(Committees at a Glance is a feature of the Blue Ridge Leader informing our readers about the inner workings of local government and how actions and decisions impact our everyday lives – from our tax rates to that new development we see going in down the road. For this 3rd Edition we discuss recent actions and discussions at the Loudoun County Government Reform Commission (GRC) and various committees and actions of the Purcellville Town Council. (Note: The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors established the GRC and appointed its thirteen members on January 3, 2012. Chairman Scott York, who sponsored the initiative, laid out four goals: (1) identify efficiency opportunities; (2) explore innovative ways to lower costs; (3) consider privatization and outsourcing opportunities; and (4) identify ways to enhance government transparency, accountability, and customer service.)
Government Reform Commission
Meeting, June 28, 2012
– Topics: County Police Force, Loudoun Water Governance, County Debt Status, Privatization Update, Year Round Schools
– The commission voted to recommend that the county not pursue creation of a police force at this time, but continue to leave law enforcement activities under the Sheriff.
– The commission discussed (but delayed a formal recommendation) whether all Loudoun Water customers should pay the same rates. Dale Hammes, the Director of Loudoun Water, informed the committee that such a change would require central system customers to subsidize those on community systems, such as the Raspberry Falls and Lenah Run communities by approximately $350,000 to $500,000 per year.
– Co-Chair Scott Hamberger presented an analysis of the county’s debt, concluding that county staff and past Boards should be commended for establishing and following a set of conservative fiscal policies that enabled the county to maintain its financial health through the recent “black swan” event. The commission recommended that the Board continue to abide by the county’s established policies.
– The commission discussed its subcommittee’s initial recommendations for privatization. The initial focus will be the Office of Capital Construction and Waste Management.
– The commission received a report on the potential for year-round schooling.
Purcellville Town Council
and Planning Commission Joint Public Hearing, July 19, 2012
– Topic: Zoning Amendments
– The Purcellville Town Council voted unanimously to approve two zoning amendments. One was to allow the addition of a Brewery, Winery and Distillery as a permitted use in all commercial districts. The other was to allow indoor commercial recreation facilities as a permitted use in the MC, M1 and CM-1 zoning districts.
Purcellville Town Council
Work Session: July 24, 2012
– Topic: “City Status” for Purcellville, zoning amendments to allow student housing in residential districts,
– Councilman Tom Priscilla asked the town to lobby the Virginia General Assembly to remove the moratorium on city status. (Background: Purcellville gave up the right to seek “City Status” with the Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan (PUGAMP). Now that the County and Town of Purcellville, at the town’s request, are in accord to abolish the agreement/contract, Purcellville is seeking city status. In 2010 one of Purcellville’s top priorities was to look into “City Status.”)
– The committee discussed amending the zoning ordinance to allow for student homes in residential districts (up to eight students per house). Presently, the state statute allows for no more than three unrelated adults living together in one house. Planning director Patrick Sullivan indicated that this ordinance would accommodate the needs of Patrick Henry College (PHC). Councilman Tom Priscilla said that the ordinance change would be just for PHC students. Mayor Lazaro added that he hoped that Patrick Henry would not own the homes because if the college did purchase the houses it would take them off the tax rolls. He also directed staff to investigate how other college cities address the issue. Vice Mayor Joan Lehr said that the properties would be owned by the school and she did not want to get involved with lease agreements.
– There was brief discussion about landscaping issues along A Street as part of the Hirst Farm Subdivision incompleted work. Mayor Lazaro said that the county and town are working to resolve the issues of the pond that has to be configured into a dry pond. (Background: The BRL has previously reported that the Town of Purcellville failed to secure a performance bond from the developer.)
Government Reform Commission
Meeting, July 26, 2012
– Topics: County Assessor’s Office Reporting Structure, County Financial Organization, County Debt Policies, Subcommittee Updates
– The commission heard opinions from the county treasurer, the commissioner of revenue, the deputy county administrator, the assessor, and the chief financial officer regarding the location of the assessor’s office within the county government structure and opportunities for streamlining the financial function for greater efficiency. Staff provided benchmarks from five other counties for the commission’s consideration.
– The commission finalized its recommendation that the Board continue to abide by the county’s established fiscal policy.
– Subcommittee 1 presented a video about Sandy Springs, GA – “the city which out-sourced its government.” The subcommittee handed out an initial list of specific areas to be considered for out-sourcing and privatization for study by staff.
– Subcommittee 2 provided updates on its consideration of the fire and rescue function, Loudoun Water governance, and adult day care. Efforts will be made to finalize its reports on these areas for consideration by the full commission at its September meeting. The subcommittee members thanked two citizens, Scott Lutz and Cynthia Klebonis, for a memorandum detailing numerous ways to enhance the transparency of Loudoun Water.