The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, acting after a surprise eleventh-hour compromise between landowners and historic preservationists, approved a plan yesterday designed to protect the Village of Waterford from excessive growth.
On a 7-to-1 vote, the supervisors adapted the Waterford Area Management Plan, a document that sets guidelines for land-use decisions around the village, which is listed by the U.S. Interior Department as a National Historic Landmark and draws thousands each autumn to the famous Waterford Craft Fair.
The original draft of the plan inflamed the owners of nearby farms through its endorsement of rezoning the rolling pastures around Waterford to reduce the density of what could be built on them. That would protect the historic setting of the 18th Century village, which some residents describe as "a jewel on a setting of green," but it would also lower the sales value of the properties.
The plan also recommends extension of a "historic district" in which new buildings are subject to architectural review by a county-appointed committee.
If excessive growth comes to Waterford, some residents maintain, the village's unique character and its listing on the historic register would be jeopardized.
The farmers, some of whose families have worked the land for generations, protested that downzoning -- a reduction on the number of houses a developer could build -- would strip them of their wealth if a poor agricultural economy forces them to sell their land.
Although many observers predicted the two positions were irreconcilable, county attorneys and planning officials worked until the start of yesterday's meeting to craft a compromise.
The compromise included adding language to the Waterford plan "that private property rights and values be protected to the greatest extent possible . . . . "
Moreover, the supervisors agreed to complete within six months a study detailing precisely how the village's character would be affected by development of specific parcels of property.
To extend the historic district, reduce the zoning of land or impose any of the Waterford plan's other recommendations would require separate actions by the supervisors that would not be taken until the study is complete, officials said.
The strong preservationist sentiment among Waterford villagers -- an eclectic combination of longtime residents, artists and commuting professionals of more recent vintage -- has made the community a favorite punching bag of Loudoun's conservative politicians, who believe that preservationists, in their zeal to preserve a charming atmosphere, cast property rights to the wind.
Many supervisors praised the compromise yesterday as evidence that both interests can be accommodated.
"We recognized historic preservation, we recognized private equity, and we found common ground," said Supervisor Thomas S. Dodson (D-Mercer), a consistent preservationists supporter.