Suburbanization in Louisa County

By, John Haksch, Louisa Field Officer

The Zion Crossroads area of southwestern Louisa County is rapidly becoming the poster child for their efforts to manage growth and suburban development in a predominantly rural locality.

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The short 16 mile drive – almost exactly equal to the Gum Spring to Metro Richmond run – makes this burgeoning community attractive for commuters from the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, with significantly lower housing costs for comparable accommodations within the Charlottesville Metropolitan Area 

Some new residents to Louisa cite the added benefit of distancing ones’ family from the urban problems once thought to be the exclusive province of much larger cities than Charlottesville. The Free Enterprise Forum notes this citizen perception is often short lived for as communities change and increase population density many of the crime challenges tend to increase as well.

clip_image006The residential community of Spring Creek is the largest, but certainly not the only housing development in the Zions Crossroads area. It boasts a world-class golf course flanked by nearly three hundred single family homes and another thirty or so 3-story town homes.

clip_image004Such residential development does not come with out costs (schools, police, fire, etc.) to the locality.  It is critical that commercial and/or industrial growth be encouraged to balance the residential demands. 

Literally across from the entrance to the Spring Creek community are a Wal-Mart mega store, a Lowes Hardware and a string of boutique shops.

Within half a mile one can find fast-food franchises, gas stations, banks, and other essential services that used to require a trip to “town”.

clip_image008By combining commercial and residential growth near the I-64 corridor, Louisa has mitigated many of the traffic issues generated by such activity elsewhere in the region.

This growth is enabled, in part, by Louisa County’s foresight in providing an abundant municipal water supply. The area has access to a generous 582,000 gallons per day (of which only 16% is currently used) and state of the art waste-water processing plant. Clearly Louisa’s targeted infrastructure investment was a critical part of its long range vision for economic development.

There are other planned future growth areas along the I-64 corridor, at Ferncliff, Shannon Hill, and Gum Spring, but none are expected to be of comparable scope in the forseeable future…largely due to the difficulty of providing scarce water and problematic sewer services in those areas.

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During a downturn in the overall economy, Louisa County’s local option 1% sales tax revenue has grown from $1.5 million in 2006 to $2.6 million in 2010. Clearly Louisa County’s experience with targeted water and sewer infrastructure investment is worthy of examination by other localities as they seek to shape future economic development.

John Haksch is the Louisa County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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