Two Loudoun County supervisors this week proposed changes to the zoning ordinance that would give residents of the county's five historic districts a chance to have their property removed from the districts and thus freed from restrictions governing construction.
The proposed amendments, said Catoctin Supervisor Frank Lambert, who offered them with Sterling Supervisor Andrew R. Bird III, would "introduce the concept of voluntary participation."
The proposal follows a controversial 4-to-3 vote by the board on July 16 to uphold the Historic District Review Committee's denial of a Waterford couple's request to build a chain-link fence around their property. The committee said a chain-link fence would be "inappropriate" in the Waterford Historic District.
After the board upheld the decision to deny Noah and Eva Robitson a certificate of appropriateness, necessary for new construction in historic districts, the Robitsons appealed the board's decision to the Loudoun County Circuit Court. No trial date has been set.
At the same time it denied the Robitsons' request, the board also voted to review the county ordinance pertaining to historic districts and to decide whether there is a need to revise it. Lambert said he and Bird offered the amendments this week so that the board's decision to review the ordinance could go forward.
The proposed changes to the zoning ordinance would set up a 60-day period, after adoption of the suggested changes, in which residents of historic districts could decide whether they want to remain in the districts.
The proposal would, among other changes, require that the review committee be comprised only of residents of the five districts, and that they be registered voters in Loudoun County.
Among controversial issues that developed in July was the fact that one of the review committee members, Margaret Morton of Waterford, is not a U.S. citizen. Lambert said before this week's board meeting that requiring registered voters was "not a big vendetta against Margaret Morton or anybody else . . . . I think that being a registered voter is not asking too much for someone who is going to have a yes or no authority on what someone is going to do with his property."
The two supervisors also proposed that a certificate of appropriateness could not be denied by the committee "unless there exists and is shown to be clear and compelling evidence that the requested change would have a clear and substantial detrimental impact on the character of the district as it would be determined by a person with normal reason and perception."
Bird said during a recess of the meeting that this would prevent a certificate from being denied unless the majority of people in the district agreed that it should be denied.
There was little discussion of the proposal during the meeting. However Leesburg Supervisor Frank Raflo, who was not at the July 16 meeting, said he was concerned that the supervisors would be reviewing the historic district regulations "when that's what we're being sued about . . . we don't want to go around shooting ourselves in the foot."
In their suit, filed Aug. 3, the Robitsons charged that the supervisors' decision was "arbitrary" and that the zoning ordinance does not regulate the nature or design of fencing.
The board voted to send the proposed amendments to its policy review committee for study.