A group of influential Loudoun County residents has formed the Catoctin Mountain Alliance to fight development on the mountain, particularly the proposed Beacon Hill development, a 2,082-acre estate in the Catoctins just west of Leesburg.

A partnership that includes former secretary of state Alexander M. Haig Jr. is planning to build a guest ranch for the wealthy, a private club with a championship quality golf course and 500 exclusive homes on a parcel that once belonged to entertainer Arthur Godfrey and later to Tala Bin Abdulaziz, a Saudi Arabian prince.

The protest group, headed by B. Powell Harrison, president of Oatlands, a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation outside Leesburg, said it is opposed to the partnership's request that the county's Rural Land Management Plan be amended to allow the development because it could "open the way for unlimited new residential communities throughout Loudoun's agricultural heartland."

Harrison, whose home is across the road from Beacon Hill on Rte. 7, said the group opposes the developer's request for a special exception to the agricultural zoning ordinance that allows one house for every three acres.

The developer is asking the county to allow four houses on three acres.

James Wordsworth, a partner and spokesman for the project, said he was disappointed with the group, with which he has been working closely.

"This project has been delayed for nine months because of this group's concerns, and I'm disappointed after all the time, effort, good will and good intent we've put into our meetings that they've chosen to go to the press instead of discussing this with us," Wordsworth said.

The Rural Land Management Plan was an effort of county staff members, developers and residents to regulate land development in Loudoun's mostly rural western end.

Beacon Hill is the first sizable development that has been proposed there.

"The rural land plan is an outstanding example of forward thinking and planning," Harrison said.

"We should not allow it to be torn asunder to suit this developer's particular needs."