0
Votes

County Donates $38K for Wetland Purchase

With $38,000 from the county, the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) can purchase a 5.5-acre wetland habitat next door to the Rust Sanctuary.

ANS raised $262,000 to purchase the property in the Roxbury Heights subdivision near Leesburg and asked the county to donate the rest. The developer, Elite Investment and Management Group, originally asked for $410,000 and agreed to sell the property to ANS for $300,000. ANS wants the property to protect the wetland habitat, commonly referred to as a fen, and use it as a living laboratory for the sanctuary’s environmental education programs. The sanctuary encompasses 62 acres west of Leesburg.

“We think it’s an invaluable habitat for threatened and endangered species. Protecting this important habitat is a wonderful opportunity,” said Neal Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Audubon Naturalist Society, at the Sept. 3 Board of Supervisors meeting.

The board agreed 5-3-1 to provide the funds with Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), Supervisor Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles) and Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) voting against and Supervisor Mark Herring (D-Leesburg) abstaining.

“I don’t consider this to be an essential service. If we had a lot of money, I would consider this to be ideal,” Delgaudio said.

THE COUNTY’S DONATION will come from the Leesburg Subarea rollback tax capital account. The account provides funds for new construction, land acquisitions and other capital projects in the Leesburg Subarea, a planning area defined in the county’s 2001 revised Comprehensive Plan. York and Hiatt said the funds should be used for their designated purposes.

“This is not a capital project,” York said. “We don’t own it [the land]. Policy is policy.”

The funds in the capital account are used to preserve open space and other resources for public benefits, said Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin). “In terms of public benefit, this open space is a treasure to Loudoun County. This is a direct use of public dollars to benefit the public,” she said.

Supervisor William Bogard agreed. “This is money coming from the Leesburg area and is going back to the Leesburg area,” said Bogard (R-Sugarland Run).

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Mercer) asked for an amendment requiring ANS to open the property to the public. Supervisor Chuck Harris' (D-Broad Run) amendment requires ANS to return the funds to the county if additional funds are raised for the project. Both amendments were included as part of the vote.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

* The new 7 to 7 on 7 bus service provided residents with 8,893 rides in July, a 22 percent increase from the number of rides given in June. The seven daily routes for the service are funded through Job access funds. The county Office of Transportation Services planned and marketed the service.

* The Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) program has served 509 families, or 1,312 individuals, since the program’s inception in 1993. Another 250 families are on a waiting list to receive assistance to rent and purchase ADU housing units at a lower rate. The average income of program participants is $38,000 a year.

Johnny Rocca, chairman of the ADU advisory board, promised the report when the ADU program reached 500 families.

“This board needs to start looking toward a housing authority,” Rocca said. “We’re growing up very fast. … We have an income that’s not taxpayers’ dollars.”

* The Loudoun County Health Department was notified Aug. 20 that 23 birds, most of them in eastern Loudoun, tested positive for West Nile Virus. Since then, another 13 birds and three groupings, or pools, of mosquitoes tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus, which can cause encephalitis and meningitis. The mosquito pools were found in the Sterling, Purcellville and Lovettsville areas. Last year, four birds tested for the virus..

“Birds are the first way we find out if West Nile Virus is here. Second is mosquito surveillance,” said David Goodfriend, executive director of the Health Department.