Loudoun Planning Commission Begins Work with 7 New Members

Supervisors have made their appointments to the Loudoun County Planning Commission, shaping one of the most influential panels in the county government.

The commission reviews and makes recommendations on rezoning and land use cases, putting it in the middle of debates around development, growth and preservation in Loudoun. In some cases, such as parks, streets, and public utilities, the commission can issue its own permits, which stand unless the Board of Supervisors takes immediate action to overrule them.

Unusually, two of those of the new members have been appointed to represent districts where they do not live.

Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) has appointed Eric Combs, an attorney living in the Blue Ridge District and also chairs the Middleburg Planning Commission. He will represent the Ashburn District on the commission.

Meannwhile, Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) has appointed recently retired county planner and former assistant director of Planning and Zoning John Merrithew, who long advised the Planning Commission as a member of county staff. Merrithew’s résumé recounts more than 40 years of professional experience in planning. Merrithew lives in the Catoctin District, but will represent Sterling.

Merrithew is also one of four members who are already intimately familiar with the commission’s work.

Two of the appointees to the commission are returning from the previous term.

Supervisors Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) re-appointed their districts’ representatives. Jeff Salmon (Dulles), who chaired the county Planning Commission during much of its work on the new Comprehensive Plan, and Ad Barnes (Leesburg), who also serves on the Leesburg Planning Commission, will return.

And Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) appointed Jane Kirchner (Algonkian), who has served on the planning commission before. Kirchner a marketing professional now working for the National Wildlife Federation, served on the Planning Commission form 2000-2003, the timeframe of the 2001 revision of the previous county comprehensive plan. She also previously served on the Planning Commission of Douglas County, CO.

Supervisor Caleb A. Kerschner (R-Catoctin) appointed eight-year Loudoun County Public Library Trustee, six-year chairman of the library’s Board of Trustees, Smashing Walnuts Foundation co-founder and Realtor Mark Miller. Miller recently stepped down from the library board, having been term-limited, and was recognized by the Board of Supervisors for his years of service. Miller and his wife Ellyn also founded the Smashing Walnuts Foundation to raise money toward finding cures for childhood brain cancers, and Smashing Walnuts today is a fund of The Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties.

Supervisor Sylvia Russell Glass (D-Broad Run) has appointed Realtor Michelle Frank, currently with Pearson Smith Realty and the recipient of the Dulles Area Association of Realtors 2017 Rookie of the Year award. She previously worked in communications and public relations, including briefly as chief communications officer for FCi Federal, a Loudoun-based federal contracting firm founded by Sharon Virts and sold in 2017.

County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) appointed Forest Hayes, a District of Columbia Housing Authority senior advisor who ran unsuccessfully to represent the Catoctin District on the Board of Supervisors in 2019. He has also staffed House of Representatives committees on Capitol Hill, as well as for several Democratic members of the House. He has worked in economic development, including as the director of the Gary Economic Development Corporation and the Gary Commerce Department in Gary, IN. He has also worked in real estate development and consulting. He is one of the governor’s three appointees to the Virginia Housing Commission in the legislature’s Division of Legislative Services, a commission on which also serve up to five delegates and three senators.

And Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) appointed Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance. Vance has also served in Hillsboro as a member of the Town Council and the chairman of the town’s Planning Commission, along with positions with the Rural Economic Development Council and on the boards of directors of the Hillsboro Charter, the Greater Hillsboro Business Alliance, the Old Stone School Preservation Trust. He was also a longtime magazine editor.

The Planning Commission holds its first meeting tonight, beginning with 5 p.m. with an oath of office and an orientation for commissioners.