A group of Purcellville citizens claiming a membership of 200 and headed by former mayor Ed Nestor has united to protest development in the town of 880 residents.

The protest was sparked by the recent town council approval of a 46-unit moderate-income housing complex on Main Street and of a water treatment plant to be built beginning the end of June, which the group says will allow even more development.

The plant will cost more than $1 million to build.

The group, called Citizens of Purcellville, presented a petition signed by 100 residents to Mayor Ron Masters and the Town Council last week asking for two more public hearings on the water project, an investigation of the firms contracted to do the work, and the establishment of a beautification committee and an architectural review board. They asked that no work be started until the requests have been honored. The group also took out a half-page ad in the Loudoun Times-Mirror last week making the same requests.

There will be no more public hearings, according to Mayor Masters, and the water project will begin on schedule. "We had public hearings, approved the project and have let the contract," he said. "Most importantly, the town has been under the mandate by the state health department to upgrade its water since 1975." Nestor was Purcellville's mayor when the mandate was issued, Masters noted.

Douglas Jackson, who helped Nestor form the protest movement, said "a lot of other Virginia towns are under the same mandate and most of them choose to ignore it. Purcellville is so far down the alphabet it would be the year 2082 before the state got around to enforcing it."

The group's concern, Jackson said, is that residents' water bills will increase more drastically than the rise from $1 to $3.35 per 1,000 gallons estimated by the council and that moderate-income housing units will allow "people from outside" to live in Purcellville and change the "quiet, safe, clean character of the town."

There will be an information meeting in July, Masters said, during which residents will be given all the details of the water treatment plant. It will not be a hearing, he has decided.

"We had hearings when we first decided to apply for grants to build the plant. Where was this group then?"