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Votes

Two Plans, No Decision Yet

Both proposals for western Loudoun density move ahead; Citizens for Property Rights represents at Tuesday's meeting.

Members of the public have already stood before the Board of Supervisors and sent thousands of e-mails to voice their opinions on the future of western Loudoun, but now they'll get another chance.

Next month, the county will host two public input meetings, one in eastern Loudoun and one in western Loudoun, on the two board proposals on building density.

Three months after the Virginia Supreme Court threw out the two-year-old building restrictions in the rural west, two supervisor-crafted plans have come before the board as possible solutions.

The court decision redacted the AR-1 and AR-2 zoning that covered over 300 square miles of the county, allowed one home per 10 to 50 acres and encouraged rural business. It replaced the zoning with A-3, the previous zoning, which allows one house per 3 acres.

The majority of supervisors have said they do not support A-3 zoning in the west, and the two proposals under review — one authored by supervisors Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) and Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) and one authored by Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) and Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) — reflect that idea.

But at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, it was the residents who wanted to keep higher-density zoning who had the loudest voice.

OVER THE months, two groups have emerged as the rallying poles for the growth debate: Campaign for Loudoun's Future, the Piedmont Environmental Council-affiliated slow-growth group, and Citizens for Property Rights, whose members advocate allowing landowners to do what they wish with land.

Campaign for Loudoun's Future has often put on spectacles for supervisors, bringing farm animals, matching T-shirts and sing-a-longs into the Government Center.

But it was Citizens for Property Rights who flooded the board room Tuesday morning wearing red bandannas and hoisting "No Snob Zoning" signs after a pre-meeting tractor rally outside.

The group recently has also taken out full-page ads in newspapers.

Citizens for Property Rights president Jack Shockey expressed his surprise that Republican supervisor Clem had aligned himself with slow-growther Burton. The Clem-Burton plan would allow one house per 20 to 40 acres in the west, with a rezoning option of one house per 7.5 or 15 acres.

"We are asking that you reconsider and not be fooled by Mr. Burton," Shockey said. "His plan takes away even more rights than what he had taken the first time."

Shockey, and many of his colleagues, urged acceptance of the Tulloch-Staton plan. That would allow one house per 10 to 20 acres plus a cluster option triggered at 15 to 30 acres.

But for some, that didn't go far enough.

Purcellville resident Joseph Bane Sr. pushed for a return for A-3.

"What in the world is going on that we have this change around and all this change-face on A-3?" Bane said. "If you do A-3, do A-3. That's what we wanted."

A HANDFUL of the several dozen speakers spoke out in favor of the Clem-Burton proposal.

"Of the two proposals on the board, I believe it is the one that will result in the least degradation of commerce uses," said Martha Polkey, a Lovettsville sheep farmer.

Polkey was one of 25 landowners who appealed the Supreme Court’s decision. A Loudoun judge refused to hear the appeal.

Clem become the lightning rod figure in the growth debate when supervisors on both sides of the fence quickly figured out he held the swing vote.

It appeared at the last board work session that his joint proposal with Burton would be the only one to go to public input. It would have been a victory for Burton, who is often seen as the liberal maverick on the majority Republican board.

Instead, however, Clem voted for both his and the Tulloch-Staton proposal to move forward.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Clem appeared unmoved by the many passionate statements from citizens.

"We have no idea what direction we're going to go," Clem said. "I heard too many people speak this morning that have no clue what they're talking about."

According to staff estimates, the Burton-Clem proposal could result in up to 13,936 houses in the west, assuming every lot was rezoned for maximum use. The Tulloch-Staton proposal would allow up to 20,247 homes.

When the two proposals go to public input next month, they will be referred to by number to keep the "emotions" out of it, said Tulloch.

Weigh In

Public input meetings on the proposals for western Loudoun zoning will be held July 6, at Loudoun Valley High School, and July 11, at Stone Bridge High School. Both will begin at 6:30 p.m. The proposals are available at loudoun.gov/b&d/zoning.