Catoctin District COLT Debate Brings Large Turnout

The first in a series of debates organized by the Coalition of Loudoun Towns brought more people than expected on Monday night to learn the differences among three candidates for the Catoctin District seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Republican Caleb Kershner, Democrat Forest Hayes and Independent Sam Kroiz agreed the rural west needs to stay rural, but debating in front of a crowd at the Lovettsville Volunteer Fire and Rescue station they differed on how to keep it that way.

Kroiz has been involved with the local government as a citizen for some time, including prominently as one of the organizers of successful resistance to AT&T’s plans to put a large industrial facility on top of Short Hill Mountain. He is also the eighth generation to farm at Georges Mill Farm, where he and his family make and sell goat cheese. He said he and his wife Molly had to reinvent the farm for the 21stcentury.

“Farms are what sustains rural Loudoun the way that it is, and farms can’t exist in an area that’s not rural,” Kroiz said. And he said all of Loudoun’s biggest issues are tied into housing development: “Housing drives so many of our problems—high taxes, traffic, overcrowded schools—so we can’t let that come from eastern Loudoun into rural Loudoun. So, it’s really the top one through five issues.”

The Coalition of Loudoun Towns’ first candidate forum was held Monday night at the Lovettsville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Bingo Hall.

Kershner, an attorney in Leesburg, pointed to his family’s background long history of farming and his own experience in law and agribusiness.

“I want to basically bring my background, my training and my experience to the Board of Supervisors to ensure at this critical time in history we preserve Loudoun County and the west,” Kershner said.

And Washington, DC, government official Hayes said he was prompted to run when the size of his daughter’s class in school tripled over a summer, and said he found “unbridled homebuilding on nearby subdivided farms combined with unbalanced land use policies, outdated zoning codes and unimaginative leadership” in his adopted home. In particular, he said fixing Rt. 15 was the number one issue in Loudoun, and said he would expedite planned work on the road.

“You can trust me because I live on a farm on a gravel road by choice, not by coincidence of birth,” Hayes said. “Nine years ago [wife] Nicole and I decided to raise our family in Loudon County, in western Louduon County. … You can trust me because when I look out over this room I don’t see a group of voters and taxpayers, I see my friends and neighbors.”

Candidates faced both specific questions on their own stances and plans and generalized questions about the county. Hayes came out of the gate swinging, launching attacks on Kershner for his background working for the Home School Legal Defense Association, during which time he argued for abolishing the Department of Education and federal involvement in education, and for criticizing the Board of Supervisors for not updating the comprehensive plan in nearly 20 years—a period when three of four Boards of Supervisors have been Republican-controlled.

The two other candidates, meanwhile, criticized Hayes for proposals that could be expensive or illegal for the local government to implement, such as a moratorium on new homebuilding in the Transition Policy Area.

Caleb Kershner

The three candidates had varying views on expanding broadband internet access to Loudoun’s rural reaches. Hayes said he would like to lease space atop publicly-owned facilities and schools to both generate revenue and expand connectivity; Kershner said he would like to cut down on regulatory red tape to make it easier to put up more towers in western Loudoun; and Kroiz quipped, “There’s not much I can say about this complicated topic in 30 seconds, but I can say that nobody wants rural broadband more than me—I’m sitting on a goldmine of goat blooper videos and I can’t upload them.”

They also differed on the Board of Supervisors’ 11th-hour decision to give Loudoun Water, rather than the Town of Leesburg, the first right of refusal on new water and sewer connections in the Joint Land Management Area around Leesburg. The proposal stirred up controversy when it was announced late in supervisors’ work to revise the new county comprehensive plan, and is the subject of a lawsuit between the town and county governments.

Kershner supported supervisors’ decision, saying he wants to push costs down for people living and doing business there. The Town of Leesburg charges higher rates for water outside of the town limits.

“I actually happen to know some of the companies that wanted to build in this JLMA, and have spoken with them,” Kershner said. “This was a deal-breaker for them. This is the kind of government policy, the high costs, that drives businesses away.”

Forest Hayes

Hayes called for compromise.

“I’m fine with Loudoun Water having the first right of refusal,” Hayes said. “What I’m not fine with is the Town of Leesburg getting left holding the bag. … All these people are Loudoun County residents.”

And Kroiz said the decision was “a good example of the comprehensive plan process, which I was disappointed with throughout.” He criticized the decision to suddenly reverse years of planning for the town, and said he would like to be a “champion for the towns.”

“I find myself arguing a lot of times just for planning generally,” Kroiz said. “We need to have a plan. We need to let businesses know where we’re going to in the future.”

On other topics, the three candidates generally agreed—such as that Loudoun should look into setting up a police department, and that salaries for public employees should continue to rise to keep them in Loudoun.

Closing, Hayes said “we don’t have another four years to waste.”

“I’m hoping that you remember one thing I said,” Hayes said. “We don’t have another four years to drive on a dangerous Rt. 15. We don’t have another four years for kids to sit in trailers [in schools] … we don’t have another four years where our tourism and agri-tourism businesses don’t have a simple thing like the internet,” Hayes said.

“I have lived in every single policy area this county has to offer,” Kershner said. “… I’m asking for your vote and for the ability to represent you, and I will bring every single one of those skills and background that I have to bear on the policies.”

Sam Kroiz

“I’m running to keep rural Loudoun rural,” Kroiz said. “Like I said, it’s the most important issues in this district, and I think in the county overall, because if we suburbanize rural Loudoun, it’s going to bankrupt Loudoun.” He added “You can trust me to follow through, because my livelihood is tied to rural Loudoun being rural.”

The debate, which used questions provided in advance by members of the public, was moderated Lovettsville Mayor Nate Fontaine, along withLoudoun Now editor Norman K. Styer andLoudoun Times-Mirroreditor Trevor Baratko. The full debate was livestreamed on Facebook and can be viewed here.

The second of three COLT debates will be heldThursday, Oct. 3 at the Bush Tabernacle in Purcellville. It will feature Blue Ridge District candidates Tony R. Buffington (R) and Tia Walbridge (D). The final debate will be for the Chairman At-Large seat, with Robert J. Ohneiser (I), Phyllis J. Randall (D) and John C. L. Whitbeck (R), on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at the Ida Lee Park Recreation Center in Leesburg.

Questions for those programs may be submitted atloudounnow.com/colt_debates.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

3 thoughts on “Catoctin District COLT Debate Brings Large Turnout

  • 2019-09-17 at 6:02 pm
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    I attended this debate which was very well organized, productive and detailed. What didn’t show up in the article above was the complete agreement by all three candidates that the comprehensive plan should not have been approved as written. Mr. Hayes went even further to state he was highly disappointed by Chair Phyllis Randall for her approval of a plan that violated prior promises by taking land from the rural area which now could be developed. Given that all seem to agree the comprehensive plan should not have been approved (I call it the developer return on campaign donations program); I believe we can get this plan put back up for review in January and take the violations and excessive housing commitments out of it. This is exactly what I will do if able to set the agenda as Chair in January 2020. The dishonesty about priorities has gone on way too long!

  • 2019-09-17 at 10:07 pm
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    The 2019 Comprehensive Plan corrected a mistake and a growing inconsistency in planning. First, P1 and P2 (now just called property) should never have been in the RPA in the first place. The little jag to the east in the border made no sense at the time it was done, and makes even less sense now. Evergreen Mills Road should have always been the western boundary for the northern part of the TPA. The property north of Shreve Mills never returned to active farm land once the property was subdivided in 1984. Added to that are the substantial developments that now surround P1. Does this sound like “rural” living to you? There is a high school with bright stadium lights to the north. Evergreen Mills Road has 12,000 cars a day on it. The Greenway, which is the eastern border has 32,000 cars a day on it. The Compass Creek Walmart and ION center are easily seen from the back porches of the subdivision. Microsoft will soon be building a data center campus in sight of the property. And, the county built a 55,000 square foot shooting range on the southern boundary. There is no way that any reasonable person could believe that this property should be considered rural. It was a mistake to allow the development to surround the area, but now that it’s here, there is no taking it back. Seems to me that the few people still obsessed with P1 should start thinking more about saving what is left of the truly rural parts of the county. P1 is a lost cause. Wasting time and energy talking about setting back four years of work just to cater to a few extra votes is jousting at windmills. The 28 families in P1 do not want to be saved. We worked diligently during the Envision Loudoun process to make our voices heard, and at every step the stakeholders, commissioners and supervisors agreed with us–the rural nature of our property has been compromised. Please leave us out of your campaign efforts. We do not support this part of your platform. All of us want to protect the true west–we (P1) are not western or rural.

  • 2019-09-26 at 9:48 am
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    Galluponover, I respect your view but believe the discussion must go a bit deeper to get at the causality of the problem in trying to protect the west as you say is your intent. The west will never be protected from development if lots with access to power, water and the internet sell for $2 million per acre. The west will never be protected from traffic congestion if the east continues to allow high density residential based on one housing unit per 1/4 acre while the equivalent zoning in the west is 20 acres. Downzoning only harms the economics of western landowners and does not stop growth. The west will never be protected when the majority of Supervisors LIE about being willing to lower the property tax rate when approving the high density, student producing residential that puts upward pressure on that tax rate. Neither the state nor the school system is trying to protect the west as both do everything they can to enhance the expansion of real estate development westward. Why do you think new schools tend to be built right next to brand new developments? Why do you think the proffer system is deliberately set up to under estimate the impact of development on school cost and the obvious upward tax pressure? Why do you think the school board continues to refuse to do an audit of its student projection accuracy which drives the proffer figures (completed developments could easily be measured but are not)? I am making myself available to serve if elected. If I was really big on campaigning or had upward mobile aspirations (like my two opponents) do you really think I would refuse donations from developers as I have? The agenda of Loudoun needs to focus on properly defining problems and transparently solving them not masking development initiatives with social, self serving, non-fact based rhetoric.

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