The agenda was breathtakingly simple: a bunch of ordinary residents venting frustrations about the manner in which the Purcellville Town Council has been handling--some said "promoting"--the town's growth.
The solutions, though, were much more difficult to identify--much less to agree on--as about 200 residents of Purcellville found out during a nearly four-hour meeting Thursday at Blue Ridge Middle School.
The organizers of the meeting, an ad-hoc group called Concerned Citizens of Purcellville, acknowledged as much.
"We're just a bunch of citizens like yourselves," member Bill Druhan told the audience. "We're your friends and neighbors, and we hope to still be your friends and neighbors when we leave."
Members of Concerned Citizens--a dozen or so self-described "steamed up" residents--said they staged the "good old-fashioned town meeting" as a way to start a discussion about alternatives to the council's approach, which has been criticized informally by some residents for almost a year.
"What we wanted to do is get your ideas and comments down," said Mary Moorcones, a member of the group. "Then we'll try to get them organized and take them to the Town Council."
Last summer, the council approved the first phase of a 10-year urban growth management plan that includes as many as 450 new houses and 50 acres of new commercial development. Loudoun County officials required the town to adopt a plan so that the two governments could coordinate long-range plans for roads, schools and other needs. Town leaders said they hope to pay for new infrastructure with fees that developers must pay for water and sewer hookup to each new house.
Much of the new residential development will be on land the council is likely to annex soon: the 92-acre Case farm and the 120-acre Jost farm.
Evidence that the proposed annexations have been unpopular in town was everywhere Thursday night: Bright red "No Annex" signs were planted in yards and tacked to telephone poles on roads leading to the school.
The signs--as well as publicity about the meeting--drew the attention of elected officials. In attendance Thursday were county Supervisor Eleanor C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge) and Board of Supervisors Chairman Dale Polen Myers (R-At Large), Purcellville Mayor John Marsh and Calvert County Board of Commissioners President Linda L. Kelley (R-Owings).
Kelley was invited to speak on growth management techniques used in Calvert--the fastest-growing county in Maryland, with a population that rose from 34,000 in 1980 to 75,000 this year.
Members of Concerned Citizens used statistics to summarize the extent of the growth issues facing Purcellville--the hub of growth in western Loudoun, which is the third fastest-growing county in the country.
An additional 4,818 houses could be built in Purcellville by 2045, the group said, and traffic in town could double. The population could jump from the current 2,800 people to 18,000 by 2045--about three-quarters of Leesburg's current size. That could lead to a rise in crime and higher taxes, the group warned. Its fact sheets posed the question: "Do you want to live in a city?"
A list of possible preventive measures emerged within a few hours: find out how much water is available to the town, preserve green space, don't approve new development until schools and streets have been built.
Druhan said he would like to see the town defer the annexations of the two farms--and any future annexations--until the town has the needed infrastructure in place.
But of the dozen or so residents who rose to speak, many just wanted to express their anxiety about the inevitable.
"It's enough for us to lose our quality of life," said Arlene Chapman, a resident of Purcellville for five years. "But to pay for it is very frustrating."
CAPTION: Charles Pollock speaks Thursday at what was billed as a "good old-fashioned town meeting" in Purcellville to address growth concerns. The meeting, which attracted about 200 residents, was organized by an ad-hoc group called Concerned Citizens of Purcellville.