2003: Growth Management Plans in Virginia and the People Who Shape Them

Rachel Rosenberg (Sociology) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Development in the past has been equated with progress, although development typically causes erosion of land, pollution of waterways, and destruction of community character. Not all development is negative, but the locality that engages in development must do so responsibly. Growth management plans act as guidelines for the growth of a locality and channel development into selected areas of the community. Increasing density around urban centers and existing infrastructure reduces the impact on the environment while allowing growth. Outlines are not enough to determine the shape of growth; it takes active citizens who get involved in local political processes and elect officials who run them, to create policies that will benefit the community as a whole. James City County and Loudoun County, Virginia each have growth management plans to shape the location and direction of development.

These counties have tried to concentrate their development around pre-existing water and sewer lines. This area in James City County is referred to as the Primary Service Area and was established through the County's Comprehensive Plan. Loudoun County's revised Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinances created three new zones and a stronger slow growth policy. Property rights advocates and the development community continuously pressure the Board of Supervisors in both counties to remove growth restrictions. Citizen's groups motivated to protect the environment, community character, or tax rates, have realized that taking "political action moves mountains" (Maio 2003). Voter participation has been cited by County Supervisors as one of the main routes to impacting local policies. Determining whether growth management plans, and the campaigns of those involved, have been successful remains uncertain as the numbers of both developments and restrictions continue to grow.

For additional documentation Rachel Rosenberg provided a PowerPoint Presentation entitled "Growth Management Plans in Virginia and the People Who Shape Them " provided here in PDF form.