It seems that Loudoun voters will have the final say over whether the county gets into the road building business.
The Board of Supervisor voted Wednesday, July 5, to put a seven-project referendum on November's ballot in order to let the citizens have their say on the transportation issue.
"I think every time you put something before the voters you get an idea of whether or not they think you are the right person to do the job," Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said.
The $51.3 million package includes four projects that were a part of the Capital Improvement Plan during the fiscal year 2007 budget debates — an interchange at Route 50 and Loudoun County Parkway, the improvement of Route 50 from Poland Road (Route 742) to the Fairfax County line, an interchange at Route 7 and Belmont Ridge Road and the improvement of Belmont Ridge Road (Route 659) from Gloucester Parkway to the Dulles Greenway — were included in the Route 7 bond package.
The referendum will also include project design for an interchange at Route 7 and Route 690 (Hillsboro Road), which will help with traffic for the new western Loudoun high school and a Sycolin Road overpass over the Route 15/Route 7 bypass.
It will include only one construction project, the interchange at Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway, which could be approved by VDOT as early as this fall.
SUPERVISORS REMAINED split over the road bond, with some supporting the construction of the Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway interchange and other supporting only the design projects, which they said would give the county an idea of how much each project would cost.
"We have to do some of this design work to know the price tag," Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said. "There is a lot of talk about the need for infrastructure. It is time for a little self-help."
Other supervisors, however, said that simply designing projects without plans for construction would be pointless. Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) reaffirmed his position that only supporting the construction of the interchange makes sense for the county.
"These designs don't sit on the shelf forever," he said. "You can't just dust them off. If we are going to road construction, then we need to start with road construction."
Staton asked that the referendum vote be split, separating out the construction of the interchange from the design projects.
"One project moves us forward and gets us into the business and allows us to get something on the ground that will build confidence for the future that shows that Loudoun County can do this," Staton said. "If we are going to do this let's put bonds on the table that put pavement on the roads."
SUPERVISORS JIM CLEM (R-Leesburg), Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) and Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) continued to oppose the road package and the proposed referendum.
Clem said he could not see voting for $51.3 million in road projects when the county still needed several fire and rescue stations.
"We have to go out here and provide these services," he said. "I am in no mood to go into the road building business and from what I have heard over the last weekend the people aren't either."
Kurtz and Snow were most concerned about the increased tax burden the package would place on the county's citizens.
"What we are talking about is increasing taxes," Kurtz said. "I absolutely refuse, refuse, to ask the citizens of my district to pay taxes for [the state's] responsibilities."
Snow also said that there were no traffic studies or analyses done that supported the projects in the package.
"There are no studies done that show these are going to improve anything," he said. "I asked last time what traffic relief will incur. I don't know what we are doing here without having the staff study."
He reiterated his position that the developers should be putting up the money for road improvements, but other supervisors said those road proffers normally mean a trade off in the form of higher residential densities.
"When a developer comes forth and says they are going to do something for us, they want something in return," Waters said. "They are not going to build roads for us for free."
Some supervisors stated their displeasure with the road package, but said they did want to let the citizens dictate their direction.
"I have said the entire time that I am opposed to the Loudoun County Parkway/Route 7 interchange, but I am not opposed to voters having their say," Tulloch said.
The board voted 6-3 for the inclusion of the interchange construction project, with Clem, Snow and Kurtz voting no, and 5-4 for the inclusion of the design projects, with Staton joining Clem, Snow and Kurtz in their opposition.