The Board of Supervisors put its official stamp of approval on an effort by Supervisor Stephen J. Snow (R-Dulles), real estate industry executives and others to change the way Loudoun County manages land-use and transportation policies along Route 50.
The ambitious and controversial effort represents a test of the governing philosophies of Snow and some other Republican county officials, who have argued that developers and other industry representatives have not had enough of a role in shaping the vision and rules for governing the nation's fastest-growing county.
The board formally created the Route 50 Task Force at its meeting Monday. The board then appointed seven task force members, including four representing the real estate industry, who have been working on the effort. The panel is to include 15 members.
The group is charged with developing a plan to turn Route 50 into a business- and commuter-friendly "gateway." The route would serve as an example of good planning by melding residential and commercial growth with historic preservation in a scenic and efficient overall package.
Task force members will conduct an overview of land-use and zoning regulations in the area and make recommendations to the county board. The group will also attempt to build support, and find money, for the possible widening from four to six lanes of an undetermined stretch of Route 50, Snow said.
"Right now, there's nothing. Richmond hasn't given us any money," Snow said. "If we get $1,000, or $1 million, it's better than zero."
But Snow's approach, in which he pulled together task force participants under the auspices of the board's land-use committee, which he chairs, raised some bipartisan concerns among colleagues.
Supervisor Lori L. Waters (R-Broad Run) expressed reservations about the process, saying the board should have first created the task force, then opened its membership to anyone interested by advertising the positions. That, she said, would have avoided the impression that the membership was "being ramrodded through."
"It seems like we're creating a task force that's already been appointed," Waters said.
Supervisor Jim G. Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said he was uncomfortable with what he called the real estate industry's disproportionate involvement in a group that will make recommendations for policies and regulations governing the industry.
"It's dominated by developers who stand to gain financially," Burton said. County officials, and not industry representatives, should be the driving force in the revision of county plans in the area near Dulles International Airport, he said.
Tens of thousands of residences have been proposed recently in the area, and Burton said the additional vehicle trips associated with those new homes would overwhelm whatever transportation improvements are being envisioned there by the task force.
But Supervisor James E. Clem (R-Leesburg) said it was vital that county officials come up with a vision for the area before they lose their chance.
"If you don't get ahold of that area down there and design it the way you want it, you're going to lose it in the not too distant future," Clem said.
Development representatives "are the ones that probably have a better feel about what can be done" in the area, he said.