by Supervisor Sally Kurtz, Catoctin District
December 6, 2006
Tier zoning passed, yesterday by the Board of Supervisors, needs
to be put in substantive context. This five-acre cluster density
for the Northern Rural Tier is not based on additional study or
change of County fiscal or transportation circumstances since
2003. It isn’t based on protecting the full property rights
of all Loudoun rural landowners. It’s not legislation with
unintended consequences; it’s legislation with very direct,
intended, special interest consequences. It is a selective manipulation
of projected total build-out numbers. Its intended consequence
is to benefit corporate land developers.
the prior Burton Plan was essentially 10-acre zoning for the Northern
Tier of the Rural Policy Area. It treated landowners of both modest
means and land development entities equally. It allowed both clustering
of lots and landowner spin-off of lots, one at a time. In practice
the upfront costs of clustering for maximum density is expensive
and those of modest means usually sell to a developer with the
developer fronting the costs. That spin-off option for all landowners
was an equalizer. With, for example, 100 acres there were 10 residential
lots that could be created either all at once with clustering
or one at a time by an owner or family who needed to raise cash.
Not so in this zoning. In this zoning there’s a density
penalty for the landowner who either doesn’t have the money
to subdivide the whole property or who wants to keep most of his
land intact but by necessity needs money for expansion or other
personal reasons. With the same hypothetical 100 acres, corporate
entities and well heeled speculative landowners get 20 lots by
clustering and landowners who spin-off one lot at a time get 10
does this zoning in practice benefit the corporate residential
developer the most, its western Fairfax, 5-acre density is unprecedented
in any County adjacent to a large urban area professing a desire
to retain agriculture and its associated economic benefits. Agriculture
zoning is an umbrella under which food and fiber production, horticulture,
forestry, the equine industry and tourism operate in market conditions.
Clarke County, VA, starts its agricultural residential zoning
at 15 acres; Montgomery County and Frederick County, MD, both
in the 20-acre range. They all have at least twenty-five years
history of consistent zoning policies.
spent a decade following this issue at the local, state, and national
level and a decade thinking about the rural component of the Catoctin
District and the issues of fundamental fairness to all entities.
Over that decade I went from thinking only 25-acre zoning could
be successful in the long-run to thinking that the Burton compromise
at 10-acre density, combined with increased business uses dependent
on the character of the rural area, could sustain the full property
rights package of agricultural zoning.
said before that I think the full property rights package of agriculturally
zoned land, by the very nature of zoning, includes an owner’s
daily use. Those uses include potential commercial value with
as much free irrigation water or water to house tourists as the
property can naturally provide. Further, agriculturally zoned
land protects an owner’s right to hunt with firearms on
his property and, as I’ve said in the past, park his bass
boat in his front yard or park on the grass. These are individual
uses that do not underlie other zoning districts. The sole tipping
point where regulation due to public safety necessity erodes those
freedoms is the density of residential housing scattered or clustered
across the land. This zoning, just like A-3 zoning, foreshadows
that tipping point.
I think this 5-acre zoning is a squandering of thirty years of
Loudoun’s public investment in the Use Value Taxation Program,
our state tax deferral program set up to preserve agriculture
and fiscally pace the conversion of agricultural land.
20,491 homes in western Loudoun served by well water, as of October
31, 2006. I’ve no idea how many additional gallons of well
water are used for commercial purposes. Allowing a progressive
doubling of that residential lot number and their accessory residential
dwellings negates any aspect of responsible caution for the public
safety and welfare. I think it the job of this Board to use caution
when we do not have the data to validate that the fractured bedrock
aquifer can sustain such increased withdrawals. I ask who would
want to own property surrounded by this 5 acre density and find
out ten years from now that the pumping of groundwater in that
specific geographic location limits your own development rights
or business expansion. Or watch the stream running through your
property that now holds pools of minnows and a trickle of water
in the late summer evolve into bone dry every year.
plan was vetted through our Rural Economic Development Committee
and our Zoning Ordinance Review Committee as well as the public.
During the Opt-In period for the initial Comprehensive Plan, one
developer opted into Catoctin’s proposed 10-acre density,
clearly proving there was real estate money to be made.
I asked my