is this on a real estate blog?” Answer: real estate is largely about quality of life. It is in everybody’s best interest to maintain a high quality of life – it’s just good business.

Thank you to Cvillepodcast for providing this service. I don’t know how many people attended the meeting this afternoon, but I am grateful for being able to listen at my own leisure.

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9 Comments

  1. UVA08 March 1, 2006 at 00:15

    There is also another demographic about the area that makes it very different from Loudon and that is that it isn’t the suburb or within 30 minutes of a major US city with extremely high paying jobs.

  2. Merv March 1, 2006 at 06:38

    UVA08 is exactly on target. Fairfax County is “built out.” The NOVA poulation is exploding and there is no place to go but west into Loudoun and Prince William. Young upwardly mobile families have populated Loudoun straining our infrastructure including roads, schools and other public services. There are not easy answers. How we ultimately deal with these issues will define “smart growth” – good or bad.

    PS: Jim Burton is from Middleburg, the wealthiest of wealth in Loudoun and do not want their bucolic views spoiled. Special interest is still special interest.

  3. Jim March 1, 2006 at 08:35

    We don’t have nearly the same scale of high-paying jobs here, but we have a surprisingly large presence of government contractors – SAIC, GD, Sperry, Lockheed, CSC … and don’t forget the University.

  4. Ray Hyde March 1, 2006 at 18:45

    I can see high powered executives living in Middleburg type areas trying to move their companies someplace where it is easier to travel to. I see places like Leesburg, Winchester, Front Royal and Culpeper developing more jobs.

    C’ville is still to far away to be affected yet, but Fairfax is getting pretty close to impossible.

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  7. Dean Settle March 27, 2006 at 01:02

    Proof was in the taxes this year. Assessments went up 40-60% in one year, and then the tax rate was jockeyed to get around actually admitting that the infrastructure is breaking us.
    COCS rates here in Loudoun are currently Residential $1.75, Commercial at .45, and Rural properties in at .35
    The residential rate is currently .25 higher than the rest of the country, indicating that it’s being done too fast and too cheaply (developer isn’t pulling his weight for the damage he leaves behind).

    I’m originally from Culpeper, and I’m actively looking for another farm down there.
    Jim is good people. So are 4 more of the Supervisors who constantly vote to help the little man with his tax situation. Tullock and company are in developer’s pockets, and as such will milk away at the people of Loudoun as long as they will tolerate it.

  8. Jim Duncan March 27, 2006 at 08:05

    And yet the general public does not demand accountability for their money – do they really fall for the “we’re cutting your taxes (but jacking up assessments – shhh!)” bit? This has always confounded me.

    Thank you for commenting, Dean – I too, am originally from Culpeper, the farm I grew up on is now a development. If you need any help looking for a farm, please let me know. 🙂

    I don’t yet know the solution to making developers (and those buying their product) more responsible, because I haven’t figured out an equitable way, but something is broken in the system.

  9. Dean Settle April 6, 2006 at 20:47

    What happened was that several years ago, developers had a powerful lobby in the General Assembly. They got the GA to eliminate “impact fees” in preparation for the forward march that they were betting on in bedroom communities to DC.
    I believe that you will run into state-supported impact fees in every other state that borders Virginia.

    To further the discussion about the taxpayers.. I’m at a loss as to how to explain the griping and tempers that rule the landscape for three to four weeks, and then the complete silence until it happens again the next year.

    I knew some Duncans out in Reva. They owned a huge farm there. Edward III is the last of the line that I remembered. He had just returned from the Airforce and took over his father’s place as I was leaving for DC.