The new Board of Supervisors was "short-sighted" to end county funding of the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program, according to Sarah "Sally" Kurtz (D-Catoctin).
"This is a program for land conservation," said Kurtz, who, along with James Burton (I-Mercer) voted in favor of continuing the county's four-year program that has preserved more than 3,000 acres of land.
The PDR program encourages landowners to sell the development rights of their land through conservation easements. The county uses Tourism Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds to purchase the easements and, in turn, preserve its cultural, natural, historic and agricultural resources.
Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) proposed the board eliminate county funding for the program and eliminate the PDR board, a motion that received support of all six Republican board members, Eugene Delgaudio (Sterling), Stephen Snow (Dulles), D.M. "Mick" Staton (Sugarland Run), Bruce Tulloch (Potomac) and Lori Waters (Broad Run).
"I don't want any taxpayer funds going into the PDR program, bottom line," Clem said.
"I don't agree with the argument this is a waste of money. It preserves open space for future generations," Burton said, adding that the program also saves on future infrastructure costs.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the Board of Supervisors:
* Approved a hiring freeze for all non-essential personnel hires, as proposed by Delgaudio.
County administrator Kirby Bowers sent a memo dated Dec. 23 to department heads stating that beginning on Jan. 1, 2004, open positions will be held vacant indefinitely, excluding any positions receiving at least 50 percent outside or fee funding and that are related to public safety or 24-7 services.
The freeze aims to generate "as much budgetary savings as possible for the FY [Fiscal Year] 05 budget process ... to respond to the challenges that lay ahead," Bowers stated in the memo.
Delgaudio said Bowers had operated in a "vacuum between the old and new board." "We [now] have a policy in place," he said.
The board approved the motion 6-2-1 with Burton and Kurtz voting against and York abstaining from the vote.
* Agreed 6-3 to forward to the Finance and Government Services Committee Delgaudio's proposed freeze for employee travel except for public safety training and legislative trips. York, Burton and Kurtz voted against the motion.
* Approved 6-3 requesting the Transportation Committee review the request for proposals (RFPs) and the contract that was awarded for purchasing 22 additional buses, along with the RFPs for operation and bus maintenance.
"One of the last things we want to do is become a bus business," Snow said.
"If there is support for this, let it be the public who pays for it," Delgaudio said.
THE BOARD allowed for several changes to county planning documents. The board:
* Approved 6-3 to extend public utilities to the transition area, which is located between the suburban and rural areas of the county and is served by communal water and sewer treatment systems under the Revised Comprehensive Plan.
"This is the best way to serve people who are going to be living in the transition zone," Waters said.
Burton disagreed. "This motion is step one of a two-step process to open up the transition zone to higher density," he said.
* Approved 6-3 to allow public schools to be built in industrial areas, since land there can be secured for less money than in residential areas, as stated in Snow's motion. In addition, the school district plans to build 25 new schools in the next five years, as outlined in the proposed 2005-10 Capital Improvements Program (CIP), the motion states.
"The county needs creative solutions," Snow said.
"I just don't know if it's a smart idea to build schools in industrial areas," Burton said.
* Approved 7-2 amending the Revised General Plan and zoning ordinance to allow for active and passive recreation in minor flood plains. Burton and Kurtz voted against the motion.
"This is a priority for my constituents. They need fields," said Waters, maker of the motion.
* Approved 6-3 amending the Revised Countywide Transportation Plan to restore the Western Transportation Corridor right-of-way to the Potomac River.
"I see no reason to open up the debate. It's a developer's highway," Burton said.
"The people are here. The economy is here. The high tech economy is here," Snow said. "We need roads. I will side with people before trees. Roads are not criminal. Development is not criminal. ... Moving people to market allows people to be more productive citizens."
* Approved 7-2 rescinding the county's Heritage Preservation Plan and forwarding it to the Land Use Committee for further review. The plan outlines ways to identify, preserve and promote the county's heritage resources and establishes guidelines for protecting those resources during development project reviews.
"Why are we publishing documents without the dollars behind [them]?" asked Snow, maker of the motion that York and Burton voted against.
THE BOARD made other changes and made adjustments to its schedule. The board:
* Approved 6-3 withdrawing the county's membership from the High Growth Coalition and requesting that it's $5,000 contribution be returned.
"We don't need to be participating in an organization that is contrary to what I was elected for and others were elected for," said Snow, who proposed the motion. "This county is not for stopping growth."
Burton said the coalition addresses unusually high growth rates and discusses ways to implement "reasonable legislation."
"Look at the Comprehensive Plan," York said. "Growth has occurred in Loudoun County."
* Approved 6-2-1 abolishing the county Health Care Commission, which the previous board established in September 2003, with York absent from the vote.
* Added seven preliminary budget meetings to the Finance and Government Committee's schedule, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, 19, 20, 22, 26, 27 and 29.
"We intend to give a bottom line to Mr. Bowers," said Delgaudio, who proposed the motion. The board voted 8-1 in favor with Burton voting against.
All of the 6-3 votes show York, Burton and Kurtz voting against the proposed motions.
IN CLOSING, board members commented after approving 23 agenda items.
"What can we do to get the county to grow," Snow said. "I think it's swung too far. I want to get back to the middle. My message is one of conciliation. Let's do what's best for Loudoun County."
"I'm not alone anymore," said Delgaudio, the only board member from the 2000-03 board to not run on a smart or slow growth campaign. "Now this board will have a different direction."