Two of the three candidates for supervisor from the Dulles District argued Thursday about how to slow growth, hold the line on taxes and prevent school crowding.
In a debate before a sparse crowd of about 25 people at Eastern Loudoun Regional Library in Sterling, Republican J. Drew Hiatt and independent Ellen D. Oliver sounded similar concerns about rapid residential development and how much it is costing for new schools and other services. And although they proposed similar solutions, they fiercely debated who would better be able to slow the construction of new houses.
A third candidate--independent James G. "Jim" Kelly--did not participate in the debate, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Sterling Foundation. Kelly also is running for chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors as an independent. (If he won both races, there would be a special election to fill the seat he did not want.)
Thursday's hour-long debate, one in a series being held before the November general election, repeatedly grew personal. Hiatt, 42, who runs a communications business, attacked Oliver's record as a former School Board member and scolded her for not signing a pledge against taking money from development interests. Oliver, 47, accused Hiatt of failing to abide by his own pledge not to take development donations and said Hiatt lied about her record.
In Loudoun, candidates for supervisor increasingly are squaring off about how best to slow residential growth--a dramatic change in a county where elected officials once welcomed new construction. The Dulles electoral district has seen intense residential and commercial development and many associated problems--crowded schools, traffic and complaints that services have not kept pace.
Hiatt invoked the name of Supervisor Scott K. York (R-Sterling), the slow growth advocate who in May won the GOP nomination for chairman of the Board of Supervisors in a campaign that focused on limiting development. Hiatt said that York's nomination was evidence of voters' feelings about growth and that he shares York's views.
"[Voters] want growth managed in this county," Hiatt said. "They want taxpayer subsidies for developers ended. . . . Dulles District voters have said clearly that for too long developers have had too much control over this Board of Supervisors and they want their board back."
Hiatt said developers need to pay more for schools and other facilities, which generally cost more than new residents pay in taxes; he said that would help hold the line on taxes. He also said the county needs to find ways to reduce school construction costs.
Oliver said that action needs to be taken immediately to limit construction of houses approved by county supervisors in previous years and that Hiatt's plans would not do that. She said that could be accomplished by implementing a proposal that would link the number of building permits that could be issued annually with the county's debt and ability to pay for schools and other services. She said she also supports fees on new construction to pay for schools.
"We are facing rapid growth," she said. "We cannot wait to address the 40,000 units that are in the pipeline now and will be built at rate of 4 to 5,000 units per year. . . ."
Oliver cited her experience on the School Board from the Broad Run District, saying that she has been involved in local issues for 10 years and has a good understanding of what needs to be done. Oliver resigned from the School Board in April after moving out of that district.
Both candidates said they favor rewriting the county's master plan for development to limit construction.
Campaign contributions also became a focus of the debate. Hiatt proclaimed that he is not taking money from development interests, saying they have gained too much influence over supervisors. He asked Oliver to sign a pledge not to accept such money.
Oliver countered by asking Hiatt to sign her own pledge that called for a prohibition on donations from political action committees and donations from outside the district. She said developers should not be singled out.
Oliver criticized Hiatt for taking a donation from Marriott International Inc., saying the company counted as a developer because it had a proposal pending before the county to build a hotel. Hiatt said he was not aware of the proposal and would research the issue and consider refunding the donation.
In turn, Hiatt attacked Oliver for accepting money from Supervisor Lawrence S. Beerman II (R-Dulles), saying the donation was linked indirectly to development interests because Beerman has accepted development money. Hiatt defeated Beerman in the GOP primary, and Hiatt sought to link him with Oliver.
According to campaign finance reports filed earlier this month, Oliver raised about $2,900 from July through August and has not spent any of that. Hiatt raised about $1,900 and would have just over $1,000 on hand once his debts were paid.
Kelly said he did not participate because he is focusing on the chairman's race and will address the same issues in that debate.
CAPTION: Two of three candidates for supervisor from the Dulles District, from left, Republican J. Drew Hiatt and independent Ellen D. Oliver, debated Thursday, but third candidate, independent James G. "Jim" Kelly, did not participate.