Loudoun County's incoming Board of Supervisors likely will hold public hearings on Saturdays instead of the traditional Wednesday evening slots in an effort to make it more convenient for county residents to attend.
The move, proposed Saturday by chairman-elect Scott K. York (R-At Large) during an orientation meeting for the incoming board, was offered as an alternative to once-a-month weekday hearings that sometimes drag on late into the night.
"I think it would be easier on the public, and it would be easier on us," York said.
York also suggested moving the board's twice-monthly meetings from Wednesday to Monday to allow more newspaper readers to receive the news the same week and to make the sessions more convenient for board members who hold outside jobs.
Both proposals were welcomed by supervisors-elect, who said they hope Saturday public hearings would make the political process more accessible to residents who find it difficult to appear late in the evening because they have children and to those who commute and may not make it home in time.
"Having it all on Wednesdays is a marathon," said Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz (D-Catoctin). "Saturday hearings open it up to families who might want to have one member of the family go to a soccer game and have one family member come express their opinions."
Supervisor-elect William D. "Bill" Bogard (I-Sugarland Run) said that as a former civic activist, he knows the frustration of waiting for hours to speak at a public hearing. "I've sat at those public hearings, and by about 11 or 12 o'clock when your issue comes up, people have gone home," Bogard said. "Hopefully this will enhance the public process."
York said microphones would be set up in a meeting room at the Loudoun County Government Center so residents who cannot wait to speak before the board can have their comments recorded and transcribed for the supervisors.
York noted he will reconsider the proposal if the prospect of Saturday public hearings presents a problem for people who have religious obligations on Saturday. "We'll see how it goes," York said. "There's no perfect solution."
Aside from the proposed scheduling changes, the orientation meeting at Rust Library in Leesburg was largely an overview of the county government's structure and financial status, and nuts and bolts of the budget process.
The new supervisors-elect, who are planning to meet with the county's legislators Dec. 4 to continue their orientation, said they are ready to begin lobbying for growth-control measures that will be offered in the next session of the Virginia General Assembly. The group also will meet with the incoming School Board on Dec. 4 to discuss the proposed school budget.
The newly elected county board will hold its first official meeting Jan. 5--a Wednesday--regardless of any decisions to change regular meeting days. At that meeting, York's transition team, which has been meeting with county residents and groups, is scheduled to present a report on a "smart growth strategy."
The team consists of Paul Ziluca, of Upperville; Alfred Van Huyck, of Round Hill; Gem Bingol, of Leesburg; Bill Conner, of Sterling; and Ray Chamberlain, of Ashburn. It will hold a public input session from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 29 at Eastern Regional Library.
Last week, according to a statement issued by the team, its members met with representatives of Toll Brothers Inc., a developer with large projects planned in Loudoun, and the American Association of Retired Persons, the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Rural Economic Development Task Force and the Open Space Advisory Committee.