The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors appointed a committee largely made up of real estate industry representatives to oversee a review of the zoning law that governs county development.
Supervisors cast a series of ballots at their regular Tuesday meeting to fill nine seats on the new panel, which will cull ideas for changing the rules and help revise sections of the county's zoning ordinance.
Six of the appointees work in the development industry, sparking a new round of recriminations among supervisors who hold sharply divergent views on how the nation's fastest-growing county should shape its future. Backers of the new team said the industry expertise will help make what they say are much-needed fixes to county regulations and ease development hassles. Critics said the committee was packed with interested parties with a financial stake in the outcome of its deliberations.
Part of the conflict over the bureaucratically named Ad Hoc Zoning Ordinance Review Committee has been driven by a lack of clarity about the scope of its mandate. County staff members said the group was designed to help with the annual review of the zoning ordinance and would concentrate mostly on important but small tweaks. But supervisors said they expected that the group would be responsible for heavier lifting.
Board Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large), who opposed the creation of the panel, said he expected it would take up "all things big and small." Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) -- who, as the head of the pro-development Republican majority elected last November, has often clashed with York -- supported the formation of the group. He, too, said issues "big and small" would be taken up by the committee, although he declined to outline specifics.
Supervisor Jim G. Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said the committee was formed under the auspices of fixing "minor inconsistencies" but actually was designed to fashion rules more attractive to members of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, which represents home builders, developers and others working in the county.
"The official purpose is to help the zoning administrator to perform annual reviews," Burton said. "The unofficial purpose is to get the language changed so NVBIA members are more happy with it."
Supervisor D.M. "Mick" Staton Jr. (R-Sugarland Run) rejected that characterization, saying the committee would make narrow fixes that would make life easier for everyone subject to the often-complicated ordinance.
"The best analogy I can come up with is a software program. Every version of Microsoft Windows has bugs," Staton said, adding that the committee would work to fix them. "Jim Burton sees evil developers behind every tree he hugs," he said.
The appointees are: Brian Cullen, owner of Keane Enterprises LLC, a Loudoun-based real estate development firm; Sarah Howard-O'Brien, a former Loudoun County planner now working for Reed Smith LLP, one of the county's most prominent firms handling land-use law; Joseph Paciulli, a partner in the land-development consulting and engineering firm Paciulli, Simmons & Associates Ltd.; Patrick Quante, regional vice president of Bowman Consulting, a land-use consultancy; William M. Soltesz, who works in commercial real estate; C. Terry Titus, a surveyor and former planning commissioner; John Whitmore, a former planning commissioner; Franklin Hyatt, owner of Woodland Assisted Living in Lovettsville; and Stevens R. Miller, chief executive of Data Forensics Labs of Northern Virginia Inc., who often serves as an expert witness.
Supervisors said two more members, one appointed by the economic development commission and one by the rural economic development commission, would be added to the board at its next meeting.
Two residents representing opposite poles in the county's longstanding development debate were among dozens on the ballot who were not chosen for the committee -- Peggy Maio, former Loudoun representative for the Piedmont Environmental Council, and Dale Polen Myers, a real estate broker and former board chairman.