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Votes

Expanding Access to River

County to align trail easement closer to Potomac.

Users of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail may get a view of the Potomac River as they travel through the Lowes Island Golf Course.

“The public should have access to the river,” said Supervisor Charles Harris (D-Broad Run), adding that the county only has a “handful of places” with such access.

At the Feb. 24 Board of Supervisors meeting, the board assigned county staff to research securing an 8-foot easement along the Potomac River for the trail to extend 1.5 miles through the northern edge of the Lowes Island Golf Course property. The county currently has access to a 30-foot, 1.5-mile easement located 2,000 feet inland from the river that has been held by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) since 1998.

“Let’s hang onto that easement until we know what to do,” said Supervisor Eleanore Towe (D-Blue Ridge).

THE COUNTY is allowed access to one easement through the golf course property, so the existing easement would have to be vacated in exchange for the shoreline trail easement. The easement the board selects will be used for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail that follows the Potomac River. So far, 300 miles of the trail have been designated, including 46.6 miles in Loudoun County.

The first phase of the trail begins at the Fairfax County line and continues west to Goose Creek, ending at the Keep Loudoun Beautiful Bridge. Staff evaluated the first phase alignment and researched locating the trail on the riverbank through the golf course property.

Approximately 25 residents spoke at the board meeting, expressing concern about losing access to the trail if it is relocated to the riverbank. One of the residents, Katrina Bills of Leesburg, said the trail was begun by horsemen and that if the trail is destroyed, she and other horsemen will leave what she would consider "another random suburban county." "This is our county's heritage," she said, urging the board to support a multi-use trail.

“I know the board wants to accommodate as many citizens as possible,” Towe said.

“This is a regional trail. This is not a Cascades trail,” said Board of Supervisors chairman Scott York (R-At large) about the area where the trail is located. “Staff needs to look at a way to appease those who want to look at the river and [those who] want to ride horses.”

William Bogard (R-Sugarland Run) called for a motion, directing staff to negotiate with the golf course owner on the location of the 8-foot riverside easement, along with negotiating an easement for a second trail for equestrian use between the NVRPA Seneca and Algonkian properties. Bogard's motion tasks staff with developing cost estimates for construction of the trail and initiating a concept plan amendment to relocate the trail easement, which would require a public hearing. If the riverside alignment is selected, the county will be required to develop and maintain the trail easement.

"It's a positive thing. I don't think anyone complains about horses going by," Bogard said.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

* For the 2004-08 term, the board approved a $1,000 salary increase for Planning Commissioners and maintaining salaries for Board of Supervisors members at $22,400 and the board chairman at $40,000, instead of increasing the salaries to $25,000 and $45,000 respectively. The salaries are effective as of July 1, 2004.

“Public service is voluntary” and requires a sacrifice of time and income, said Supervisor Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles), adding that he likes the idea of a “citizen legislator.”

“I think there should be an increase after eight years,” said Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin). “It’s a token … out of respect for the position.”

The board voted against implementing staggered terms and in favor of the following: separating the board’s budget beginning in Fiscal Year 2004 into a corporate board budget and district budgets; adopting budget expenditure guidelines for the Board of Supervisors; and paying board staff aides according to the salary range for full-time specialist II employees, to be implemented on July 1.

* The board endorsed the Virginia Department of Transportation design plans for a section of Potomac View Road, or Route 637. The plans include shoulders and turn lanes to provide access to First Baptist Church in Sterling.

* The board approved a proposed amendment to the Motor Vehicle License Tax, which increases the annual decal fee from $24 to $25 for automobiles and trucks and from $15 to $16 for motorcycles. A public hearing on the proposed amendment will be held April 8.

* The Bedford Fund donated $5,000 to the new Loudoun Land Conservation Fund (LLCF), which aims to preserve open space through the Purchase of Development Rights program. The LLCF has received a total of $6,825 in donations since its creation in 2002.

The Bedford Fund was established in memory of Erskine Bedford, a longtime Loudoun farmer who died in 1998, and honors his commitment to land preservation in the county. The Bedford Fund is operated by the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization which operates Morven Park in Leesburg.