In another snappy 9–0 vote, our brand-new developer-funded Republican-dominated (but I repeat myself) Loudoun County board of supervisors yesterday approved—with virtually no discussion or debate (at least no public discussion or debate)—another complex and opaque amendment to the rules that developers need to follow.
More details on this below, but the short story is that the vote to initiate an amendment to the Facilities Standards Manual is another huge gift to the development industry that contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Loudoun Republicans.
The last time we had a developer-funded Republican-dominated (but I repeat myself) board of supervisors in Loudoun County, namely in 2003–2007, the new GOP board members took office with a veritable gale of obnoxious rhetorical triumphalism that promptly alienated many citizens. The late and unlamented Supervisor Steve Snow (R-Dulles) regularly dismissed as “tree huggers” anyone who opposed his crony-esque plans to aid the development industry and suggested that people who spoke up in favor of preserving Loudoun’s historic and scenic values ought to move to somewhere “like Canada.”
That board ended with an FBI investigation of corruption, and all of the bums being thrown out in the 2007 election in a wave of voter disgust.
My personal favorite among the ethically challenged members of the 2003–2007 board was one Bruce Tulloch, who pushed through an overpriced $13.5 million land purchase by the county of a property whose real estate agent turned out to be none other than local Republican capo and developer henchperson Dale Pollen Myers; telephone records logged more than 150 phone calls between Myers and her minions Tulloch and Snow in the preceding months.
Tulloch also was the beneficiary of a nice lunch with Jack Nicklaus arranged at a Ritz-Carlton resort in Florida; Ritz-Carlton was seeking a zoning exception for its similar resort under construction in Loudoun. In the cozy world of Loudoun GOP-developer politics, all of this was neatly arranged by GOP Chairman (and now state delegate) Randy Minchew, a leading developer lawyer. The Washington Post reported this e-mail Minchew sent to Snow and Tulloch on July 18, 2005:
“Dear Bruce and Steve . . . You have one heck of an agenda tomorrow.
“I would suggest that Steve simply make the motion (we will e-mail over to you today a draft motion) and let the application be approved over Mr. Burton’s objections, probably on a 5-4 vote.
“I think that as little discussion as possible is best course of action.”
This time around the new GOP board has been very determined to put on a smooth exterior air of bland geniality and superficial reasonableness (well, very superficial in the case of Supervisor Ken “Cleaning up Roadside Trash is Bad for the Environment” Reid).
But in their basic MO, nothing has changed. Highly technical loopholes are being adopted by 9–0 votes with no discussion: clearly the agenda and details are coming direct from GOP Developer Attorney Central.
I mean, you’d think any normal representative of the public might ask “what exactly would this bill do?” when presented with something like a “Resolution of Intent to Amend the Facilities Standards Manual (FSM) in its entirety.” Yet somehow all of these guys got the word to vote for it, and shut up about it—just in the same way GOP Developer Attorney and now State Delegate Minchew instructed his pals Steve and Bruce back in 2005.
Since the Virginia Open Meetings law requires any meeting of 3 or more elected officials to be conducted in public, you have to wonder how they do it.
Do they all secretly rendezvous in a parking garage by dead of night, like Bob Woodward meeting Deep Throat?
As for the FSM amendment: this is becoming a signature move of this board: do all of the dirty work out of the public eye by (a) filling a board with developers and local Republican Party functionaries (but I etc etc etc) and (b) charging the board in the vaguest possible terms to “review” “revise” “consolidate” and of course, “make Loudoun more business friendly”. The snappy 9–0 vote to amend the FSM gives the job to the now-euphemistically named Facilities Standards Manual “Public” Review Committee. The board having just the day before thrown off of the FSM “Public” Review Committee any representatives of environmental groups, it will be no surprise what to expect in the outcome. But it’s a fig leaf to keep the public from seeing the real ugliness of what lies beneath.
(Alright, we don’t want to push that metaphor too far.)
The FSM, by the way, dictates in considerable detail the technical requirements developers need to follow in site plans and roads and tree retention and wetlands and on and on. This is a huge Trojan Horse the board quietly approved.