The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors yesterday approved a growth management plan for the Town of Purcellville that sets guidelines for the next decade's growth in the western Loudoun agricultural and commercial hub.
Supervisors voted 8 to 0 to approve the document, an amendment to the Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan. Supervisor Steven D. Whitener (R-Sugarland) was absent.
The revised plan, approved last week by the Purcellville Town Council, delineates areas along the town's borders where development will be allowed during the next decade. Construction projects outside those areas--on land that is adjacent to the town but not included in the 10-year map--will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The county required the town to develop the plan and submit it for the board's approval so that the two governments could coordinate long-range plans for roads, schools and other needs spurred by growth.
"I saw this as a good example of the town, the county and the citizens all working together to give us a good growth management strategy," said Supervisor Eleanore C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge), whose district includes Purcellville.
Among the most critical needs is an adequate water supply. The town's reservoir has run low in the last year--twice spurring voluntary water restrictions--and some residents worry that the growth plan will only promote more development and exacerbate the water problem.
The Town Council said it had addressed the issue by including a new $7.3 million water and wastewater treatment plant in this year's town budget. The council said the plant, which is being built south of town on land annexed by the council last summer, would serve new development and replace the town's aging sewer and water system.
Town officials acknowledge that paying for the plant will require growth and the fees it brings: $9,000 for each new house to hook up to the sewer and water system.
Supervisor James G. Burton (I-Mercer), who said he was voting "reluctantly" for the plan, cautioned the town that the water and sewer pressures associated with growth won't necessarily go away just because the town now has a growth plan and a contract for a new treatment plant.
"The idea of adding growth to a town to pay for a sewer plant, I have a problem with that as a way to pay for growth," Burton said. "I think you are setting the stage to accelerate your problems."
In the years leading up to yesterday's vote, many of the town's 2,800 residents disagreed with the council about the benefits of the plan. But Mayor John D. Marsh and council members have said it is essential for orderly development.
The guidelines give the council a visual aid in considering annexation requests: Property owners with land within the 10-year map who want their property annexed will receive priority. Two properties--the 94-acre Case farm, which is being developed by Bruce Brownell, and the 147-acre Hirst farm, which is being developed by Jim Jost--already are in line.
Marsh said the plan looks out for people who already live in town by making sure that they don't pay for growth. "It was our feeling that the new residents coming in should bear the cost," Marsh said.
Vice Mayor Lisa G. Payne said Purcellville is surrounded by property owners who want the town to annex their land so that the developments can have access to the town's water and sewer systems.
"This is Virginia," Payne said yesterday. "This is a pro-landowners' place. Our laws don't give us many options. This [plan] is one of the few ways we have."
Some residents told the council that they would gladly pay higher fees rather than put up with growth. These residents accused the council of backing itself into a corner: The town needs the sewer and water hook-ups fees to help pay for the new plant. To get enough hook-ups, the town must bring more land into its boundaries.
"The town is a jewel for developers, and the Town Council knows it," said Bill Druhan, a resident of 20 years.
The council will take up the Case and Hirst annexations in September. The council could vote on the annexations then, or it could request more information, which would delay action indefinitely.