Campaign for Loudoun's Future: Promoting Sensible Limits on Future Growth
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Press Release
Campaign for Loudoun's Future


For Immediate Release:
March 3, 2005

Laura Olsen, (202) 244-4408 x4# or
Andrea McGimsey, (703)726-0646


Supreme Court Rules

Loudoun Must Re-Adopt Rural Zoning Due to Question of Lucketts being a part of Western Loudoun

Today, the Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling that will require the Loudoun Board of Supervisors to re-advertise and re-enact the new zoning provisions put into effect for Western Loudoun two years ago.

“Despite significant public engagement and notice about the proposed zoning changes two years ago, the court ruled that because there may have been some confusion in the newspaper advertisement about whether Lucketts is a part of Western Loudoun, Loudoun will have to go back and re-enact the rural zoning,” said Andrea McGimsey, with the Campaign for Loudoun’s Future. “The rural zoning has ensured us in Eastern Loudoun that we won’t have thousands of additional cars on our roads and thousands of new houses competing with us for school funding.”

During the last update of Loudoun County’s zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan, the potential build-out of the western portion of the county was lowered in order to both ensure the viability of agriculture and to allow the county the financial ability to provide necessary services in the eastern portion of the County.

“We agree that public notice is extremely important, but Loudoun County made significant efforts to ensure that every resident and landowner were aware of the proposals. No one in Loudoun County, with land in Loudoun County, or with a general interest in zoning in Virginia was unaware that there was the likelihood of a re-zoning. It was even the subject of national news coverage,” noted Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Loudoun County conducted four public hearings and twice sent letters to 64,000 residents countywide explaining the proposal and notifying property owners that they would be affected. In addition, there were newspaper advertisements, website notices, and extensive media coverage of the public hearing dates, the substance of the hearings, and the likelihood of a decision by the Board of Supervisors.

“We hope the Board will respect the participation of thousands of County residents in the process and acknowledge the demonstrated reasonableness of the County's efforts to provide notice to all affected landowners by acting quickly to re-advertise the proposal according to the court’s standards and re-enact the zoning for western Loudoun,” noted McGimsey.

The Court did not rule on the substance of the rezoning nor that the letters to property owners and the public hearings did not provide sufficient notice. The Court ruled that the newspaper advertisement, which under current law is the defining element of public notice, may not have provided sufficient definition of “Western Loudoun”.

The decision of the Virginia Supreme Court raises the need for legislation to clarify what is required for adequate public notice. In order for local governments to feel confident that decisions made with full public involvement will stand, that law must be evaluated against the increasing complexity of local government decisions and the demonstrated ability to communicate by means in addition to printed advertisements in the newspaper.

“The Virginia Supreme Court has determined that Virginia law only looks at the narrow issue of the text of the newspaper advertisement. And ironically, they reached that decision at the prompting of lawyers for the development industry who were preparing the legal challenge before the Board of Supervisors acted to rezone,” noted Chris Miller, President of the Piedmont Environmental Council.

When the new comprehensive plan was adopted two years ago, there were about 7,000 homes in the rural policy area of western Loudoun. Before the zoning change, an additional 51,000 housing units could have been built in western Loudoun adding over 150,000 new residents to the county, almost doubling the size of Loudoun.

“As an Ashburn resident, I knew about the proposals to reduce the amount of growth in Loudoun County, both east and west. I was relieved that there would not be 150,000 more people heading east on our already over-filled roads,” said McGimsey.

The Virginia Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision by the Circuit court. The lawsuit against Loudoun County was brought by developers, all of whom attended the public hearings held about the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance.




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