Supervisors of Loudoun County, Virginia, Plaintiff v. Town of Purcellville, Virginia and Town Council of the Town of Purcellville, Virginia, Defendants.
Purcellville Mayor Lazaro has consistently said that the current Town/County lawsuit is to stop the Southern Collector Road. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the fall of 1994, Loudoun County and the Town of Purcellville entered into an Annexation Agreement. The agreement:
- Established an Urban Growth Area (UGA) of approximately 3,100 acres surrounding the Town for future expansion of the Town.
- Required the development of a joint plan that would govern the development of properties within the UGA. The joint plan was to contain, among other policies, phasing guidelines, with “the desire for orderly development and development at a pace that would not overwhelm the existing Town of Purcellville,” and would link the UGA development to the Town’s ability to provide central utilities. The Town did not have the capacity to provide utilities to the entire UGA; thus phasing was necessary to prevent the Town from being overwhelmed. (This joint plan, known as the Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan (PUGAMP), was adopted by the Town and the County in 1995.)
- Established a Joint Policy Review Committee, with two members from each jurisdiction, to make recommendations on individual applications for annexation, policy changes to the PUGAMP, and disagreements over the interpretation of the PUGAMP and the Annexation Agreement.
In 1999 the Town and County amended PUGAMP to include Phasing Guidelines and to identify specific properties bordering the Town that could be annexed unilaterally by the Town by ordinance, i.e., without County agreement. This amendment, referred to as Phase I, established a 10-year preferred development plan which was tied to the Town’s ability to provide central utilities. UGA properties outside of the Phase I area could only be annexed if both Town and Count agreed.
All went well for a few years, until 2006. During that period the Town and the County met repeatedly to discuss revisions to the PUGAMP and agreed on many proposed revisions. However, the discussions ended with no action taken because the Town insisted upon including language in the revised PUGAMP that would have prevented Woodgrove High School from being built on Fields Farm with an on-site sewage system. The County could not agree to that provision. Thus, the efforts to amend PUGAMP came to a halt.
In the summer of 2009, the Town, believing that phasing as a concept had expired and was no longer required, began the process of annexing, unilaterally, properties that were outside the Phase I area. The County disagreed with the Town’s interpretation and objected to its actions. The Town ignored the County’s objections, its requests for meetings to discuss the dispute, and to provide requested information regarding the Town’s ability to provide utilities to the proposed annexations. In August and December, the Town adopted two Annexation Ordinances totaling 82 acres, which would become official on December 31, 2009.
The details of the communications between the County and Town during the summer and fall of 2009 are outlined in the sidebar, which quotes paragraphs 20-33 of the Complaint filed in December 2009 by the County against the Town. (They are worth reading, especially paragraphs 25-33. Clearly the Town did not want to enter into any dialogue with the County until the proposed annexations became official on December 31.)
Since the Town would not enter into any meaningful discussions to resolve the dispute before the annexations became official, the County filed suit on December 28, 2009, to prevent the annexations from becoming official. Litigation occurred throughout 2010 and into the fall of 2011. Twice the Town failed in its attempts to have the County’s case thrown out of Circuit Court. In October 2011, the Circuit Court decided to request the Virginia Supreme Court to appoint a three-judge panel to hear the case, as often happens in annexation disputes. The three judges have been appointed, but a hearing date has not yet been scheduled.
Why is this issue important?
Strictly speaking – money if you are a Town or County taxpayer; inconvenience if you are a Purcellville resident. Here’s why.
Over the past decade or so, the Town has had difficulty in providing water and sewer service to a growing population. A voluntary water restriction was imposed in 2006 and mandatory restrictions in 2007.
In January 2007, the Town hired the consultant team of CH2M Hill and GeoTrans to conduct a Water Resource Study. Their report concluded that there would be significant deficits in both maximum daily demand and average daily demand for water compared to available supplies beginning in the fall of 2010.
The consultants recommended that, in the short term, the Town acquire additional water from local sources, which the Town did.
The proposed long-term solution consisted of two options, both expensive and controversial:
A) Withdraw water from Sleeter Lake and replace it with treated effluent from the new sewage treatment plant, which would then be recycled into drinking water for the Town;
B) Run central water lines out the Route 7 corridor from Leesburg to Purcellville.
In a December 2009 Leesburg Today article, Mayor Lazaro announced that the Town had acquired additional water resources totaling 300,000 gallons per day (gpd), with the ability to expand ultimately to 500,000 gpd.
The Mayor indicated that was sufficient to meet the Town’s needs through 2048 for those properties already annexed. The Town has yet, however, to provide proof to the County of this claim (see Sidebar paragraphs 27 and 30).
Although the Mayor made no claim about the need for water for build out of the UGA, the consultants’ report did examine several scenarios concerning future build out. Their report states: “Goal: To address the Town’s water supply deficit over the 30-year planning period, projected in 2045 to be 1.27 mgd [million gallons per day] on an MMD [maximum monthly demand] basis and 1.92 mgd on an MDD [maximum daily demand] basis.” Simply put, in 2045, the Town would not be able to supply water to its residents, even with the recent additional purchases of water supply.
How does PUGAMP play into this?
Given the future water situation, it is obviously imperative that the Town and County sit down together and develop new phasing guidelines for the future development of the entire UGA.
Failure to do so could eventually cost the taxpayers of both the Town and the County large sums of money to bail out the Town if it overextends itself.
And, unless this is resolved, future Town residents could be faced with increasingly tight water supplies requiring restrictions, not just during droughts, but on a daily basis. hould vote for a non-incumbent who runs on a platform promising fiscal conservative management.