Loudoun County leapt into the fray last week over a proposed day laborer hiring site in Herndon that would sit on property that extends across the Fairfax County border into Loudoun.
Loudoun officials said the site needs zoning approval from Loudoun as well as from the Town of Herndon and might need a special-exception zoning permit because the site is zoned for residential, not commercial, use. Nearby residents said a hiring center would bring more traffic and depress property values.
"These people are going to be coming from all over. . . . They're going to be walking everywhere," said Kathy Brocke, whose Sterling Park home is about two miles from the proposed center. "This is wrong. It's in a residential area."
Supporters say creating an official hiring site would keep laborers from gathering at an informal site in a 7-Eleven parking lot on Elden Street in Herndon. The site attracts as many as 150 men every morning.
The tax-funded center would be operated by a nonprofit group, Project Hope and Harmony, in a parking lot at Rock Hill and Sterling roads, an intersection flanked by tidy townhouse developments. The border between Fairfax and Loudoun runs through the building on the property: the Herndon police station. The police are relocating. The hiring site would be on the Herndon side, but its driveway is in Loudoun.
In an unofficial evaluation of the proposal, Loudoun Zoning Administrator Melinda Artman said that using the property for a day laborer center would require a special-exception permit. The site also would need to be operated by the Town of Herndon, she said.
That prompted Loudoun Administrator Kirby M. Bowers to write a letter Aug. 3 to Herndon Town Manager Stephen F. Owen urging Herndon officials to "address all the outstanding zoning issues" with the property. Owen said those issues were under review but emphasized that "the proposed day-labor center is not in Loudoun at all."
Meanwhile, some Loudoun residents have hired Leesburg lawyer Thomas M. Dunlap to help draw attention to what they say is Herndon's attempt to circumvent approval by Loudoun. Dunlap said the law requires that Herndon seek a special exception from Loudoun.
Sterling resident Colleen Pittard, one of Dunlap's clients, said she thinks laborers would use a path behind her home to get to the center, which she said would hurt property values. Loudoun officials should block the proposal, she said.
"I don't agree with taxpayer dollars being used for a center for people when we can't even determine their legal status," Pittard said.
Pittard and Brocke both said they would oppose the center even if it were created in a commercial zone entirely in Herndon.
Not everyone in the neighborhood is against the hiring site. Eiko Shu, who lives on the Loudoun side in a townhouse one block from the parking lot, said she would not have a problem with the center, provided that it was well managed and workers did not come to her cul-de-sac. She said, however, that many of her neighbors are worried.
Loudoun Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) has voiced opposition to the hiring site. Supervisor Stephen J. Snow (R-Dulles) said he was reserving judgment until he and other Loudoun residents -- who might not have been paying attention to the debate over the proposal, believing it would not affect their jurisdiction -- learned more.
"This is too much, too fast," he said. Snow said he was "leaning toward taking care of the citizens in my district. . . . We certainly don't want to just move the problem from the town of Herndon to the periphery."
The Herndon Town Council is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue, and possibly a vote, Tuesday.