by Sandhya Somashekhar, The Washington Post
11 November 2007, p. T1
“The overwhelming victory of a slate of slow-growth candidates in the Loudoun Board of Supervisors race last week raises the specter of another abrupt shift on a board that in recent elections has swung dramatically between pro- and slow-growth philosophies.
“The swings have been criticized by developers and smart-growth activists alike, who say the members bring a measure of uncertainty to a land-use process that ought to be consistent and fair.
” ‘Here we go again,’ said developer John A. Andrews II, after voters Tuesday ousted four incumbents who had won office in 2003 on a pledge to loosen controls on growth. ‘Every four years it’s the same thing.’
“Board Chairman Scott K. York (I), one of eight winning candidates who campaigned on a promise to rein in ‘overdevelopment,’ said Thursday that it is premature to put ideological labels on the new board, which includes four Democratic newcomers whom York said he barely knows.
“He said he hopes the panel will continue the legacy of the 2000-04 board, which sought to control development in the county’s rural west, concentrate most of the building in the suburban east and preserve a semi-rural zone in between. Several of the candidates who won seats Tuesday concurred with that approach during their campaigns.
” ‘What I hope occurs with this board is that we will end up taking an approach that is a little sturdier [than the current board], following up on what the previous board did and not salivating to open up much of the county to a higher density of residential growth, which is what some members of the current board wanted to do,’ York said.
“York cited protection of the ‘transition area,’ which serves as a buffer between the east and the rural two-thirds of the county, as a high priority. The board last year considered opening up the transition area to suburban-style development, but the proposal to allow as many as 33,800 houses in the area known as Dulles South ultimately failed.
“When the pro-growth Republican majority swept into office in 2003, one of their main goals was to turn back the previous board’s stringent restrictions on building in western Loudoun. The Republicans said those rules, which had reduced the total number of houses allowed in the rural west from about 37,000 to 10,000, impinged on landowners’ rights to do what they wanted with their properties.
“After the Virginia Supreme Court threw out the regulations on a technicality, the Republican-led board approved rules allowing the development of about 18,000 houses. York was among those who favored a stricter set of regulations.
“Asked last week whether the new board would revisit that policy, York said it was far too early to know how the board would handle any specific issue. But he added that he expects ‘nothing radical in nature’ when the board takes office in January.
“The eight successful slow-growth candidates were part of a slate endorsed by Voters for Loudoun’s Future, a nonpartisan organization. But the eight are a diverse group: five Democrats, two independents and a Republican who was elected on a pro-growth platform in 2003.
“To underscore that they were not ‘anti-growth,’ York and the other candidates on the slate said during campaigning that they favored more commercial development in Loudoun to strengthen its tax base.
“Andrea McGimsey (D), who unseated Bruce E. Tulloch (R) in the Potomac District, said Thursday that she supports manageable and well-planned growth. McGimsey has been portrayed by critics as a hard-liner on the growth issue because she led a group affiliated with the Piedmont Environmental Council.
” ‘This whole characterization of slow-growth versus pro-growth, I think, really misses the mark,’ she said. ‘I ran on reasonable growth. This board kept trying to turbo-charge the growth.’
“McGimsey said she hopes to stay true to the guidelines that created the transition area between the east and the west.
“She said she also hopes to focus on the county’s existing communities. As one of her first orders of business, she said, she wants to look at whether the roads and other amenities in Loudoun’s suburban communities meet county guidelines. For example, she said, Ashburn has tens of thousands of residents but no county-run recreation center.
“Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling), the only pro-growth incumbent who was reelected, said he is ‘keeping an open mind’ about the new group. But he would be willing to fight his colleagues if they proposed extreme environmental measures, he said.”