Many streets have no traffic whatsoever. Houses with white picket fences have handwritten notes on the door saying the resident will be right back.
At dawn and dusk,however,the town’s narrow main streets face a common problem of big cities: traffic jams. And that is not surprising,given the county is one of the fastest growing in the country.
From 2000 to 2010,the population jumped from 169,599 to 312,311,an 84.1 percent increase,according to the Census Bureau. The nation’s population rose 9.7 percent,and Virginia’s went up 13 percent. In the prior decade,Loudoun’s population rose by 49.97 percent,reaching 86,129 in 1990.
Like many people who now live in Loudoun County,Nata Henry moved from the next-door county of Fairfax.
“The school system is better than in Fairfax,” she said.
Henry,who declined to give her age,moved to Loudoun County with her daughter from McLean about 15 years ago.
She had spa and bed products stores in both counties for a while,but now operates just one,Rouge,in Leesburg.
She said it’s “quite comfortable” to live in Loudoun,but authorities need to plan to contain growth. “They’re slowly coming to realize they have to be able to take a step back,” Henry said.
“It’s a place for families,” she said. The median age in the county was 34.4 in 2010. Virginia’s median age was 37.5,and the country’s was 37.2. She said new residents move there to work in job hubs such as Tysons Corner,just over the line in Fairfax County,rather than commuting 40 miles to D.C.
Kristen C. Umstattd,mayor of Leesburg,said in an email that the town is no longer a bedroom community. Although she said many residents still work in the Dulles corridor,next to Washington Dulles International Airport,which straddles the county line,Reston,Tysons Corner or Washington.
“Unlike most bedroom communities,the town gets most of its tax revenue from the commercial sector,not from the residential real property tax base. Residential real property taxes only constitute about one-third of the town’s tax revenue,” she said.
The 2010 Census shows that the mean travel time to work was 32.8 minutes for Leesburg residents. The county’s mean travel time was 34.2 minutes,the state’s 27.5 and the country’s 25.3 minutes.
Umstattd said 60,000 cars traverse the city a day,driven by commuters who don’t live or pay taxes in the town.
With so many people moving in,the Civil War battlefield town faces difficulties preserving its roots.
“I think it’s not as historic as it used to be,it’s more like urban,” Tatiana Echeandia,17,a Tuscarora High School senior. Tatiana,who has lived in Loudoun for 11 years,said the new schools are all the same,lacking the character or different styles of older buildings.
Tatiana works part-time at a downtown coffee shop and said the area doesn’t have the historic feel she remembers.
Umstattd said most of town growth occurred outside the historic district and the town’s “big challenge” is preserving downtown. “Unfortunately,this is a battle that we are losing as developers who own property downtown want to build larger and higher buildings than we used to allow,” she said.
The pressure to build,however,declined recently. Christopher Murphy,the town’s zoning administrator,said the boom was in 2003.”But it’s not dead – we’re busy,” he said.
The county has tried to preserve its rural west,where mansions sit atop green hills,and riding clubs like the Loudoun Hunt,established in 1894,still sponsor steeplechase races requiring formal attire. To the east,suburban development and population growth required 33 new schools in the last 12 years,the Department of Planning and Legislative Services said.
Not only did Loudoun County’s population increase,but it also became more diverse. In 2000,the county was 82.8 percent white and 6.9 percent black. In 2010,whites made up 68.7 percent of the population and blacks were 7.3 percent. The Asian population nearly tripled.
People who moved to Loudoun are likely to play an important role in Tuesday’s primary and the November general election. Quentin Kidd,director of the Wason Center for Public Policy said Loudoun residents will be an important voting group.
He said the county is “more reddish purple than bluish purple.” Democrats count on the support of young and African American voters,and Republicans on their religious base.
“These exurban voters tend to vote their pocketbooks. They tend not to be very ideological. They’re typically more conservative than liberal,but they’re not ideologically conservative,” Kidd said.
With so many differences in the profile of the county since the last presidential election,Kidd won’t predict who will conquer Loudoun’s voters. “That’s the $64 million dollar question,” he said.
Reach reporter Robin Siteneski at [email protected] or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.