Citizens Speak Out on Proposed Zoning Changes

Citizens Speak Out on Proposed Zoning Changes

Aug. 21-27, 2002

Leesburg area resident Deborah Welsh does not want to have to buy out two of her neighbors.

Welsh, who owns a six-acre lot zoned for one house per three acres, faces a zoning change that would increase the designation for lot sizes to 20 acres. She put on her straw hat last Wednesday and told the Planning Commission, “It doesn’t match my suburban outfit. It’s non-conforming." She switched to a black hat to show that the hat, along with JLMA-3 zoning, would be more “consistent." JLMA-3 is defined as a three-acre Joint Land Management Area (JLMA) located outside town jurisdictions in an area mapped for potential growth.

Welsh and another 86 speakers voiced their concerns about the draft zoning ordinance amendments during two public hearings, which were held on Wednesday, Aug. 14. A third hearing on Saturday, Aug. 17 had a turnout of 71 speakers, along with 25 speakers who taped their comments that day and 34 speakers who did so on Wednesday.

The county will use the zoning ordinance amendments to revise the county’s zoning map, so that it will be consistent with the policies of the Revised Comprehensive Plan. Before the Board of Supervisors can approve the amendments this fall, Loudoun residents were provided with several opportunities to give their input through public hearings, focus groups and communication through e-mail, telephone calls and letters. County staff answered nearly 1,200 phone calls on the Zoning Hotline and helped 263 residents from Aug. 5-16, when staff was available in the County Government Center to answer questions.

For the latest public hearings, the county mailed out more than 64,000 letters to property owners in the unincorporated parts of the county and outside the Route 28 Tax Improvement District to notify them of proposed zoning changes that might affect their properties. The hearings lasted nearly 11 hours for all three sessions.

RESIDENTS speaking at the first session gave their support for the draft zoning ordinance amendments or commented on how they thought the amendments would negatively or positively affect their properties.

"Both sides seemed to be fairly well represented," said Kathryn Miller, chairperson of the Planning Commission. "I appreciate the citizens coming out and putting their input in. For the most part, they were well behaved."

Several of the residents spoke in favor of the draft amendments, commending them for slowing growth in the second fastest growing county in the nation.

“We are proceeding on a pace where we couldn’t keep up. My hats off to you for the work you have done for the past three years,” said Middleburg resident Geoffrey Ogden, adding that the revised comprehensive plan is “long overdue.”

“It’s a great improvement over what we have," said Ogden. "There needs to be some teeth to enforce these regulations.”

Waterford resident Toby Gomez remembered riding through fields without anybody around. “Everything is slowly but surely going, and I don’t see any way to protect it without strict regulations and extreme conservation,” he said. “It’s a loss.”

Residents said they wanted the ordinances to preserve the rural economy, conserve natural resources and protect water supplies against development.

“We want to keep things like they are,” said J. Frederick Warren of Middleburg, adding, “Don’t give in to the threat of lawsuit.”

CITIZENS for Property Rights (CPR) members explained why they were against reduced zoning densities proposed for the western end of the county.

“This proposed action is arbitrary and capricious. This family, like most of the families in the county, cannot afford to lose 55 percent of the value of their property,” said CPR member Patricia Shockey, reading from a letter from her lawyer.

“When you finish, the courts will begin,” said Jack Shockey, CPR president.

Some of the residents commented on the inclusion of a grandfather clause in the zoning amendments, a clause which has not yet been proposed. Members of the Between the Hills Conservation Council in Hillsboro turned in a petition with 115 signatures from residents against such a clause.

“Our valley has no suburban subdivisions,” said Hillsboro resident Elizabeth Leigh. “We’re concerned about how development will tax our water supplies.

Leigh said she wanted zoning for Between the Hills to be changed to A-50 to preserve agricultural farming there.

"If the Comprehensive Plan's goal is to maintain part of Loudoun as a rural area, the zoning ordinance has to make sure there aren't any loopholes developers can get through," Leigh said.

The Planning Commission will meet Aug. 22 to discuss the process of reviewing the amendments, then begin the review in several work sessions with public input. The deliberations are expected to take more than two months before the Planning Commission presents a draft recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 15.