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Clarifying Supervisor Clarke’s Newsletter

March 6, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Government, News 1 Comment

In February, Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) sent out a newsletter to correct “false information” being circulated about the Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan (PUGAMP) – a 50-year plan, recently abolished, which gave the town and the county joint control over lands surrounding Purcellville. The newsletter did not provide details about the misinformation, but, offered to provide facts and invited readers to contact Clarke, the other supervisors, county staff or Purcellville Town Council members “to verify these facts or to get further information.”

Unfortunately, as laid out below, research of county and state documents indicate that Clarke’s newsletter is not exactly accurate in all points. This is important because while Ms. Clarke favored elimination of PUGAMP, others saw the elimination of PUGAMP as a threat to the rural zoning around Purcellville.

“Four of the seven incorporated [Loudoun towns] have a Joint Land Management Area [JLMA] around them …”

True. The four towns are Leesburg, Purcellville, Round Hill, and Hamilton. (Loudoun County Revised Comprehensive Plan)

“… and a couple that have gotten rid of their JLMA’s and agreements.”

It is not clear to what agreements Clarke refers. Lovettsville is the only town that completely eliminated its JLMA. This occurred during the county’s 2000-01 comprehensive planning process. Hamilton reduced, but did not eliminate, its JLMA in September 2000. Middleburg and Hillsboro have, for decades, declined to establish an Urban Growth Area or JLMA. (Loudoun County Revised Comprehensive Plan; Loudoun County On-Line Land Application System)

“Purcellville happens to be just one others Town, in agreement with the County, that has voted to eliminate their planning document and annexation agreement.”

False. “Only Purcellville and the County have jointly adopted plans.” Thus, Purcellville is not “just one other Town” following a precedent established by the other towns. Although Hamilton and Lovettsville reduced or eliminated their JLMAs, it does not appear that the elimination of a plan accompanied those changes. The Leesburg Annexation Agreement with the County – the only other annexation agreement in recent history – remains. (Loudoun County Revised Comprehensive Plan).

“In doing so, development in the JLMA can no longer be developed by Purcellville by their ordinance …”

Not exactly. Neither PUGAMP nor the annexation agreement allowed the town to develop the JLMA; only the owner of a property can develop it. Rather, the documents authorized the town to annex properties within the JLMA by ordinance instead of through the state-mandated annexation or boundary-line adjustment process. (Annexation Agreement; PUGAMP).

“… and instead the County becomes the lead governing body …”

False. Under the annexation agreement between Purcellville and the county, the county is the lead governing body within the JLMA prior to annexation with two exceptions – subdivision applications and rezoning applications filed concurrently with a request for annexation. (Annexation Agreement)

“… and annexation can only occur under the terms of VA State Code.”

True, with a caveat. Annexation is not the only option for changing the town’s boundaries. The county and town could undertake a boundary line adjustment or negotiate another annexation agreement. Further, the town could also “petition the Commission on Local Governments (CLG) for an order establishing its rights to annex territory by ordinance under specified agreement terms.” (Virginia Municipal League; Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development)

“This will make all annexation applications have to go through the Circuit Court …”

True with a caveat. Annexation applications are submitted to the Circuit Court, but decided by a special three-judge panel convened by the Virginia Supreme Court. Boundary-line adjustments are submitted to and judged by the Circuit Court. Caveat: Agreements Defining Annexation Rights (ADARs) do not receive court review. They are reviewed by the CLG. (Virginia Municipal League)

“… a more protective process.”

True with a caveat for boundary line adjustments. Annexation applications are reviewed by the” Commission on Local Governments and a special three-judge panel. The panel considers an extensive list of criteria to decide “the necessity for and expediency of the proposed annexation.” Caveat: Towns and counties typically agree on boundary line adjustments prior to submitting the request to the Circuit Court. Where both governing bodies agree, the only decision before the court is whether the town and county submitted proper paperwork and complied with mandated advertising requirements. (Virginia Municipal League)

“The Joint Policies Review Committee voted to get rid of PUGAMP and the Annexation Agreement and will be holding a meeting to hear from County staff regarding whether it is recommended to eliminate JLMA as well.”

There are two separate aspects of the JLMA – planning and zoning. For planning purposes, the JLMA defines the boundary of a town’s growth, specifically the limits of town water and sewer extension. The elimination of PUGAMP and the Annexation Agreement eliminates the JLMA as a planned urban growth area for Purcellville. However, properties within the JLMA also carry a JLMA zoning designation. This designation determines allowable uses, maximum densities, and requirements of development. The decision before the Board of Supervisors does not eliminate that designation. (Loudoun County Staff)

“I have been told by County staff that this is a complicated process and which could negatively affect the zoning in existing residential developments in the JLMA, so it may not make sense to get rid of the JLMA.”

It depends. If the intent is to rethink all of the aspects of the current zoning — allowable uses, maximum densities, yard buffers, etc. – then yes, this is a complicated process with possible unintended consequences. If the intent is simply to change the designation used (say from JLMA to TR) without changing the underlying requirements, not so complicated. Any such effort along that continuum would require a Zoning Ordinance Amendment (ZOAM). Such amendments can take from six to 18 months (or longer) depending on the level of complexity. ZOAMs often accompany CPAMs and are frequently processed concurrently. (Loudoun County Land Use Regulations; Loudoun County On-Line Land Application System)

“The last time a JLMA was eliminated was in 2003 when the County did an overall County rezoning.”

False. The last time a JLMA was eliminated was in 2001 as part of the Comprehensive Plan review. (Loudoun County Revised Comprehensive Plan)

“This took close to three years …”

False. The Comprehensive Plan Review began in January 2000 and was completed in July 2001. The elimination of the Lovettsville JLMA was only a small portion of this overall effort. (Loudoun County Revised Comprehensive Plan)

“…and the JLMA that was eliminated was Middleburg’s.”

False. Middleburg has never had a JLMA. (Loudoun County Revised Comprehensive Plan)

“We will take this item up in our next JPRC meeting.”

Problematic. The Joint PUGAMP Review Committee (JPRC) was established as part of the Annexation Agreement. Termination of the agreement will terminate the JPRC; continuation of the JPRC would either require an amendment to the motion terminating the JPRC or a separate Board action. (Annexation Agreement)

“… and has to be approved by both governing bodies in order for a property owner to be brought into the Town.”

False. Joint approval is only typically required for boundary line adjustments. In the case of annexations the decision is made for town, county, and landowners by the special three-judge panel. Where a town petitions the CLG for an order establishing its rights to annex by ordinance, the CLG makes the decision, although the county can appeal a CLG decision in the courts. (Virginia Municipal League)?“This is also a lengthy public process.”?It depends. Annexations and CLG petitions are typically lengthy. Boundary line adjustments can occur quite quickly. The 2004 boundary line adjustment between the County and the Town of Round Hill was completed in two months. (Loudoun County On-Line Land Application System).

1 comment

  1. Tim says:

    Bravo for speaking the truth. Something that our BOS is unable to do !!

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