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Votes

Wanted:Less Houses

Citizens come out at public hearing to urge board to support Clem/Burton plan.

The final decisions about the future of Loudoun's rural west could be decided by the end of the board's Dec. 5 business meeting. Wednesday, Nov. 29, the Board of Supervisors voted to forward the amendments to its next meeting for action. The decision followed a public hearing on several amendments to the county's zoning, rules on subdivision and zoning map in the Rural Policy Area, which covers approximately two-thirds of the county.

Resident after resident spoke to the board Wednesday night, expressing their opinions on what should happen to the rural west. Most speakers supported what has become known as the Clem/Burton proposal, named after the two Supervisors who created it, which was the original proposal advertised for the Rural Policy Area.

In September, however, a five-member board majority, including Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) voted to alter the overall plan, following a proposal by Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run).

Wednesday, residents expressed their unhappiness with the board's decision.

"Loudoun citizens from the east and the west urge you to pass the Clem/Burton plan," Kathleen Hughes, a Waterford resident, said. "We are not willing to accept 18,000 new houses in the rural west under the [new] plan. I am just outraged that you are even entertaining this proposal."

THE CLEM/BURTON proposal would have restored a large amount of the zoning created in 2003 by the previous board. The 2003 zoning, which was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court in March 2005, was more restrictive to development and required lower densities than the current proposal. Following the court's decision, the Rural Policy Area reverted to A-3 zoning, which allows for one dwelling unit per three acres.

The Clem/Burton proposal supports AR-1 zoning, which allows for one house per 10- or 20-acre lot, in the northern portion of western Loudoun, and AR-2 zoning, which allows for one house per 20- or 40-acre lot, in the southern portion.

Staton's amendments were what he considered a compromise, allowing cluster development at a density of one residential unit per five acres in the northern portion and cluster development in the southern portion that allows for one unit per 15 acres. In addition, Staton's proposal allowed an option for landowners to subdivide in either 10- or five-acre parcels.

While the a majority of the board did not believe that Staton's proposal needed to be readvertised as a whole, it decided there were some of the amendments proposed that did need to go back through the public process. Those amendments included the proposed density of cluster development and open-space requirements.

Until the final approval is given by the board, the rural west will remain zoned at one unit per three acres.

SUPERVISOR JIM BURTON (I-Blue Ridge), who made the motion to forward the amendments to the Dec. 5 meeting, said he believed that every member of the board should be present before a final vote was taken. Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) was absent for the public hearing.

"It is my own view that we need to bring this debate to a close," Burton said. "We have had approximately 1,000 houses vested under the A-3 rules since the Supreme Court ruling."

Supervisors also wanted the opportunity to discuss some of the new requirements for rural businesses, which would be in place if the amendments are approved.

"If you don't make hospitality a by-right issue it does not work," Brian Meehan, from Leesburg's Raspberry Plain, said.

Several speakers told the board there were problems with the requirements that would be put on rural businesses.

"I also am concerned about some of the things that might fall through the cracks," Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) said. "There are unfair levies on our rural economy and I think we need to do something."

STATON DEFENDED his proposal, saying it removed 27,000 homes from the rural west, only a few thousand less than the Clem/Burton proposal.

"We are arguing about whether we remove 27,000 or 31,000 homes," he said. "I would say that the people who are moving to this end have moved quite a long way."

Board Chairman Scott K. York (I-At large) said, however, that there is no reason for Supervisors to alter the original proposal.

"[The 2003 zoning] didn't get thrown out because of the plan we put together," he said. "It was a technicality. Now, the citizens literally feel that we collectively as a board have ignored them."

The Board of Supervisors meeting was scheduled for Dec. 5, at 9:30 a.m., at the County Government Center in Leesburg.