Republican supervisors have voted down a proposal to explore restarting Loudoun’s long-dormant program to purchase some landowners’ development rights and retire them, permanently protecting that land from development.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) proposed directing county staff to prepare a report on options for reestablishing the program, which has existed in Loudoun’s books since 1999 but has been unfunded since 2004 when a newly elected Board of Supervisors at its first meeting took dramatic steps to reverse much of the previous board’s planning, particularly around conservation.
Many of that board’s actions have since been reversed, but funding for the Purchase of Development Rights or PDR program has never been restored. Randall’s staff aide Laura TeKrony said before the program was shuttered, it protected more than 2,545 acres at a cost of $8.9 million, $4.2 million of which was from sources other than county taxpayer money, and that more outside money is available today than before. The proposal to reopen the program has support from groups including the Loudoun Farm Bureau, Virginia Farm Bureau, and Save Rural Loudoun.
But the current Board of Supervisors’ Republican majority stopped the program at the Feb. 21 board meeting. Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) said the program “basically ends up being a redistribution of funds from the east to the west.”
“I don’t think that we can basically tell folks in the rest of the county that we’re going to take taxpayer dollars and then use it on parcels of land many of which probably would never be developed anyway,” Meyer said.
Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said the program would mean raising taxes.
“I don’t mind buying land for a fire station, a sheriff’s station, a school, but to buy land just to extinguish rights is not in my mind a core function of government,” Buona said. “We don’t have the money to do it.”
Supervisors voted down the proposal 6-3, with Randall and supervisors Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) supporting it.
Earlier in the night, supervisors had narrowly voted to move ahead with a proposal by supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) to study a transfer of development rights program, which would allow rural landowners to sell the rights to develop their land to be used on property in other areas of the county.