A bipartisan majority on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted to oppose a proposal by Dominion Virginia Power Co. to remove trees and string power lines on one of the most scenic stretches of the Washington & Old Dominion trail.
At their regular meeting Tuesday, supervisors voted 7 to 1, with one abstention, to approve a resolution condemning the proposal to stretch the lines along the trail west of Leesburg.
"This will absolutely destroy a very unique commodity," said board Chairman Scott K. York (I). "This is no option."
The resolution, which York proposed, declared that "the proposed transmission line will impinge on the natural setting of the trail with the loss of 26,000 trees." Supervisors said they were prepared to fight the "ill-advised route scheme" if Dominion officials pushed ahead.
"What they are proposing is nothing less than the strip mining of Loudoun County," said board Vice Chairman Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), who joined with frequent rival York in opposing the trail route.
Tulloch said he supported the resolution "not because it's a Scott York initiative, but because it's the right thing to do. . . . This is not a Loudoun County issue. It is a regional issue."
Fairfax County has agreed to "join arms" with Loudoun to fight the proposed route, Tulloch added.
Le-Ha Anderson, a spokeswoman for Dominion, said that the company was already aware of the board's opposition but that the power company needed to consider stringing the lines along the trail.
"We have a responsibility to the rate payers, and to our shareholders, to look at the route where we currently have an easement," Anderson said, noting that the company has had the right to put up the lines along the trail for decades.
Still, Anderson said the anticipated opposition in Loudoun prompted Dominion to form a study group to look at several options, and she added that the utility company still had not settled on a "preferred" route to be submitted to the State Corporation Commission, the Richmond agency that regulates the placement of lines.
Anderson said the study group had already looked at Route 7 as a possible alternative, but she said the company had not calculated the costs of such a move, which would probably entail purchasing a right of way from the state as well as one from private landowners.
The board's resolution also called on Dominion to study burying its power lines throughout the county.
Anderson said that such a practice "would be extremely expensive, and it would also be a reliability issue. . . . The cost of burying lines is eight to 10 times what it would be to maintain overhead lines."
Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) opposed the board's resolution.
"Who's going to pay for these wonderful ideas?" he asked. "Who's going to pay for burying the lines? . . . The residents of Sterling will have to pay increased utility costs."
Supervisor Stephen J. Snow (R-Dulles), who abstained, said he lacked sufficient facts to judge the issue. "I will non-concur," Snow said before the vote.
York said his primary concern was getting the lines routed off the trail as it winds its way toward Purcellville under a canopy of trees.
"If we had our dream fulfilled, it will be buried. But I don't think that will happen," he said.
In other action Tuesday, the board voted to spend $13.5 million to purchase 101 acres in eastern Loudoun where the Islamic Saudi Academy scrapped plans to build a major campus. The school now plans to expand its facility in Fairfax County.
Loudoun plans to use the site for public education, although officials have not presented specific plans yet.
It was unclear why academy officials changed their plans for building in Loudoun.
"They're going to invest in their site in Fairfax County, and that's it," Tulloch said. "Their change in direction is to the benefit of Loudoun County citizens," he said, because the sales price of the prime property was relatively inexpensive.
The academy said in a statement, "Even with other offers to purchase the property, we would like to see the County of Loudoun be able to purchase the property for continued education uses, much like we had intended."