Meeting for the first time since its summer recess, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors tabled a proposed ban on text messaging by board members during official meetings, voted against artificial field testing, and agreed to initiate an expansion of the Hillsboro town limits during a busy and at times emotional business meeting Sept. 6.
A motion Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) to ban electronic communications between board members about topics on the agenda during public meetings was tabled after a motion by Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), who opposed it. Five supervisors joined Meyer’s opposition.
“I thought last night’s proposition was a way of solving a public relations problem and not actually do anything, and make it harder to do our jobs,” Meyer said Wednesday.
Meyer said that texting and electronic communication is a transparent way of conducting business and imperative for a government body to be able to effectively do its job.
Supervisor Chair Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), along with Volpe and Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), voted against tabling the proposal. Randall said that while technically the board wasn’t doing anything wrong by communicating electronically, it was important to support the ban to avoid a negative perception from the public.
“If the public perceives that we’re having a meeting inside of a meeting… that’s not a good perception. I support it because you sometimes go the extra mile,” Randall said. “I think transparency and perception matter.”
The Board also discussed the Loudoun County School Board’s request to appropriate an additional $40,100 to test crumb rubber infill on three LCPS artificial turf fields. It had already granted $27,900 to test three artificial fields and several members were upset with the additional fund request.
Buona said he spoke with several school board members and that the appropriation request was a “poison pill” that they set up so the Board would reject it.
After more discussion, Randall spoke out in a self-described “outburst” against the proposal. She said she wanted to see testing, but was angry with how LCPS went about the request.
“I am so frustrated with our officials on the school board right now. This is ludicrous,” Randall said. “They’re playing games with all of our students. School board members you should be ashamed of yourselves.”
The chair later apologized several times, saying she had never raised her voice in 15 years working at correctional facilities, but eight months in government had her shouting.
Randall, Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) voted in favor of the tests, with the resolution failing 6-3.
Discussion of a proposed boundary line adjustment between the Town of Hillsboro and Loudoun County was less contentious. After asking several questions of Hillsboro officials about the logistics of nearly doubling the town’s size, the board voted unanimously to move the proposed expansion forward with public comment at the board’s next public hearing on Oct. 16. Officials from both jurisdictions believe the expansion process can be completed by Jan. 1, 2017.
The idea of expanding Hillsboro’s boundaries came about in part to unite split parcels between the town and county, and also to unite historical buildings like the Old Stone School. The town’s expansion wouldn’t impact flood insurance coverage or dramatically impact a residential increase, preserving much of Hillsboro’s historic, small-town feel, according to town representatives.
Before taking up action items, the board heard from 29 speakers during its public comment period. The majority spoke against the proposed special exception for an expansion by a new Harris Teeter near the intersection of Braddock Road and Northstar Blvd. in Aldie. Along with the grocery store, the plan would allow for a 12-pump gas station.
Speakers expressed concerns about pollution impacts, overcrowding and increased traffic in the area. Many were upset about having the proposed commercial development so close to their homes. Proponents cited the need for a gas station in the area, and noted that commercial development would be good for the county. The board is likely to address the matter again at its next meeting on Sep. 22.
Correction 11:30 a.m. Sep. 8: An original version of this story said the plan for the proposed Harris Teeter grocery store would include space for fast food restaurants. That part of the expansion plan had been withdrawn previously by Harris Teeter.