No Appeal on Supreme Court Decision

No Appeal on Supreme Court Decision

Despite minority's wishes, county lets appeal deadline lapse; settles two other lawsuits to clear out pending litigation in light of impending fallout from court decision.

An attempt by minority supervisors to move swiftly on the recent Virginia Supreme Court decision that invalidated the 2003 Revised General Plan was quashed Monday, as the deadline to file an appeal came and went.

The county had 10 days after the Supreme Court's March 3 decision to decide whether to appeal the court's decision. The court had overruled the Loudoun County Circuit Court in an unanimous opinion that the county had failed to comply with public notice requirements and properly define terms

in the enactment of the Revised General Plan, which placed dramatic restrictions on growth in the western two-thirds of the county.

The decision could potentially open the door to 58,000 or more new homes in western Loudoun, adding more fuel to the already white-hot growth debate about the future of the nation's fastest growing county. Some in the county are talking secession — a notion that's been floating around for several years but came to the table again at Wednesday night's Purcellville Town Council meeting.

EFFORTS TO MOVE quickly on the court's decision had already met a blow on March 9, when Vice Chairman Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) rejected a request by minority supervisors to immediately consider re-advertising and re-enacting the stricter zoning by putting an agenda item on the March 15 business meeting.

Tulloch met individually with the five other members of the Republican majority prior to making his decision, which he said was unanimous.

"After due consideration based on the issues of case complexity, lack of clarity regarding policy implications, and careful deliberations with individual Board of Supervisors members ... I must deny your request to place the issue on this agenda for the March 15 business meeting," Tulloch

wrote in a letter to Supervisors Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) and Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) and Chairman Scott York (I-At Large).

TULLOCH'S MOVE was unusual in two respects. First, it's traditionally the chairman, not the vice chairman, who sets the agenda. When the Republican majority took office in 2004, one of its first moves was to strip York, the incumbent chairman elected in a countywide race, of all powers but

ceremonial duties.

Second, it was the first time in at least five years that a supervisor's request to place an item on the agenda was denied. Tulloch had never done so in his 14 months in charge of the agenda, and York never had either in his four years as chairman before being stripped of his duties.

York fired back at Tulloch's decision with a letter of his own.

"As chairman of the Board of Supervisors, I never denied a single member from adding an item to the agenda regardless of content," he wrote. "It is shameful with one of the most pressing issues facing our county that you would have chosen to deny two district supervisors and the only countywide elected member of the Board from doing so."

THE BOARD of Supervisors' inaction on the Supreme Court decision clears the path for the affected land to revert to the previous zoning prior to 2003.

Still, there are steps to take. The Loudoun County Circuit Court must either write an order to implement the Supreme Court's judgment or invite each side to submit draft judgments for consideration.

In preparation for the undoubtedly confusing time ahead — many questions remain about the building permits issued since 2003 and if they would be in violation once zoning reverts, among other things — supervisors voted on Tuesday after a lengthy executive session to settle two previous lawsuits against the county.

The county still has 99 lawsuits pending that were filed by landowners in response to the enactment of the Revised General Plan, said County Attorney Jack Roberts.

One settlement agreed to strike three environmental overlays — RSCOD, or River and Stream Corridor Overlay District, limestone and mountainside — from existence. The overlays encouraged protective management of environmentally sensitive areas and placed rules on development in those areas.

THE SECOND settlement involved a familiar name in the property rights arena: Jack Shockey, president of Citizens for Property Rights. A 182-acre tract owned by Shockey in the Arcola area north of Route 50 was the subject of the lawsuit; in the settlement, the county agreed to allow the land to be rezoned from light commercial to residential and industrial park.

The fact that the Shockey family has contributed to six Republican supervisor campaigns rankled Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge).

"They should recuse themselves from the vote," Burton said.

According to the Virginia Public Access Product, the six Republican supervisors received contributions from members of the Shockey family prior to their 2003 elections: Lori Waters (Broad Run), $1,250; Stephen Snow (Dulles), $5,140; Jim Clem (Leesburg), $1,000; Bruce Tulloch (Potomac), $1,100; Eugene Delgaudio (Sterling), $4,900; Mick Staton (Sugarland Run), $1,000.

"My vote has never been for sale," said Waters. "I am deeply offended that anyone would attack my character on such a notion."

The vote to settle the Shockey lawsuit passed, with York and Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) opposed.