Loudoun County supervisors took the first step yesterday toward paying landowners who agree to keep their property rural.

In an 8 to 1 vote, the Board of Supervisors asked a citizens advisory committee to work with county staff members to design a program that would allow the purchase of development rights. The board asked the committee to present the recommendation in December, and then supervisors will vote on the proposal.

It is still not clear how the program would be funded. Some favor using tax dollars, while others want to fund the program with private grants or a mixture of grants and tax money.

Supervisor Steven D. Whitener (R-Sugarland Run), who voted against the measure, called it a "welfare program for the rich." But other supervisors said they thought the program was needed to preserve rapidly developing farmland, particularly in western Loudoun.

Van Huyck Withdraws From Race

Alfred P. Van Huyck made it official this week: He is bailing out of the race for chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

Van Huyck, a planning commissioner and self-described advocate of "smart growth," made good on his pledge to get out of the race if incumbent Dale Polen Myers (R-At Large) ran as an independent.

Van Huyck, who had filed to run as an independent, said he did not want to split the slower-growth vote with Republican nominee Scott K. York, a supervisor from Sterling and a slow-growth advocate. He said four more years of Myers would be bad for the county and would lead to too much development. Myers filed as an independent after losing the GOP primary to York.

If Myers had decided not to run, Van Huyck said he would challenge York in an effort to raise the level of debate about how to manage growth in the county. But he did not pull out of the race immediately after Myers filed, saying he wanted to see if she was serious about her candidacy. This week, Van Huyck concluded that she is.

"Last week, Dale resigned from the Republican Party, a clear sign she does not intend to withdraw in the near future in spite of the urging from her own party, close colleagues and the general public," Van Huyck said in a statement.