A Landowner Fires Back

I would like to comment on Mark Steckbeck's recent letter regarding support for slowing development in Loudoun County ["3 Questions for the County," Jan. 23]. It is his mind-set that would see the total homogenization and destruction of our historic landscape. Mr. Steckbeck claims that there is but a pittance of support for growth controls in Loudoun due to voter apathy and activities by "a coterie of well-organized activists having co-opted the forces of government to maximize personal benefits." What poppycock. To prove his point, I recommend that Mr. Steckbeck walk along Route 7 in Sterling at 7:30 a.m. with a sign that says "Honk if you love Sprawl" and see how many happy faces and thumbs-up he gets.

I am a landowner in western Loudoun. I am not an activist (yet). In Mr. Steckbeck's world, our lives our improved by fewer farms, dirt roads and forest, and more town homes, megamalls, outlet centers, four-lane parkways and traffic lights. He calls tax incentives to slow development payoffs to western landowners but does not bother to comment on the activities of past county boards that gave carte blanche to big developers (from out of state) to destroy the character of our county with, in Mr. Steckbeck's words, "reckless abandon," and then expect us to pay for it. We pay for it in many ways, every day.

Wallace Stegner said that you won't know who you are if you don't know where you are. We know who we are here and will not easily give up that identity. Loudoun was recently called one of America's 10 most endangered landscapes. I would wager that a large percentage of people in this county support the activities of those who would slow growth and ensure that our children can enjoy what we have today. I know that development cannot be stopped, but it can be done in a way that preserves important natural and agricultural areas and allows the character of our communities to remain.



Taking the Fight to Town

What a great feeling it is to have a smart-growth Board of Supervisors beginning their terms as we begin the new millennium! There is much reason to rejoice, but hard work and difficult choices lie ahead that will require citizen support and participation. As Chairman York's Transition Team so deftly discovered, much of our uncontrolled growth problem emanates at the town level in Loudoun County.

Town elections are just around the corner from the perspective of fund-raising and producing campaigns that reach and resonate with voters. Voters to Stop Sprawl was established on the county level, but we have been approached by citizens encouraging us to become involved in town elections. We are not a town organization. In fact, we are expanding on a statewide level. However, we do understand the great importance of having smart-growth candidates elected to town offices if we really want to stop uncontrolled growth in Loudoun.

Voters to Stop Sprawl wants to encourage true smart-growth citizens to run for town offices this spring by offering our assistance. We are willing to provide advice and guidance to candidates who commit to implementing anti-sprawl measures at the town level and who believe in open government with citizen involvement. We would like to hear from citizens who are concerned about growth and development around their towns and are considering a run for town office. The new energy and ideas we now have at the county level are also critically needed at the town level.

This is a real chance to make a difference in Loudoun County as we move into the 21st century. Many of you have the ability to make a difference and we want to help. Anyone who is interested in turning Loudoun County around on the town level with the assistance of Voters to Stop Sprawl can reach me at 703-779-4830.


Voters to Stop Sprawl


Monopole Doesn't Fit In

As our newly elected supervisors make their New Year's list for changes to the Comprehensive Plan, we strongly suggest they include new language for the Strategic Land Use Plan for Telecommunication Facilities. The village of Philomont is a case in point.

Crown Castle International Corp. has signed a contract with the Philomont Volunteer Fire Department to erect a 170 ft. telecommunication monopole behind the fire department. This is adjacent to the Philomont Community Center, preschool and playground and within the residential village of Philomont. The plan gives Crown Castle and PVFD "by right" use of their property for this purpose, meaning they are not subject to the scrutiny of the public hearing process that is usually required of any commercial structures.

This monopole, the equivalent to approximately a 15-story building, will be a spire with up to six platforms, with wires, protruding every 10 feet from the top of the pole down. Crown Castle will lease space on the monopole; each new lease being another platform; and the PVFD will receive $23,000 per year. This monopole will have at it's base one concrete housing unit (approximately 15'x8'x12') for each space they lease on the pole. Crown Castle and the PVFD made a presentation of their proposal before residents of Philomont.

Considering the population that will be affected by this, very few were informed of this meeting. Those who attended are supportive of the PVFD but were very vocal in their objections to the monopole. However, the plan denies residents the right to participate in the decision making process, even though this monopole will affect every one of us who lives in Philomont to Bluemont, to Purcellville and beyond. The visual impact, as mentioned several times in the Strategic Plan regarding monopoles, is being completely ignored. Safety and health concerns were brushed aside, but did not alleviate the fears of many parents with small children attending the preschool and after-school programs at the community center.

All of this places the residents of Philomont in a terrible predicament. We value our firefighters and want to support them in their endeavors, yet when faced with something which has such a negative impact upon a large population, we cannot support this contract when there are so many other options available. In rural areas where tall structures are not readily available, telecommunications towers can be disguised as flagpoles, silos, false chimneys on existing buildings, trees, etc.. Obviously, these options would lower the pole to slightly higher than treetop level, which is well within the county zoning ordinance regarding cell towers in rural areas.

Again, none of us wish to be in conflict with our community fire department who dedicate their time and put their lives on the line for us. However, we feel compelled to protect the beauty of the village of Philomont, the Snickersville Turnpike, a scenic byway, and the views of the surrounding mountains. We do not support this telecommunications tower as it presently stands. We urge the Board of Supervisors to work with the Philomont Volunteer Fire Department and Crown Castle to adhere to the present zoning ordinance and the Strategic Land Use Plan for Telecommunication Facilities regarding the visual impact of the community and the scenic Blue Ridge.








Deputy Pay Raise Revisited

I have received inquiries about my letter ["Pay Raise Clarified," Jan. 6] explaining the deputy pay raise situation. The question I have been asked is, "Where did the money go that Loudoun County received from the State Compensation Board?" Here is an explanation of where the money went:

The money in question was given to Loudoun County by the State Compensation Board for those personnel who are funded by the Compensation Board. Presently, there are 321.25 Full Time Employee (FTE) positions in the Sheriff's Department. Of those, 156 are partially funded by the Compensation Board (we receive funding based on our population). The county picks up the tab for the other 165.25 positions. The amount of money Loudoun gets for the Compensation Board personnel is approximately $4.4 million. The county adds approximately $2.3 million to that amount to supplement what the state gives us for just the Compensation Board personnel and approximately $4.4 million for the other 165.25 FTEs. If we relied solely on the State Compensation Board for funding, we would, in my opinion, have an inadequately funded Sheriff's Department. Adding up the above numbers, the total Loudoun County budget for the Sheriff's Department for just salaries is approximately $11.1 million (with only $4.4 million from the state). The total budget for the Sheriff's Department for FY 2000 is $19,767,607. As you can see, the state only gives us money for some of the deputies, and not 100 percent of their salaries.

To answer the question about where the raise money went: Not only did we use the entire amount of money the State Compensation Board sent us (approximately $275,000), but in order to give the deputies the raises they did receive, the county had to ante up another approximately $25,000. It should be noted that the personnel eligible to receive the raise from the Compensation Board included support personnel such as office staff and dispatchers. However, the sheriff directed that only deputies would get any raise based on the Compensation Board contribution, so all the dispatchers and support staff received was the basic 3.5 percent increase, which all county employees received.

The starting salary that the Compensation Board supports is $5,000 less than we pay our lowest paid deputies (we make up the difference to stay competitive). The maximum salary level (top of the pay band) is almost $8,000 higher than the Compensation Board's maximum salary. To be specific, the Compensation Board has a starting minimum salary for a deputy of $22,097, which is for a Grade 7 Deputy (we actually start our deputies at $27,836) and a maximum deputy salary of $35,258 (with our supplement, the cap is $35,258). Within 12-18 months of graduation from the academy, the minimum salary usually jumps about $2,000 annually, bringing the lowest paid deputy up to a salary of about $30,000 after 12 to 18 months on the job.

As of Dec. 31, there were 61 deputies with annual salaries that are higher than the Compensation Board's maximum salary. Based on my motion on Dec. 15, the county administrator will work to make changes to the deputies pay system through the budget process. I am confident the Board of Supervisors will take the appropriate action to remedy the problem. We have an excellent cadre of dedicated public, safety personnel (deputies and firefighters). They must be fairly compensated.


Former County Supervisor




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