The Town Council and county Board of Supervisors have signed agreements that will give the Loudoun County Health Department enforcement power in Leesburg.
The process started years ago when the town staff was advised by county government leaders that they lacked the legal authority to enforce its nuisance ordinance or the town’s nuisance ordinance within the town limits. It got renewed attention recently when a town resident reached out to Councilman Ron Campbell for help in dealing with a pest infestation at their home, with the cause attributed to a neighbor. The resident had contacted the Health Department and was told the agency could not investigate nuisance complaints in town.
Nuisances can include things that can be dangerous to public health and safety, including rodent or insect infestations, unsanitary disposal of garbage, and even the accumulation of water causing mosquito breeding and infestation, to name a few.
The resident’s call to Campbell set the wheels in motion, and the County Attorney’s Office informed Town Attorney Barbara Notar that a memorandum of understanding between the town and county was needed to give the health department director authority to enforce the county nuisance ordinance in town.
In February, Mayor Kelly Burk sent an initial letter to the Board of Supervisors, questioning that requirement. She pointed to the state code, where it is spelled out that towns are unable to establish their own health departments “and therefore our residents must rely upon the County’s Health Department for these crucial services.” County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) responded, affirming the need for an MOU, and noting the board’s approval of such an agreement at its March 7 meeting.
Council members ultimately approved the MOU, as well as some associated Town Code amendments. Some members still questioned the need for an MOU and, at the suggestion of Councilman Ken Reid, the council directed Notar to seek a Virginia Attorney General’s legal opinion on the matter. Notar said she expects to hear back on that within the next three to four months.
Notar said it was not the first time the town and county have needed an MOU to give the county legal power in the town. She pointed to an earlier agreement that granted the county government enforcement authority for the town building maintenance code. That was needed to investigate complaints of excessive occupancy in residences, she said.