When a petition circulated throughout the Loudoun County homeowner associations of Oakgrove/Grovewood, Parkside at Dulles and Rockhill Estates failed to stop the Herndon Town Council from approving a day-laborer site, to be situated on Sterling Road and Rock Hill Road, the homeowners turned to their supervisor.
Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) met with about 25 people last Thursday to discuss what options may still be available to the site's Loudoun County neighbors.
"I don't think what Herndon did is fair. They are taking a problem from here [Alabama Drive] and putting it in your neighborhood," Snow told the crowd gathered at the Herndon Fortnightly Library Aug. 25. "It's a bad plan."
SNOW, ALONG with Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), has requested the county attorney and county administrator review if Loudoun has any legal standing to try and stop the day-laborer site from opening, which could be by the end of the year. Additionally, the county zoning administrator is reviewing the plans for the site, a portion of which is located in Loudoun, to see if the Town of Herndon would need Loudoun's approval. The portion of the site, which formerly housed Herndon's police station and is still home to the town's Department of Public Works, that rests in Loudoun is not planned to include the trailer or other amenities associated with the day-laborer facility, however, the current entrance to the site fronts Rock Hill Road, which is located in Loudoun County.
Herndon's mayor, Michael O'Reilly, has said the town will seek any necessary approvals from Loudoun County to continue to use the Rock Hill Road entrance. However, failing that, an access on Sterling Road, located in Herndon, that is solely used to exit the property can be converted into an entry/exit point.
The town approved the use of the site as a temporary day-laborer facility last week. Currently, day laborers informally gather at a 7-Eleven in town. The new site was granted a conditional-use permit for two years with an option to renew the permit yearly for up to three years. Project Hope and Harmony, which is seeking nonprofit status, sought the permit and will run the facility.
IN THE MEANTIME, residents are hoping there is still time to prevent the site from opening.
"Most of us don't have a problem with the day laborers who are here legally," said Patricia Phillips, president of the Parkside at Dulles HOA.
Many of those at the meeting said their concern was that the site promotes illegal immigration rather than helping immigrants who have moved to the area legally and are simply looking for work. Snow said it is important to involve local state and federal representatives.
"The issue is let's make them legal and get them decent wages," Snow said. "This is taking illegal people and putting them in a legal program."
The day-laborer site operators are prohibited by law from asking for documentation proving legal status.
Others at the meeting expressed concern about the impact the site would have on their neighborhood in terms of crime and property values.
Residents questioned who will enforce the regulations imposed on the site, which has hours of operation of Monday through Friday, 6-11 a.m. and Saturday through Sunday, 7 a.m.-noon. Many fear that once the site shuts down, the laborers will simply loiter in their neighborhoods or at the businesses located nearby, pointing out that men can be seen loitering at the informal site at all hours now.
Snow said Loudoun County does not have anti-solicitation or anti-loitering laws; and that he would be against creating such regulations.
"We have a tot lot that is 175 yards away, our first townhouse is about 200 yards," said David Chesnutt, president of the Rockhill Estates HOA. "Rockhill, we're the closest Loudoun residents to the site. We come out Rock Hill Road everyday. For us it's very much a residential area."
Approximately 250 homes make up the Oakgrove/Grovewood HOA, Parkside at Dulles has about 150 homes and Rockhill Estates has about 75. In addition, a development, Centex, has been approved for about 40 homes.
CHESNUTT SAID the HOAs originally created the petition, which simply opposes the site, to show the Herndon Planning Commission and Town Council how many Loudoun residents were against the site. Now, the HOAs plan to continue to gather signatures as a show of strength for the Board of Supervisors. In Rockhill Estates, 106 residents, representing 54 homes, signed the petition through Monday, said Chesnutt. He did not have figures for the other associations.
Snow declined to promise residents anything, such as a request for an increased police presence. However, he did say he would do everything he could, once he knew all the facts. He also encouraged residents to begin a writing campaign, sending letters to local, state and federal representatives.
"I'm going to work hard for you," Snow said. "This is not a solution, it makes Herndon feel good."
Snow said he is, at the least, seeking to delay the opening of the site by six months, so all parties involved can meet with state and federal representatives to find a solution. He also said he will request the issue be included on the board's Sept. 6 agenda for discussion and requested residents come to speak in numbers.
"Let's make some noise," he said.