Randall, Kershner Host Rural Town Hall

County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) along with members of the county planning staff and Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson hosted a town hall for rural Loudoun last week to take questions on some of the big changes that could be coming to the west.

On the docket for the June 30 were plans for Rt. 15 north of Leesburg, a project to amend cluster zoning ordinances to protect prime farmland and Loudoun’s new drone industry. Questions from the audience showed divides among Loudoun’s western residents on how best to protect its future.

Those included a division reflected on the Board of Supervisors about protecting the west from development—some landowners warned, as has Kershner, that revisions to cluster zoning rules will prevent land going into conservation easement, while groups like the Farm Bureau argued those revisions are vital.

Kershner argued conservation easements, which protect land from development, are permanent, while zoning can be changed.

“At some point, 10 years from now, our population’s going to change such that really there’s probably going to be one representative of western Loudoun representing just western Loudoun, so you can imagine you get some folks who aren’t as keen as the chair and I about preserving the west, and they’re going to flip the zoning ordinance,” Kerhsner said.

He and others have warned the county could discourage conservation easements, which are incentivized with tax credits based on the value of the land, by limiting the cluster-zoning options and effectively reducing the value of the land for development.

But Randall and others have argued conservation easements aren’t enough to move the needle.

“We can’t say that we’re going to never impact the possible density and say we’re going to protect the land. Those two things are almost in complete opposition with one another, and that’s the rub,” Randall said.

“There are not enough easement purchasers, not enough people capable of moving that. mountain for us,” said Farm Bureau President Tia Walbridge. “We need our zoning to step in and assist us a lot more.”

Information from Loudoun County’s Office of Mapping and Geographic Information totals 81,631 acres across all of Loudoun under some kind of conservation easement, mostly in the Rural Policy Area and Transition Policy Area. The Rural and Transition Policy Areas total about 254,000 acres, per the latest county General Plan.

Some residents also wanted to know when Whites Ferry would reopen—the subject of an ongoing stalemate between the ferry business’s owner and the owners of the Virginia landing. Randall said she would not consider using eminent domain to seize the landing, something the ferry owner, Chuck Kuhn, has advocated.

“For me to eminent domain somebody’s property, it has to be a very, very high bar, and for me the bar has to almost exclusively be safety, and that’s not true for Whites Ferry,” she said.

Kershner, however, was more open to the government stepping in to take the land.

“We also have to remember that in large part this is a private issue between two private parties, and I would never say never in terms of eminent domain, but property rights are very important to me,” he said.

One thought on “Randall, Kershner Host Rural Town Hall

  • 2022-07-05 at 2:37 pm

    Clowns. All of them. All they think about is development, development, development. At what point is enough is enough. Let’s focus on improving what we have today and wisely look at locations that make sense for some development, and what that development looks like. Instead, these BoS bozos want to bulldoze, eventually, every ounce of land there is all for the almighty $$$. Nevermind that infrastructure will suffer, schools will become more of a mess than they are today (if that is possible), traffic, housing pricing will continue to go up which means taxes go up. Eventually, it will take over an hour to drive from Ashburn to get to Lucketts.

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