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Loudoun Faction Was Set For Fight

A GOP majority was elected to the Board of Supervisors and moved quickly to take control.

Over the past 15 months, development backers -- including generous contributors to supervisor campaigns -- have urged the Republican majority to approve a series of projects and to dismantle central elements of the zoning law. The supervisors agreed to stretch sewer lines west of the airport and settled a lawsuit by agreeing to allow more homes in the area. They are considering other proposals focused on the same part of the county that would allow tens of thousands more homes.

Farm animals will have less space to roam as more homes are built, now that the Virginia Supreme Court has thrown out Loudoun's growth controls. (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

"There's been a major influence with the development community in making policy at the board level," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large), who was part of the group that first tightened the county's building restrictions. "They put the money behind these candidates to get a message out that I believe was confusing to the voters."

But Supervisor Mick Staton Jr. (R-Sugarland Run) said York and his allies wrongly assert that the now-defunct zoning rules are "the only way to achieve balanced growth in Loudoun County and the only people who disagree with that are either greedy or corrupt."

As successive Loudoun governments have alternated between efforts to spur and stymie home construction, the county's future has been unfolding quickly, with its population jumping from 86,000 in 1990 to 247,000 now.

"You can see the county is steadily losing influence over its future with this back-and-forth kind of pattern," said William Lucy, a professor of urban and environmental planning at the University of Virginia. He argued that a local government's influence over its future is already modest in a large metropolitan area because there are so many jurisdictions in which development can occur.

Those who oppose the board's actions say they wonder whether the concerted, organized approach used by development industry representatives to bring Loudoun to this point will also govern what happens to land stretching to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

"What we need are decision-makers who look at the long-term view as well as the short-term view," said Peggy Maio, a longtime county activist now retired from the Piedmont Environmental Council.

"We need informed citizens who know that we have to make some major changes in how we develop land or we're going to continue with the gridlock and the school kids in trailers and all those things we don't like about our current situation," Maio added.

What will happen next remains uncertain and will probably depend on market forces, board action and pressure from the development industry and slow-growth proponents, among other things. According to the building industry's "Priority Issues" list, one unmet goal is to stretch suburban development farther west to a "logical boundary" within the county's rural area.

Duszynski said his firm is busy with its proposal closer to the airport and is not focused on development in the county's rural western reaches.

"Maybe that would be in the 30-year horizon, the 50-year horizon, but if you just look at what would be orderly progress, it would be working its way from existing development and infrastructure in the east," he said.

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