Burton: ‘Bow wave’ in near future

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) stopped by the Economic Development Commission meeting March 4 to give a presentation on the county’s capital needs assessment for fiscal years 2017 to 2026.

As a member of the fiscal impact committee, Burton and several others tackle the county’s infrastructure needs and report the number and type of facilities needed for future development. The committee also develops policy recommendations for the planning commission and the Loudoun Board of Supervisors.

The county’s needs are based on its projected population growth.

Loudoun’s current population is approximately 312,311 according to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau figures This is “22,000 more people than we thought we’d have,” Burton said. In 2017, an estimated 333,000 people will call Loudoun home. That number will jump to 402,000 in 2026, according to the county’s projections.
Given these estimated population spikes, the finance committee approved nearly 40 projects for future construction. They include a juvenile assessment center, waste drop-off centers, park and ride lots, two fire stations, an animal shelter, community park and a library, among others.

The committee also approved 10 more schools; four elementary, three middle and three high schools. These schools have not been approved by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors.

Of the 25 facilities in the capital needs assessment, 12 are needed by 2017 in Ashburn alone, Burton said. They include a fire and rescue station, a developmental services residential facility, mental health group residence, recreation center, regional park, district park, community park, recycling drop-off center, community center, teen center, senior center and an elementary school.

But, where is the money for these projects?

The capital needs assessment document came together in recent months because the lights went on in many peoples heads about what the costs and plan requirements were, Burton said.

“The magnitude of this problem is quite sufficient,” he said.

Burton said the board has delayed construction for these facilities for many years because of fiscal constraints. By doing this, however, these facilities were pushed out beyond the capital improvement program time frame, which created a bow wave of paying for these facilities.

The committee has made several suggestions to the board on paying for the facilities, Burton said. Policy-wise, the board can think about delaying capital projects further, he said. The supervisors could also consider some additional sources of money or they could change the standards of the facilities they are promising to the public, which would reduce the costs. The other sources of money would include increasing taxes, debt and revenue sources.

“Any way you look at it, it is time to pay the piper,” Burton said.

Michelle Frank, who sits on the Economic Development Commission meeting and works at Orbital in Dulles, suggested the committee consider collocating compatible facilities. For example, turning more schools into park and recreation centers during after-school hours.

Burton said the committee is also looking into changing facility standards to reduce the number and scope of facilities.

Loudoun architect Alan Hansen warned against using cheaper materials to build schools and other buildings, however, because the buildings would start to deteriorate at higher rates of speed, which would only delay the bow wave, not delete it.

Contact the writer at hhager@timespapers.com.

This article was first published by Hannah Hager on LoudounTimes.com.

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