A Look Back at 2004

A Look Back at 2004

A year ago, five new Republican supervisors began their reign on Jan. 5, changing policies and reshaping the county. With incumbent Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), the Republicans formed a take-no-prisoners majority. As their first order of business, they stripped Chairman Scott York (I-at large) of most of his duties, handing them to Vice Chairman Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac). With 22 new items added to the agenda — and no public notification — the Republicans swept through action items that eliminated the land-preserving Purchase of Development Rights program, instituted a hiring freeze on nonessential county employees and rescinded the Heritage Preservation Plan.

"If they want to act like little dictators, there's nothing I can do about it," York said at the time.

TWENTY DEVELOPERS presented comprehensive plan amendments to the county on Sept. 1. If approved, the amendments would allow the developers to build approximately 42,000 homes over 10,000 acres — essentially doubling the population of the county.

The county planning staff recommended rejecting all but three of the 20 amendments. But the new planning commissioners, appointed by the pro-growth supervisors, accepted 15 for review.

IT WAS CAUSE for celebration: the extension of water and sewer utilities to the three remaining sections without such service in Loudoun's 22,813-acre transition area, set aside by the previous Board of Supervisors to ensure a gradual change from the county's suburban east and rural west.

JUST THREE WEEKS before Christmas, 750 employees at America Online got coal in their stockings: a pink slip. At least half were at the Ashburn headquarters, and the layoffs included some top executives such as Vice Chairman Joe Ripp and President of Broadband Lisa Hook.

An AOL representative explained the layoffs: it will "better align our resources" and make the company more "competitive in the marketplace," said spokesman Nicholas Graham. He did say that the layoffs affected all aspects of the company, from technology to marketing.

THE OFFICIAL MERGING of Loudoun Healthcare and Inova Health Systems in October came after years of collaborating. The two nonprofits joined in a $200 million deal that will bring improvements to Loudoun Healthcare's current facilities, new community health centers throughout the county and possibly a hospital in the Route 50 corridor.

Loudoun Healthcare is in the process of staving off an effort by Hospital Corporation of America, a large for-profit hospital company based in Nashville, to build a hospital in Broadlands. Loudoun Healthcare has spun the merger to say that it strengthens its case against the Broadlands site — with the new facilities provided by Inova/Loudoun Healthcare, the Broadlands hospital is unnecessary.

The merger also weakens an underpinning of Loudoun Healthcare's complaint against HCA. Previously, the hospital had said that it could not compete financially with Hospital Corporation of America. Now it's joined with the largest health-care provider in Northern Virginia.

IN SEPTEMBER, after months of grassroots effort from citizens and pressure from officials, Dominion Virginia Power agreed not to use 9 miles of the W&OD Trail from Leesburg to Hamilton for a 230-kilovolt power line. But 2 miles near the Leesburg Executive Airport are still under consideration, and the rest of the W&OD will still be included in the power company's application to the State Corporation Commission to be filed in early 2005. All Dominion agreed to do was not name it as the preferred route; the SCC will make the final decision.

An estimated 26,000 trees would have to be cut to make way for 110-foot steel poles if the W&OD becomes the selected site for the power line. If the W&OD is not chosen, the power line could be built over the backyards of residents south of Leesburg.

AFTER A FEW TALKS, the effort to bring the Montreal Expos to the Capitol area degenerated into a suburbs-vs.-city-life debate. While many Loudouners pined for a team to call their own, in the end, Major League Baseball went to Washington, D.C.

Diamond Lakes Associates LLC, which had planned to build a $442 million development in Dulles centered around the baseball stadium, is still working to develop the area, baseball or not.

IT WAS A YEAR of top honors for Loudoun County:

* Fastest growing county in the nation with 52,147 new residents since 2000.

* Fastest rate of job growth with 5,294 new jobs in 2003, while the rest of the country, on average, added no new jobs.

* Highest bond rating from Moody's Investor Services.

* Keith Fairfax was named Virginia's top certified zoning officer.