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Saturday, October 22, 2005

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Winchester, County Now Part of ‘Super Region’

By Charlie Jackson
The Winchester Star

MIDDLETOWN — One planner may have summed up an entire day of talks with one single phrase: “Super region.”

Planning experts from throughout the area — Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Baltimore, the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, Hagerstown, Md., and Winchester, Frederick County, and Clarke County — gathered Friday at Lord Fairfax Community College for a day-long transportation roundtable.

Paul DesJardin, chief of housing and planning for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, spoke of the ever-burgeoning capital region.

By 2030, according to a study that DesJardin presented, the metropolitan Washington area will need 600,000 more workers, as well as another 400,000 housing units. That doesn’t include growth in the northern Shenandoah Valley, the Eastern Panhandle, the Baltimore area, or any other fringe areas.

The daunting challenge facing community planners is how to deal with the massive growth and make sure people can get to where they need to be.

“The reason our commission wanted to have this dialogue is to talk about expansion for the next 30 years,” said Tom Christoffel, senior planner for the Front Royal-based Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission. “We are going to continue to need a high number of employees from surrounding regions, based on their projections. That’s not very comforting for anybody.”

Christoffel and others involved in Friday’s roundtable said they hope the conversation will lead to a continued dialogue so planning can commence, as some said, on a super-regional basis.

In other words, community planning will have to extend beyond individual jurisdictions and involve all localities that would be affected by one area’s growth.

Friday’s conversation was wide ranging, with some speakers talking about how to deal with job needs as baby boomers retire and possibly leave the area. Others talked about immigration and the possibility of new transportation options by mid-century.

Christoffel has been with NSVRC since 1973, and said he has seen the area change dramatically.

“The Shenandoah Valley is at the cross-hairs of very many forces,” he said of the region’s continuing popularity with business and residential developers.

Christoffel said the Valley’s population of about 185,000 in 2000 will likely grow to more than 320,000 by 2050. The challenge is to “react and deal with it.”

Reacting to the growth, he said, will likely need to be done with the “super region” concept in mind. Otherwise, one area’s prosperity could become another area’s burden.

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