Rural Zoning Vote Delayed

Rural Zoning Vote Delayed

Tensions ran high as the Board of Supervisors met, June 16, to decide its next step towards adopting policies and zonings for the Rural Policy Area. After contentious debates, the board voted 5-3-1 to forward the proposal to a work session Tuesday, June 20.

Supervisors are currently considering a proposal that would restore a large amount of the 2003 zoning. The 2003 zoning, which was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court in March 2005, was more restrictive 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 current proposal supports AR-1 zoning, which allows for one house per 10- or 20-acre lot, in the southern portion of western Loudoun and AR-2 zoning, which allows for one house per 20- or 40-acre lot, in the northern portion.

At its Friday meeting, the board was split, with half of the supervisors believing more work needed to be done on the proposals in scheduled work sessions and others stating that enough work had been done and it was time to vote.

"We've had our 90 days," Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said. "We know what everyone's issues are. I don't understand why we can't deal with those one at a time and vote up or down."

ORIGINALLY, THE BOARD would have been required to take some action on the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments and remapping of the Rural Policy Area before June 18, which was three months after the Planning Commission first made its recommendations. If action was not taken, the process would have been put on hold until the Planning Commission recertified those recommendations.

However, at its June 15 meeting, the Planning Commission recertified its recommendations, possibly giving the board 90 more days in which to take action.

"My argument is simple," Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac Falls) said. "When this board discussed the CPAM, we scheduled work sessions. This board voted 9-0 to adopt those work dates. Why would they vote 9-0 if they didn't believe what the Planning Commission would do would grant them those 90 days?"

County Attorney John R. Roberts came under fire for recommending the board vote before the June 18 deadline. Roberts said he was not sure if the 90-day extension believed to have been granted by the Planning Commission's actions would be defensible in court.

"We have never had any type of test or court case," he said. "The safest procedural approach would be to take action."

THE ABSENCE of Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) due to an emergency appendectomy made a majority vote nearly impossible as the board appeared split 4-4 on whether to take action.

"The reality of this is we've had this process for a really long time and we've deliberated and we've discussed and we've listened and we've sent these things out to various organizations," Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said. "I say it is time for us to move forward and make these decisions."

Waters made a motion to reconvene Saturday, June 17, at 9 a.m., so Kurtz could be present to vote, but her motion was negated by a substitute motion by Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) to forward everything to the work session.

"I thought the intent with this meeting was to get used to the fact that we would be working on this for a while," Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said. "It was always my intent to be prepared to work on this without the gun of June 18th."

Some supervisors were concerned with leaving the board and the proposed ordinances open to legal action.

"The situation out there has changed since the last studies that were done by the staff," Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) said. "I think we are vulnerable here. This is 2006, this is June, and we are using 2000 information. I think we are in legal peril and jeopardy."

"I would rather spend $40k [on readvertising] to do it right that $2.5 million in court," Tulloch said. "I will not put us in legal peril."

Staton, who came to the meeting with 110 amendments he wanted the board to vote on, said the board needed to address the issues of taxes, traffic and water and how each proposed zoning would fix the problem before they voted.

"If you want to vote today, put a motion on the table and vote," he said. "If you want to go through this and look like we are debating the issues then we need to send this to a work session. If you rush this forward, you are sending the signal to the people out there it doesn't matter what they said for or against."