Purcellville Plan Imprudent

As a Hillsboro resident, I usually keep out of Purcellville politics. Yet Purcellville's growth policies increasingly affect all of western Loudoun. The Town Council and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors recently approved the new Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan amendments, despite local residents' concerns. Unfortunately, the plan tries to solve Purcellville's water supply problems by adding to them. Oops! I forgot. Purcellville does not officially admit that it has a water supply problem. Unlike every other municipal authority in Loudoun, it has no water restrictions, not even voluntary ones. And the new developments, we are assured, will pay for the water improvements they require. But money is not the only resource needed.

Where is the water going to come from? Various options are spelled out in Purcellville's Water and Sewer Master Plan. One set of options, which involves increasing our reservoir capacity, drawing more from existing wells and identifying more springs, is described as merely an interim measure, not adequate for the full build-out population. And that's correct. All too many of Purcellville's neighbors are already struggling to sink wells deep enough to reach our sinking water table. I have heard of wells still failing to meet recharge tests at 700 feet. Is it just the drought that's responsible? No. Western Loudoun has had worse droughts--but it has never had so many people using so much water during one. What do we do if Purcellville's growth plans exceed the capacity of our natural groundwater resources? What do the planners have in mind?

Long-term solutions, according to the master plan, will require drawing water from the Potomac or the Shenandoah, either directly or through the Loudoun County Sanitation Authority. Who is going to pay for that? And what will the result be? The answers are all too obvious. Even more growth would be needed to fund a river intake or a supply line from the sanitation authority. And houses would spring up along such a pipeline's route like mushrooms after a spring rain.

Voters to Stop Sprawl recommends groundwater supply tests before wells are approved to keep new wells from depleting the supplies of older, existing wells. But that's not all we need to do. We need to revise our water recharge standards. We need to hold the line against tapping the river. Most of all, we need to scale back Purcellville's growth management plan. Does anybody really want Purcellville's population to quadruple? That's where we are headed under the plan. The new phasing guidelines were supposed to help slow that down, but they have a significant loophole, allowing out-of-phase development for any contiguous landowner.

In light of all this, the supervisors' request for bond funding for swimming pools is astonishing. They are asking the voters to approve two big new swimming pools, when we do not know where the money to pay for them, or the water to fill them, will come from. Obviously, they could raise taxes again to pay the bonds. But they may find the taxpayers' patience as depleted as the water supply.


Candidate for

Blue Ridge supervisor