By: Lois Kirkpatrick
“Can I have horses?” “Where can we put a data center?” “Is this property for sale?” These are just a few of the types of questions answered by Scot E. Ferris and his group on the 2nd floor of the Loudoun County Government Center. The Building and Development Customer Service Team should be the first stop for Loudoun entrepreneurs planning to do anything related to buildings or property use.
“We give business owners information about regulatory procedures they might not be aware of,” Ferris explains. “We get them information about processes, zoning, fees, and other entities they may have to deal with,” he says.
He stresses that entrepreneurs must do their “due diligence” as early as possible. A common mistake business owners make is in buying or leasing a property before finding out if there’s a use restriction.
“Make sure you do all your homework with your real estate agent and zoning office. Find out what business licenses you’ll need. There are lots of externalities you may not know about,” Ferris advises.
Unfortunately, sometimes business owners don’t know they should have contacted Ferris’ team before they made significant investments. He tells the story of a woman who bought 100 acres to use for special events and weddings. She didn’t realize an open-space easement prohibited such use.
“I’ve made a few people cry,” Ferris admits. He goes on to say, “Most of the tears could have been avoided with a little research.”
Most people are thrilled with the service they receive from his team. Loudoun County is unique in that the Building and Development Customer Service Team is made up of planners who rotate working at the customer service counter. When business owners walk in or call the hotline, they get assistance from professionals.
“We’ll go above and beyond in trying to take care of people,” Ferris says. “We take it really seriously. If we have to refer someone to a different department, we call them back to follow-up and make sure they got what they needed.”
Ferris’ team handles more than 8,000 walk-ins each year, in addition to about 3,000 hotline calls. When asked for feedback about the service received, customers write comments on response cards such as, “Unbelievably helpful!”
To make sure you’re on the right track with your building and development plans, leave a detailed message on the Building and Development hotline at 703-777-0118. Your call will be logged into a special computer application, and a live customer service representative will return your call within one business day.