An article in the Oct. 6 Loudoun Extra about a Loudoun County Planning Commission hearing misidentified an organization with which Andrea McGimsey of Ashburn is affiliated. The organization is the Campaign for Loudoun's Future. (Published 10/9/2005)
On any other night, 6-year-old Wyatt Cury-Joyner might have been playing at home with his brother, Reid, 13. But on Monday night, he was waiting in a long line to speak before the Loudoun County Planning Commission.
The boys had come in matching jeans and collared shirts to the County Government Center to attend the commission's public hearing on a controversial proposal to rezone a portion of the southern part of the county.
Both boys are home-schooled by their mother, Valerie Cury-Joyner, at their Purcellville home, where she has taught them about growth and its effects on residents.
"I've taught them to care about the community," Cury-Joyner said.
As they waited, along with about 150 others who wanted to address the commission, Wyatt practiced his comments, albeit a bit nervously. "Children are the future of Loudoun County. . . . Are you, are you going to leave us with so much debt and so much traffic and so many schools to build?" he asked, before hiding behind his mother.
Critics and proponents alike lined up Monday night to offer their two cents' worth on Comprehensive Plan Amendment 2003-2005, which would permit nearly six times as many homes as current zoning allows in the Upper Foley and Upper Broad Run transition areas. The amendment must be approved by the commission and the Board of Supervisors.
Nearly an hour before the start of the hearing, the line of speakers already snaked back and forth through the lobby several times. When the proceedings finally began, people were standing shoulder to shoulder inside the board room. Some were asked to leave after making their comments to create space for those lined up outside.
For the first 11/2 hours of the six-hour hearing, speaker after speaker -- including representatives of developer Greenvest LC -- rose to endorse the amendment. After about 30 minutes, amendment opponents who were stuck in the hall began chanting, "Let the citizens in!" and "Where's the public process?" Some critics complained that employees of the developer were taking up seats, keeping opponents outside.
Planning Commissioner John D. Herbert (Catoctin) was the only member absent; the hearing was held on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and Herbert had complained about the timing.
Given the high turnout, many people said more public hearings were necessary. The commission has raised the possibility of another hearing, but no date has been set.
The commission held two public hearings, one in March and one in April, and an open house the last week of September. But Ed Gorski, a land-use officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council, which opposes the amendment, noted that this hearing was the first time residents could respond to the county's projections of the amendment's impact.
"Before, there was nothing specific to talk about," Gorski said.
The projections show that the amendment could result in 23,406 new homes, 63,144 new residents and 12,340 new students in the affected area. Ten more schools and 10 more parks would be needed to provide services to the larger population, the county said.
Opponents showed up at the hearing holding signs reading, "What's the Rush?" and wearing orange stickers saying, "Don't Supersize Loudoun!" They cited higher taxes and increased gridlock as reasons for their opposition.
But supporters of the amendment cited the inevitability of growth in Loudoun, one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation.
They also said that new homes would make living more affordable for young people and that developers would help build roads and bring amenities -- including a proposed George Mason University campus -- to the transition area.
"I am not supporting limitless growth," said Rose Ellen Ray, who lives in the Blue Ridge District and supports the amendment. "But we all know people are coming to Loudoun County. You're young, you've got a job here, where are you going to live?" she said.
Aubrey Skinner of Leesburg agreed, saying: "I've seen Loudoun transform from cornfields to one of the most sought-after places to live. People are moving here, and we need a place to put them."
But Andrea McGimsey of the nonprofit group Loudoun's Future, said the commission was not giving residents the full picture.
"We've got the data, and we don't believe your marketing spin," she told commissioners.