The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors narrowly approved a final county redistricting plan at a special meeting Tuesday evening, despite an unexpected change of heart by Supervisor James Burton (I-Blue Ridge) that shocked his fellow supervisors and threatened to derail the process at the 11th hour.

The vote to issue final approval of a plan that establishes district boundaries, voting precincts and polling places for eight new election districts was expected to be straightforward, despite the absence of Chairman Scott York (I-At Large) and Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin), whose conflicting votes effectively canceled each other out.

But the board was left reeling when Burton suddenly announced that he had reconsidered his support of the preliminarily approved map – also known as the Miller 5 plan – leaving the board without the majority needed to pass the final plan.

“As you all know, from the beginning I’ve been strongly opposed to both the Miller plan and the [Home Owner’s Association] plan and their variances,” Burton said. “Three weeks ago I voted for the Miller plan. Since that time I’ve been trying very hard to convince myself that that vote was the right thing to do. I have not been very successful.”

After a stunned pause on the dais, supervisors asked County Attorney John R. Roberts what would happen if they were unable to approve a final redistricting plan.

“I will say that there is no Plan B, and there isn’t time for a Plan B, so if the board doesn’t adopt this, I don’t know what happens,” Roberts said, noting that the county would be unable to meet the deadline to submit a plan to the Department of Justice. “It will be a mess.”

Vice Chairman Susan Klimek Buckley (D-Sugarland Run) voiced her frustration with Burton’s unexpected declaration.

“Mr. Burton just dropped a bombshell. Such a huge bombshell that I’m questioning myself whether I heard it correctly,” she said. “I sit here quite amazed, quite disappointed.”

Ultimately, Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), who had previously voted against the plan, agreed to reverse his decision and support the final plan – out of respect to county staff, “who are getting some work done here on a regular basis,” he said.

Delgaudio noted that Sterling had “did well” in the redistricting process and that his constituents were pleased with the map.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to approve the plan tonight out of respect to the statutory deadlines,” he said.

Burton abstained from the final vote, and Supervisors Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) and Stevens Miller (D-Dules) maintained their opposition. The plan was passed with the support of Buckley, Delgaudio and Supervisors Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) and Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac.)