The attorney for an organization affiliated with right-wing political figure Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. said yesterday he expects to appeal if Loudoun County rejects the group's bid to establish a summer camp there.
The proposal was set back late Wednesday when the County Planning Commission voted 7 to 0 against allowing operation of the camp. The question now goes to the County Board of Zoning Appeals, which will make the county's final decision.
"There's a very good chance we'd appeal" if the application is denied, said Dean S. Worcester, an attorney for Campaigner Publications, which would operate the camp on a 64-acre farm that it rents from another LaRouche-affiliated group in western Loudoun County, not far from the West Virginia border.
"The court will reverse any denial we get," he said, adding that the commission's vote "is not legally defensible." He said the commission's vote reflected community opposition to LaRouche rather than objections based on land use.
Planning commission members insisted they voted against the camp because the capacity of its septic tank is inadequate and its entrance is not wide enough.
"This decision is based on land use, not on personality," said Planning Commissioner Carol M. Carington.
Worcester said both of the planning commission's concerns could be addressed easily by Campaigner Publications. The septic tank, he said, has never broken down, and the group is willing to install a new one, as well as to improve the entrance.
"They could have put a restriction on us that we enlarge [the septic tank], which we would have been happy to do," Worcester said. "They denied it not because the camp is not a good, wholesome environment for the kids . . . but because of their opposition to" LaRouche.
County officials acknowledged privately they might face a tough legal challenge if the case goes to court.
The camp, which has functioned for two years at the site without a permit, has stirred fears and rumors in Loudoun. Residents near the property have said in public hearings that the camp could be used as a paramilitary training base or a youth indoctrination center, a charge Worcester rejects.
According to its organizers, the camp would enroll 25 to 35 children and feature excellent facilities. Nonetheless, it seems to have become a lightning rod for public apprehension concerning the operations of LaRouche, a perennial presidential candidate who began moving his headquarters to Loudoun, at a location near Leesburg, two years ago.
County residents have complained of armed guards on LaRouche's Leesburg property, and rumors of land mines, electric fencing, bomb threats and automatic weapons are rife.
"This is a very peaceful little county," Carington said. "We're not used to armed camps here. People are just not used to this type of neighbor."
Before the two public hearings were held by the planning commission last month, county residents had no official forum in which to vent their anxiety about LaRouche. In both hearings, citizens who came to register their opposition to the camp complained of what they called attempts to intimidate them. In one of the meetings, a photographer who said he was from Campaigner Publications took pictures of people who spoke against the camp.
"I have a growing concern about this effort to curtail the right of people to speak out," County Board Chairman Frank Raflo said yesterday.
Worcester acknowledged that "a lot of rumors got out of hand" about LaRouche, but insisted that "what goes on at his [LaRouche's] home has nothing to do with the camp" or Campaigner Publications.