One day after the Virginia House of Delegates rebuffed a measure to preserve open spaces in Loudoun County, Supervisor Frank Raflo offered a biting analysis of the defeat yesterday: "We little county boys got taken, because we didn't have the chips to cash in."
Ralfo was still smarting from action the House took Monday, referring back to committee a bill that would have granted Loudoun the authority to implement a transferable development rights program. The action killed the bill's chances for passage in this year's General Assembly session. Transferable development rights champions such as Raflo hailed the plan as a way to help channel the county's development boom to sections of Loudoun already developed, while blunting the encroachment of growth on rural areas.
The target of Raflo's scorn was Richmond's real estate and home building lobbies, which are being credited with its defeat. "They sent it to death and oblivion," Raflo said.
Sen. Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun), the bill's sponsor in the Virginia Senate, said letters distributed to legislators this week by the Virginia Association of Realtors were crucial in blocking the measure, as were other aggressive lobbying efforts.
Ralfo accused the lobbies of waging a deceitful campaign by portraying transferable development rights as a major threat to Virginia's conservative traditions about land use, when in fact, he said, it is a moderate measure limited in scope to Loudoun County.
Among the arguments made by real estate lobbyists was that transferable development rights constitutes a form of "downzoning," a limit on a developer's right to develop his land.
Not all Loudoun politicians shared Raflo's disappointment. Supervisor Andrew R. Bird III, who led an unsuccessful fight against the measure before the Loudoun board approved it last month, said yesterday: "These people were literally trying to rewrite centuries of property law . . .[The bill] tried to redefine property rights."
Future attempts to pass such legislation, supporters said, may hinge on an expected opinion from Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, who was asked by Del. Robert T. Andrews Jr., a Republican whose district includes parts of Loudoun and Fairfax counties, to give an opinion on the constitutionality of the concept and whether local jurisdictions must seek state authority to implement a program.