Loudoun Board Restores Key Powers to Supervisor

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 4, 2008

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, led by a freshly minted Democratic majority, took a sharp turn at its first meeting yesterday, reversing course on several of the previous Republican-led board's efforts.

As one of its first acts, the board gave Chairman Scott K. York (I) a host of powers that the previous board had stripped from him four years ago. In November, voters ousted four Republicans who had been supportive of growth and development and often clashed with York because of his slow-growth stance.

The board, now made up of five Democrats, two Republicans and two independents, voted unanimously and without comment yesterday to restore York's powers, including the right to set the board's agenda.

"A return to normalcy doesn't require a lot of comment," said James G. Burton (I-Blue Ridge).

The meeting yesterday was more subdued than the first meeting of the previous board, which Supervisor Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz (D-Catoctin) described as "the equivalent of a blitzkrieg, an absolute control-grab shocker." That board stunned York in 2004 by reducing his authority as the leader of one of the nation's fastest-growing counties.

The power play against York drew particular criticism from many residents because the chairman is the only member elected countywide. The remaining eight members represent geographical districts.

"Citizens across the county were outraged," said Supervisor Susan Klimek Buckley (D-Sugarland Run), who was chosen yesterday as vice chairman. "No one even imagined that could happen."

With York firmly at the helm yesterday, the supervisors voted to back off from a key component of the county's highly publicized crackdown on illegal immigration. A few months before the November election, the board's Republicans passed a resolution aimed at driving out illegal immigrants, who they said bring blight and crime to neighborhoods.

Burton and four of the board's five Democrats yesterday decided not to follow through on one aspect of the effort. The previous board had voted to ask the state legislature to allow it to withhold business licenses and building permits from illegal immigrants and the businesses that knowingly hire them.

Several supervisors said yesterday that it was a waste of money for counties to enforce federal immigration laws.

"Spending our resources to enforce federal law means we're paying for something twice that we're only getting once," said Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles). "We all pay our federal taxes. Let them enforce it."

The board voted yesterday to join the Virginia Coalition of High Growth Communities, which was founded by York and had been rejected by the previous supervisors. The board also voted to support a "Journey Through Hallowed Ground," an effort to highlight the history along U.S. Route 15 that the previous supervisors had worried would limit the rights of landowners in the area to develop on their property.

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