Several landowners have sued the Loudoun County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, maintaining that the county's action deprived them of constitutional rights to use their land, according to County Attorney Ed Finnegan.

"The principal thing going on is that some people in the county are frustrated with what they can do under the existing zoning laws," said Bill Thomas, an attorney for the Beacon Hill Partnership of Bethesda, which has filed two suits against the Planning Commission. "The answer is not to deny {landowners} what they can do with their property. There's got to be another answer."

Thomas filed suit for the Beacon Hill Partnership after a public hearing Dec. 9 in which the Planning Commission turned down the partnership's request to build 15 houses on a 130-acre parcel of a 2,056-acre farm near Waterford.

The commission cited lack of suitable access roads and proper drainage fields for sewage septic tanks on the property, plus a failure to provide development plans for the whole farm.

"The application was complete, proper and legal under the existing county ordinances and we don't think {the commission} had the power to do what they did," Thomas said. "We politely made it very clear to the commission before the hearing that if they turned us down we had no other option than to go to court."

Citing a state statute that gives a landowner the right to have his proposal heard in court if not acted on within 60 days of submission to the Planning Commission, Thomas also filed suit against Loudoun's commission for failing to hear a Beacon Hill Partnership proposal to subdivide a 251-acre farm into 90 lots.

The Planning Commission agreed to hear the proposal at its Wednesday meeting, but Thomas has not withdrawn the suit.

In late October, Thomas Blankenship of Lucketts filed suit against the Planning Commission after a public hearing in which the commission turned down his application to subdivide 262 acres near the North Loudoun town of Wheatland because of insufficient water supply, inadequate access roads and failure to comply with the county's comprehensive plan. Blankenship's suit also seeks $2 million in damages.

The Planning Commission "bowed to public pressure rather than do what they should have done," said Blankenship, who is part owner of the property. "We did everything we were supposed to do within the law. They made a legal error and had no reason to do what they did. By turning us down, they deprived us of our right as a landowner."

Finnegan has filed papers maintaining that Blankenship's suit does not belong in court. The county attorney said he was in the process of doing the same for the Beacon Hill suits. No court date has been set for any of the suits.

Today, Finnegan is briefing the Planning Commission on the pending litigation, according to Pat Richardson, the new chairman of the commission. Until then, none of the commission members could comment on the lawsuits, Richardson said.

This month, Loudoun's Board of Supervisors was sued by the Miller and Smith Co. of McLean for denying the company's application to rezone the 357-acre Claude Moore property in eastern Loudoun. The company, whose ownership of the property is in dispute, wants to build 1,200 houses on the site. The supervisors want to buy the land and turn it into a county park with $15 million in bonds that county residents approved in a November referendum.

Claude Moore gave the property to the National Wildlife Federation about 10 years ago for an education center and wildlife preservation park. He is trying to sue the nonprofit organization, saying it does not have clear title to the land and sold it to Miller and Smith without his permission.

"I'm not worried. As supervisors we must make decisions as we feel they should be made without fear of suit," said Betty Tatum (D-Guilford), chairman of the board.

"I think the correctness of our decision is brought to light by the $15 million referendum the voters passed," she said. "We made the right decision for the people of Loudoun County."