- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Nothing inspires frothing-at-the-mouth passion like the issue of growth in Loudoun County, Va., as voters demonstrated anew last week.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Loudoun — whose population grew from 190,180 in 2001 to 204,180 in 2002 — is the second-fastest growing county in the nation.

There is a great divide between the old and new, as there always has been, going back to the beginning of the first planned community, Sterling Park, which was hatched in 1963 by U.S. Steel Corp.

The so-called townies resisted the Ozzie and Harriet interlopers in those naive days, and this resistance has been playing itself out in various geographical forms the past 40 years. The political battle line is now drawn through the heart of Leesburg, the county seat that is stuck between the urban needs of the east and the rural ones of the west.

The two sides, east and west, could not have spoken more antithetically in the voting that reshaped the political texture of the Board of Supervisors last week.

The issue of growth, of course, is hardly novel, and hardly easy to resolve.

People ultimately have to live somewhere — and often in an area that is deemed to be more affordable than other nearby areas.

Not too many years ago, one of the bumper-sticker cries of the county was: “Don’t Fairfax Loudoun.”

That noble call inevitably succumbed to the economics of the marketplace, as more and more working farmers cashed out on their property and, presumably, took up the easy life somewhere beyond Washington’s ever-growing sprawl.

The Washington region even extends to Jefferson County, W.Va., these days, in the Harpers Ferry/Charles Town/Martinsburg region, as crazy as that notion may seem to city dwellers living two hours east from the “Wild and Wonderful” state.

Nowadays, there is actually a rush hour on Route 9, a two-lane artery from a bygone era that winds and dips through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The gentry class in western Loudoun is ever conscious of the population threat and determined to beat it back, as perhaps anyone looking out over a picturesque expanse of land just might do.

In the end, what does the home-buying crush bring to a previously pristine area, except traffic, pollution, rising tax rates and more crime? Then again, if the past is relevant, what is the alternative?

There really isn’t one, notwithstanding the political euphemism of “controlled growth,” which too often is gobbledygook for close your eyes and hope it all works out.

To be fair, Loudoun’s politicians are pushing against demographic forces that are beyond their control.

This, after all, is a nation whose population has more than doubled in the past 60 years — from 132,164,569 in 1940 to 281,421,906 in 2000 — and whose borders are a sievelike embarrassment in the war on terror.

Our national lawmakers do not have the guts or will to stem the human flow, legal as well as illegal immigration, and so the consequences eventually bounce to the desks of state and local politicians.

The human tide is merely answering the call of the virtually recession-proof Washington region, whether it is lured by a top-end job in the city or a high-tech one along the Dulles Toll Road or one that feeds at the trough of the well-to-do and middle class.

The spillover is being felt in Loudoun, in particular, and in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties as well.

People are descending on these previously out-of-the-way locales because of economics, economics, economics — the updated chant of location-happy real estate agents. The average working stiff is liable to faint after perusing the home prices in the city and adjoining jurisdictions.

Loudoun is sort of the new but old frontier, reduced to saving the west after relinquishing the east to developers.

Sterling Park, the so-called “original sin” planted between Routes 28 and 7, is just a stone’s throw from Washington Dulles International Airport. It was the “city that stayed in the country,” or so it was until remnants of the city crept closer to the subdivision, with Sugarland Run going up in 1971, followed by ever-more developments that swept over to Ashburn and pushed west to Leesburg.

The battle lines seemingly change by the decade in Loudoun, the outcome ever clearer.

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