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Votes

Voters Reject Recreation Center

Seven other bond referendums pass in last week’s election.

The proposal for an 82,000-square-foot Broadlands Recreation Center was the only bond referendum voted down in last week’s elections. At nearly $31.5 million, the center was by far the most expensive item up for a vote, constituting almost a third of the eight referendums’ total price tag.

Claire Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, said that a facility of that size, including a gymnasium, fitness center, multipurpose rooms, classrooms, a lap pool and a leisure pool, does not come cheap.

"It’s a big project," she said, adding that the recently opened Claude Moore Park Recreation Center, which is about the same size, cost about $24 million. However, she said, the county set a standard of one recreation center per 75,000 residents, and Claude Moore is the first such facility built in Loudoun. "The population could support another one."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county’s estimated population in 2006 was 268,817. Yet, the bond garnered only 36 percent of the vote.

"IT WAS GIVEN the name of a neighborhood," said Cliff Keirce, president of the Broadlands Homeowners’ Association, noting he had "heard from a number of people" that they had thought the center would serve only a small area.

Broad Run Supervisor Lori Waters (R) said the county does not run a campaign to educate the public about bond referendums before an election, although the school system often sends out flyers about school bonds. Steve Snow, supervisor for the Dulles District, where the recreation center would have been built, could not be reached for comment by press time. Waters said the center "certainly would have served the greater Ashburn area" in her district, and she agreed that the center’s name may not have given that impression. "Sometimes, it’s all in the name," she said.

Keirce said he had also heard from some that the cost seemed too high. He said it likely seemed especially high alongside a slate of projects costing between $5 million and $16 million and he wondered if things might have turned out differently had there been a massive schools bond on the ballot.

He said a man from Ashburn Village, one of several developments in the area that have facilities such as a pool and a fitness center onsite, had asked him, "Why would I vote for one? I’ve already got one."

"It’s kind of a selfish reason," Keirce conceded.

Waters, too, noted that many residents in the area already have access to such facilities through their homeowners’ associations, although those in a number of older communities do not.

"It could have been a message, too, that there are other priorities," she said, noting that public safety and education bonds had passed easily. Meanwhile, a bond for a library and one for general "community center projects" passed by narrower margins.

"Now, we’ll figure out what to do with the property," said Waters.

The 16 acres were proffered for recreational use and may remain open space for the time being, she said, adding that the question of a recreation center on the site may be posed to voters again in the future. Other recreation centers planned to be built in the next 10 years include an Ashburn area recreation center and a Phil Bolen Park Recreation Center, as well as the completion of the Dulles Multipurpose Center. Waters said the county also has to decide whether to contribute funding to the expansion of the Ida Lee Recreation Center in the Town of Leesburg in order to keep the center’s rates for county residents the same as the rates for citizens of the town.

THE BOND REFERENDUMS that Loudoun residents voted to pass last week included:

* Up to $10 million for "fire station projects," with 77 percent of the vote.

* $13.51 million for "community center projects," with 57 percent of the vote.

* $8.3 million for the construction of Aldie Fire and Rescue Station, with 64 percent of the vote.

* $5.36 million for the construction of the eastern Loudoun Sheriff Substation, with 65 percent of the vote.

* $8.33 million for the construction of the western Loudoun Sheriff Substation, with 61 percent of the vote.

* $7.13 million for the construction of Gum Spring Library, with 55 percent of the vote.

* $15.475 million for the purchase land for two elementary schools and one high school, with 67 percent of the vote.