For the first time since she was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2011, Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) will not be the chair of the board’s Transportation and Land Use Committee.
The change came Wednesday during the Board of Supervisors’ annual reorganization, among other changes such as a new seating chart on the dais and a change to the rules of order. The new committee leadership was approved by the board on a 6-0-3 vote, with Volpe and supervisors Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) absent for the vote.
“Sometimes just having new ideas and new blood sitting in the chair’s seat is good for the board,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “And so, it was just, after six years—this term and last—of Mrs. Volpe chairing and doing a fantastic job—a really good job as chair of TLUC—sometimes you just have a change in leadership to get some fresh blood in leadership seats.”
Instead, TLUC member Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) will be chairing the committee, which reviews land use policies and rezoning applications to make recommendations to the full Board of Supervisors. He has also served on the committee since his election six years ago. Higgins will be replaced by board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) as co-chair of the joint Board of Supervisors and School Board Committee.
“My goals and emphasis, I think, will be more on trying to make sure that we do what we can to keep Loudoun the way it is, preserve the west as best we can,” Higgins said. “It still takes a majority of the board. I’m certainly not a person that’s anti-growth, but I think that growth needs to be properly planned, and then have it happen where it’s zoned.”
“From my understanding, he wanted to serve as the chair of the TLUC committee, and there were other folks on the board that wanted him to have that opportunity as well,” Volpe said. She added “sometimes a change can turn into something that can be very beneficial.”
Volpe and Higgins have sometimes found themselves on opposite sides of contentious votes—including the current proposal to permit construction of a data center complex on the banks of Goose Creek. Volpe drew fire from the application’s opponents when she took the unusual step of scheduling a special meeting of the committee in December, limited to only an hour, to move the application along more quickly.
“It was within the purview of the chair to do that, I just personally felt that it was not necessary to rush it,” Higgins said. “I had hoped we would have more time to try and see if we couldn’t improve the application, and it was in my view difficult to do that in roughly 45 or 50 minutes. … The chair has the prerogative to set the dates and the times, but I don’t think that was the best use, the way that was set up.”
“I don’t think that one thing has anything to do with the other,” Volpe said. “Chairing a committee, it’s multiple meetings, it’s multiple applications.”
Supervisors made no changes to committee membership. Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) will continue to chair the Finance, Government Operations and Economic Development Committee. The board also re-elected Buona to serve his third one-year term as the board’s vice chairman. He has served as vice chair since former supervisor Shawn M. Williams stepped down in September 2015.