Democrat Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz and Republican Richard L. Roberts squared off Thursday night over Loudoun's rapid growth and the increasing pressure to preserve the rural western end of the county.

At a candidates debate in Lovettsville, Kurtz, 54, sharply criticized her opponent's record as Catoctin Ridge District supervisor from 1992 to 1996. Roberts lost a bid for the GOP nomination for chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 1995 to current Chairman Dale Polen Myers (R-At Large). Kurtz and Roberts are running for the seat being vacated by Helen A. Marcum.

Branding Roberts as pro-development, Kurtz said: "In his tenure, he voted in favor of over 19,000 new units. His voting record accelerated our growth rate. Our new board must balance what new development comes in. In the past, they sold the value of Loudoun cheap."

Roberts, 43, disputed Kurtz's portrayal, saying the county's general plan--a guide for growth--is "in need of an overhaul."

"We need to focus on making sure that we are improving the valuable rural character of Loudoun," he said, expressing disappointment that Kurtz continues to focus on the past.

The event, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Sterling Foundation, was one of a series in advance of the Nov. 2 elections.

Before a crowd of about 50 in the Lovettsville Community Center, the two candidates agreed on the need to encourage home-based businesses in the county's western end and said they are concerned about the burgeoning responsibilities of the county's dwindling number of volunteer firefighters.

Asked how the county should pay for new schools and improvements to existing facilities, the two offered different strategies.

Kurtz said she would push for enactment of a so-called affordability index, which would allow the county to stop issuing residential building permits if it could not afford the new schools and other capital facilities the new residents would necessitate.

Roberts said he would dedicate any new revenue to capital needs and would work to find ways to save money during construction.

In the area of transportation, both candidates said they support road improvements along Routes 15, 9 and 287 to alleviate congestion.

"Anybody who drives those roads knows they are, quite literally, killers," Roberts said. "They're overtaxed now, and they're going to kill more people. If we do nothing on Route 15, it becomes the western bypass."

Roberts, who runs a strategic planning business with his wife from their Waterford home, served on the Finance and Education/Public Safety committees during his four years as supervisor. Kurtz, a former high school special-ed teacher and nurse, runs a tree nursery in Lovettsville.

In her opening remarks, Kurtz attacked her opponent as being at "the center of an ethics scandal" in 1995 when he admitted accepting a free stay at the beach house of a member of the Hazel Thomas law firm. At the time, the firm was representing the Lansdowne rezoning before the Board of Supervisors, she said.

Roberts told the audience that although he did stay at a beach house, he was seeking solace after his best friend committed suicide. He declined to say whose house it was, adding that it was time to move on and stop dredging up the past.

"It was a friendly gesture. I was grieving over the loss of my friend," he said later. "It's an old story."

Some in the audience said they were dismayed by Kurtz's repeated criticisms of Roberts's record, saying that she should have given more specifics about her own ideas and plans if elected.

"There was so much negativity from beginning to end, instead of sticking to the issues," said Mickey McDowell, 68, of Lovettsville.

CAPTION: Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz

CAPTION: Richard L. Roberts