Appointment Shocks Many
On January 3 Supervisor Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge) nominated Tom Priscilla for the Loudoun County Planning Commission to represent the Blue Ridge District. Priscilla was confirmed on January 19. This appointment took many current Purcellville Town Council Members by surprise. Said Council Member Kelli Grim, “I knew there was a temporary appointment, but I am surprised that Supervisor Buffington didn’t reach out to us before he made a permanent appointment. The person he selected is exactly the opposite of what the new Town Council elected in May stands for.”
In an email to Supervisor Buffington Council Member Ryan Cool said, “There is too much at stake for the future of all of Loudoun County, especially Western Loudoun, to allow a position to be filled with an individual whose prior decisions directly contradict the vision of Western Loudoun as expressed in both Town leadership, and the clear sentiment presented in Western Loudoun Envision [County Comp Plan review] workshops.”
Vice Mayor Karen Jimmerson in an email to Supervisor Buffington said, “Your appointment of Mr. Priscilla is completely at odds with your stated positions during your campaign for Supervisor.”
The seat had been vacated by Charles Douglas in October 2016, who resigned for health reasons. He was temporarily replaced by Chad Campbell who agreed to serve until January.
Tom Priscilla served on the Purcellville Town Council for approximately nine years, appointed January 11, 2005. He also served on the Purcellville Planning Commission for 12 years. Working closely with Mayor Bob Lazaro, Priscilla’s record is one of higher debt, higher taxes, questionable Town expenditures and runaway growth, including:
Debt: When Priscilla took office, the Town debt was $10 million. By the time he left in 2014, the Town’s debt had grown by approximately $60 million. To make matters worse, the Town’s citizens were saddled with enormous balloon payments due in 2020 and 2021.
Wasted Millions: While on council, he voted to purchase a vacant boarded-up building for a new Town Hall, appraised for approximately $750,000. The Town purchased the building for $2 million and with renovations the entire project cost $8.5 million; a project originally estimated at $3.5 million.
Runaway Lawsuits: Priscilla voted consistently as a member of the Purcellville Town Council to delay the building of a much needed second western Loudoun High School – suing the County 6 times, suing Purcellville’s own Board of Zoning Appeals and taking the cases all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court. Even though Purcellville lost the cases, the Town, in negotiations with the County, said they would continue the lawsuits regardless of their merit unless the County paid the Town $5.78 million. As a new high school was so desperately needed due to overcrowding, the County settled. In the end, the Town of Purcellville also incurred $500,000 in legal fees and the County, $1 million.
Raising Taxes: Due to the lawsuits Priscilla and fellow Council Members raised the Town’s meals tax 1 percent and earmarked it to pay for the lawsuits. He also voted to create the Fireman’s Field Tax District, which raised real estate taxes 17 percent.
Developer Favors: Priscilla voted along with the Council to make zoning use changes to Purcellville’s downtown area, on the National Register of Historic Places. Due to the advocacy of one developer, he voted to raise the height limit from 35 feet to 65 feet, allowing for a 6-story building which would overshadow the existing two story structures. When the Board of Architectural Review voted to preserve a lower height – because the scope and mass of the building did not fit in with the area – he voted to overrule the decision.
Breaking Contracts: While on Council, Priscilla violated the Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan and annexed property out of phase, ignoring the process and the Town’s contract with the County.
Didn’t Follow Comprehensive Plan: Priscilla voted for many land use decisions that were against the will of the residents, and in direct conflict with the Comprehensive Plan and multiple charrettes.
Roads Over Farms: He voted to condemn by eminent domain a portion of a historic 90 acre working farm – Crooked Run Orchard, a Virginia Century Farm – to build the Southern Collector Road. This action was without consent of the farm’s owners. Along with the Town Council, he changed the original alignment of the road, dividing the farm in two and making access to orchards very difficult.
Wasting Proffers: The Harris Teeter development at the gateway of Purcellville proffered a traffic circle. The circle was built, immediately torn down, and then a new one was built just 90 feet west of the original one. This happened because Priscilla, along with the rest of the Town Council, changed the original alignment of the Southern Collector Road. The second roundabout was paid for by the citizens of Purcellville.
Loudoun Pays More: Along with Town Council, Priscilla created 17 water rate tiers that charged Loudoun County facilities in Purcellville the highest rates.
More Developer Favors: In 2012, Priscilla voted to create a “Tourism District” solely for one developer’s property, allowing for multiple tax breaks over a period of 9 years. None of the other properties in the area received this designation.
Runaway Development: Priscilla and Council approved the largest development in the history of Purcellville – Mayfair (formerly known as Autumn Hill). With this action, Purcellville broke through its longstanding northernmost boundary.
Appointments Have Consequences Priscilla’s appointment is particularly important given that Loudoun County is now reviewing its Comprehensive Plan through the Envision Loudoun process.
The Blue Ridge Leader reached out to Supervisor Buffington and asked what criteria he used for his selection, and as of the publication deadline, he has not responded. But on the Tony Buffington, Blue Ridge Supervisor Facebook page he stated the following: “Congratulations to Mr. Tom Priscilla for having been sworn in as Blue Ridge District Planning Commissioner for Loudoun County! As a long time western Loudoun resident, former Purcellville Town Councilman, former Purcellville Planning Commissioner, and certified Planner by trade, Tom is well qualified for the position and I look forward to working with him to ensure the rural, historic, and scenic character of western Loudoun County for generations to come.”
On the surface, Priscilla’s credentials are impressive, but his record reflects reckless spending, developer favor, working against the County and ignoring the citizens’ voice. For those of us who know his record, this is hardly someone who will protect “western Loudoun County for generations to come.”