- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

Loudoun County earned a national reputation as a high-tech center and as the fastest-growing county in the country over the past decade, but local residents know the area still includes dirt and gravel roads winding through pastures with grapevines and grazing horses.

Flagler County in Florida this spring displaced Loudoun as the nation’s fastest-growing county, but development has hardly slacked off in Loudoun, where the county’s Board of Supervisors has wrestled with growth and its attendant issues for years.

A crucial element of the county’s legislative attempt to control growth was invalidated by the Virginia Supreme Court in March. The court ruled that the county failed to provide proper public notice for its rezoning hearings that changed density for residential development over much of the county from 3 acres per home to as much as 20 acres. So debate has been renewed among residents, politicians and developers over how and where the county will accommodate its burgeoning population.

Rural areas of Loudoun County are becoming harder to find as development sweeps through the region, but pockets of the county still hark back to the county’s agricultural roots.

Agriculture remained the primary occupation in Loudoun County until after Washington Dulles International Airport was built in the early 1960s, which attracted more businesses, workers and families to the area.

The population growth that started in the 1960s reached explosive levels as the 21st century dawned. From 2000 to 2003, Loudoun’s population grew by 31 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Northern Virginia’s booming residential real estate market has a national reputation for being fast-paced, and Loudoun County led Northern Virginia in the number of new residential units in 2003, with 27 percent of the total. Almost 50 percent of the new homes in Loudoun County in 2003 were detached single-family homes.

Job growth has also been dramatic in Loudoun County, increasing by 139 percent from 1994 to 2004, according to the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development.

Most of the commercial and retail development in Loudoun County has occurred in Dulles, Sterling and Leesburg, near Virginia Routes 28 and 7.

The Loudoun County Web site, www.loudoun.gov, reports that settlement of this area of Northern Virginia began between 1725 and 1730, when the land was owned by Lord Fairfax. Tobacco plantations were established by settlers from eastern Virginia and settlers moving south from Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.

Towns such as Waterford, Goose Creek (now known as Lincoln), Harmony (now known as Hamilton) and Union (now known as Unison) were settled by German, Irish and Scots-Irish immigrants. Germans from Maryland and Pennsylvania established a settlement at Lovettsville, the Web site says.

Leesburg, the county seat since 1757, remains the political center for Loudoun County. The Loudoun County Web site says the U.S. Constitution and other important national papers were brought to Leesburg during the War of 1812 while President Madison used the area as a refuge when the British burned much of Washington.

Loudoun County residents’ loyalties were split during the Civil War, according to the county Web site, with many of the area’s Quakers and German immigrants in the north and central areas of the county opposed to slavery and secession and plantation owners in the southern part of the county siding with the Confederacy.

Development in the 517 square miles of Loudoun County occurred in its earliest stages along today’s Route 7 — known in Loudoun County as Leesburg Pike — which became a transportation route linking the tobacco farms near Leesburg with the port of Alexandria.

Major employers in Loudoun County include United Airlines, MCI, America Online, Atlantic Coast Airlines/United Express, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Postal Service and Loudoun Hospital Center.

High-tech companies in Loudoun County include Allen Telecom Inc., Club Demonstration Services Inc., Computer Sciences Corp., Dynamic Details Inc., FGM Inc., First American, G & D America, Mastec Services Co. Inc., NLX LLC, Orbital Sciences Corp., SAIC, Telos Corp. and Vastera.

Northern Virginia Community College has a campus in Loudoun County, and other educational institutions include satellite campuses for Old Dominion University, George Washington University, Marymount University, Shenandoah University and Strayer University.

Retail development, primarily located along Route 7 between Sterling and Leesburg, includes the Dulles Town Center shopping mall, Potomac Run Shopping Center, Fort Evans Shopping Center, Leesburg Premium Corner Outlets, Cascades Marketplace, Battlefield Shopping Center, Leesburg Plaza, Sugarland Plaza, Town Center at Sterling and Sterling Plaza Shopping Center.

The rapid increase in retail outlets is directly related to the rising population in the county, particularly in the many planned communities that have been developed near Route 7. Ashburn Farm, Ashburn Village, Beacon Hill and Cascades are all established developments that are complete or nearly complete, while building continues at Belmont Country Club, Brambleton, Broadlands, Lansdowne on the Potomac, Loudoun Valley Estates, Raspberry Falls and River Creek.

More than 2,100 homesites are being developed by Toll Bros. Inc. at Belmont Country Club, a private gated community centered on an 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature golf course and the Belmont Clubhouse, which includes concierge services and dining.

The clubhouse is an addition to the renovated Manor House, which was built in 1799. A recreation center with swimming, tennis, basketball, fitness facilities and more also has been completed. Town homes priced from the $400,000s and single-family homes from the $600,000s to more than $1,000,000 are available, along with condominiums priced from the $300,000s.

Brambleton bills itself as one of the nation’s first Verizon enhanced-fiber-optic communities, meaning every business, home and school in the community will be connected with high-tech communications.

Recreational amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and walking trails are available for residents, along with the convenience of a village retail center.

Legacy Park, a 15-acre park with sports fields and meadows, is part of the community, which is adjacent to the Brambleton Regional Golf Course. Brambleton’s plans anticipate about 6,000 residents when the community is complete. Currently, town homes are available with base prices from the $400,000s and up, single family homes are priced from the $600,000s to the $800,000s, and condominiums are available from the mid-$200,000s.

Broadlands, a Van Metre community in Ashburn, has more than 1,500 acres of land, with a community center, swimming pools, tennis courts, trails, schools and the Stream Valley Park running throughout the development. A nature center provides an educational and recreational focal point for the community, which has numerous planned activities for residents. Town homes are available from Van Metre with prices beginning in the upper $400,000s, with single-family homes priced from the $600,000s and $700,000s.

Lansdowne on the Potomac, eventually to include 2,155 attached and detached homes, borders on Goose Creek and the Potomac River adjacent to the Lansdowne Resort. Homes are being built by Centex Homes LLC, Beazer Homes USA Inc., Brookfield Homes Corp., NVHomes, Basheer & Edgemoore and Van Metre Homes. Recreational amenities including swimming, golf, tennis and fitness centers are available in the Potomac Club, the National Conference Center and Lansdowne Resort. Later this year, construction will begin on Lansdowne Town Center.

Prices range from the $600,000s to $800,000s for town homes and from the $600,000s to more than $1,000,000 for single-family homes.

Toll Bros. is developing Loudoun Valley Estates, a planned community with hiking and biking trails, wilderness preserve areas, swimming pools, a community center, and 17-acre Riverside Park. Eventually, 1,500 homes will be built in the 1,500-acre development. Currently, single-family homes are priced from the $800,000s.

At Raspberry Falls in Leesburg, custom estate homes on the golf course are available from Marquis Custom Homes, priced from the upper $800,000s to more than $1,800,000. The community includes a Gary Player Signature golf course and a clubhouse with a swimming pool, bathhouse and restaurant.

Nearby, the gated, guarded community of River Creek offers homesites with views of woods, lakes, the Potomac River, Goose Creek and an Ault Clark and Associates-designed golf course. The main clubhouse at River Creek includes dining facilities and balconies with panoramic views of the Potomac River, and the community also includes a swim and tennis club and concierge services. Luxury town homes priced from the low $800,000s to more than $1,000,000 are available from Michael Harris Development Inc., NVHomes and WCI Renaissance Communities. Single-family homes priced from the $900,000s are available from Mitchell & Best Homebuilders LLC.

The newer area of development in Loudoun County flanks U.S. Route 50 between the Fairfax County-Loudoun County line and Middleburg, where Toll Bros. is completing development at South Riding. This planned community, set on 2,000 acres, is already home to more than 4,400 families and will eventually have more than 6,000 homes.

The community includes a Dan Maples-designed golf course, swimming pools, tennis courts, trails, lakes, ponds and a town center with shops and services. Town homes are available from Toll Bros. from the $400,000s and $500,000s, and single-family homes are priced from the $600,000s to the upper $800,000s and higher.

Winchester Homes Inc. is building town homes and single-family homes in South Riding’s South Village, priced from the $500,000s for town homes and from the $700,000s for single-family homes.

Edgemoore Homes is developing Avonlea, billed as a European-style village, with plans for a clock tower and piazza; a village center; swimming pools; tennis courts; a community center; walking trails; and a central lake with an island, a stone bridge and a stone wall.

Avonlea will also have a putting green and small parks. Town homes and single-family homes will both be available at Avonlea, with prices beginning in the $600,000s for town homes and in the $700,000s for single-family homes.

Stone Ridge, a Van Metre community, features an online community network, a clubhouse, a swimming pool, a fitness center, an event lawn, an amphitheater and a cyber cafe for its residents and is introducing a new collection of single-family homes known as the Savannah Collection.

Construction has begun on a retail center for the development.

Van Metre Homes is selling town homes priced from the low $500,000s and single-family homes priced from the low $700,000s.

Nearby Middleburg and Leesburg are two areas that attract tourists for their charming old-fashioned ambience, historic sites, wineries and equestrian events.

Morven Park, Oatlands Plantation and Belmont Plantation offer point-to-point races along with attractive grounds for visitors. The Loudoun Museum in Leesburg provides an overview of the county’s history.

The mix of housing styles and availability of new homes in developments with recreational amenities continue to draw new residents to this fast-growing county.

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