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Chairman York: Getting Smarter on Growth

Board chairman nears mid-way for his four-year term.

Approving a general plan focused on reducing densities and amending the zoning ordinances to manage growth are what the majority electorate and Board of Supervisor chairman Scott York wanted.

“I think he’s done a terrific job under some very trying circumstances, and I applaud him,” said Supervisor James Burton (I-Mercer). “We have taken the actions our legislature allowed us to take to slow growth down. ... There have been threats, lawsuits, acrimonious meetings and disruptions, but we kept our focus and our chairman has helped us to do that.”

York has finished half of his four-year term as the at-large member for the Board of Supervisors, the governing body responsible for setting policies, adopting ordinances, appropriating funds and approving land rezonings, all needed to carry out county government.

“The two biggest issues facing Loudoun … people are concerned about over-development and traffic,” said York, who has lived in Sterling for the past 15 years and is an Idaho native. “We are in a mode of growth that’s not healthy.”

WHEN YORK took over as chairman in 2000, he set out to improve the county’s transportation systems and to manage growth through the county’s land-use plans and the revised Comprehensive Plan, which outlines land use and growth patterns for the next 20 years.

York focused on a smart-growth platform, what he defines as managing growth to ensure the county grows at a “fiscally responsible and healthy rate.”

This rate is “affordable” for building new infrastructure, does not harm the quality of life and allows environmental, historical and cultural resources to be protected, York said. “We’ll set policies that will reign in that growth and protect this county fiscally,” he said.

The revised Comprehensive Plan, adopted by the Board of Supervisors in July 2001, reduces by 44 percent the number of houses that can be built in the county and is expected to save the taxpayers $250 million in new infrastructure costs. By the time the board completes its term in 2004, the county is expected to have built 24 new schools.

Despite the School District’s growth, “we’re able to ensure a good quality education system,” York said, adding that the board increased teacher salaries to a competitive level during its term. “We still have some major challenges in the county on Route 7 and the Tri-County connector and even some of the parallel roads to Route 28.”

YORK’S SECOND ISSUE involves transportation, since Route 28 is beyond capacity and Route 7 “is quickly getting to that point,” he said.

York met with Leonard “Hobie” Mitchel, member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, in 1999, about improving the Route 28 intersections with Routes 625 and 628. The two realized that improving the two intersections would pass on the traffic problems to the next intersections on the corridor.

“It had to be corridor improvements. … You’re not looking at one interchange at a time. You’re looking at corridors,” Mitchel said. “Scott was very productive making the Route 28 improvements happen, working through the PPTA and involving VDOT.”

Loudoun joined Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to back funding for the improvements, paid primarily through a special tax levied on commercial-land owners along the Route 28 corridor. The signing of a Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA) proposal Oct. 3 kicked off construction of six limited-access interchanges along Route 28, three of which are in Loudoun County. The total project calls for adding two lanes and another four interchanges to the corridor.

“Scott kept the county focused on the corridor improvements and giving instruction to the staff on finding financing solutions. He had to convince his board, and Scott’s worked hard on that,” Mitchel said.

YORK MET HIS GOALS “to where I wanted to be coming into 2003,” he said, adding that he expects growth to be the main issue during the 2004 campaign. “We need to keep consistent leadership in Loudoun County that has been dealing with issues of transportation, growth and the budget.”

The county anticipates a $110 million budget shortfall for the 2004 fiscal year and to receive less funding from the state. “Because of the state budget, we anticipate we’ll see even less revenue coming back from Richmond,” York said. “The more growth we’ve had, the less backing we’ve gotten from the state.”

York co-owns Affordable Closets Inc., which opened in 2000. He worked as a home-improvement contractor for 15 years. He and his wife, JoAnn, have four children, all of whom attend Loudoun public schools.