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Votes

13,767 Voters Say No To Rapid Growth

Campaign for Loudoun's Future will present petitions to supervisors after the new year.

On Election Day, over a hundred volunteers collected thousands of signatures on a petition asking county officials not to "double the size of Loudoun."

The group behind the petitions, a loose coalition of individuals and organizations called the Campaign for Loudoun's Future, also gathered signatures via its Web site, www.loudounsfuture.org.

On Nov. 29, the coalition released the number of signatures gathered so far: 13,767. According to coalition members, the number represents just how alarmed residents are by the developer-initiated comprehensive plan amendments (CPAMs) received by the county in early September. According to an estimate by the Piedmont Environmental Council, the 20 CPAMs would add 42,000 new homes to the county if accepted.

In each of the seven precincts where petitioners gathered signatures, the number of signatures was more than the number of votes that elected each district's pro-growth supervisors over their slow-growth opponents in the 2003 election.

In the Dulles district, for example, Supervisor Stephen Snow (R) was elected by a margin of 785 votes for a total of 2,984 votes. Petitioners gathered 3,231 signatures opposing Snow's pro-growth agenda on Election Day.

Snow, whose district is the site of many of the proposed developments, made an unexpected appearance at the Campaign for Loudoun's Future's press conference, held outside the Leesburg government center Monday afternoon. Wearing a winter coat and purple-tinted sunglasses, the supervisor was halfway through the crowd before he noticed the nature of the group. Without pausing, he let out a surprised "huh" and continued on to the parking garage.

VOLUNTEERS SPOKE out about why they worked to gather signatures.

Anna Chamberlain, a 77-year-old Ashburn Village resident, worried about the rising property taxes that came with increased population making increased demands on services. Her house assessment jumped by 21.5 percent last year.

"At this rate, I don't know how much longer I can maintain my house," she said.

U.S. Postal Service employee and CountrySide resident Glenn Gillis found that voters were "angry" when they learned about the proposed CPAMs. "I was shocked by the response I did get," he said.

"We have a comprehensive plan ... and developers are trying to find a loophole to put in 42,000 new homes," Gillis added.

Susan Klimek Buckley, of Sterling, put it simply. "The message is that citizens are greatly concerned about the rapid rate of growth and the cost, and they don't like it," she said. "We can't afford it."

"We do not want tens and tens and tens of thousands of new homes," said Andrea McGimsey.

The petitions had received criticism from supervisors already, who said that the information on the petitions and handouts was not correct. The figure of 42,000 homes was determined by Ed Gorski, the Loudoun land use officer with the Piedmont Environmental Council.

SNOW, REACHED by phone later in the day, said the signatures were "not relevant" and was not impressed that the number gathered in his own district outstripped his election returns, citing that the presidential election had created much more turnout than his 2003 election.

"A lot of people signed up because they didn't know all the particulars of what they're signing up for," Snow said.

At least one pro-growther signed the petition, but as a calculated move: the wife of Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) wanted to make sure she and her husband were included in any information the coalition was circulating.

Snow criticized the Piedmont Environmental Council for failing to present solutions for the county's current glut of traffic, lack of schools and dearth of services. Snow has been a stalwart supporter of developers who pony up proffers worth millions of dollars to help address the county's struggle with growth.

Five of the original 20 CPAMs from September have been removed from consideration. The remaining 15 will be taken under further review by the Planning Commission.