Periodically reviewing government procedures, regulations, and zoning ordinances to see if they need to be improved, updated, or clarified is as American as mom and apple pie. (Or, if you’re the Loudoun County Republican Party, as American as sending out dishonest mailers at election time, violating ethics laws, or wrapping your payoffs to major campaign contributors in the language of religious sanctimony. But I digress.)
But if you give the job of carrying out such a review to a single interest group that is most affected by the rules and which stands to gain the most financially by getting rid of the rules they don’t like, no amount of window dressing in the form of high-sounding words about “efficiency” “reform” and “citizens” can reverse the truth about what’s really going on.
The new all-Republican Loudoun board of supervisors is already showing itself to be masters of hijacking the machinery of open and good government to serve the interests of the commercial developers who funded their campaigns.
The Government Reform Commission, whose membership was presented and approved at the board’s first meeting — somehow all tied up neatly in a bow and agreed upon without a single open meeting and yet without violating the state open meetings laws, a nice trick done presumably with mirrors or lawyers — contains not a single Democrat, not a single representative of the rural economy, not a single independent expert on government efficiency. It does contain several large campaign contributors as well as a number of supremely unqualified local party hacks.
The Facilities Standards Manual Review committee, which is preparing a complete overhaul of the regulations developers have to follow in developing a site, contains not a single independent engineer, not a single representative of environmental or heritage groups, not a single representative of the people who actually live here and might like to have a say in what happens to the place they live. This panel is now made up 100 percent of engineers and others who work directly for developers.
And now comes news that the membership of the soon-to-be reinstated Zoning Ordinance Review Committee, or ZORC, has already been magically settled behind the scenes without a single public meeting yet without violating the state open meetings law (using smoke and lawyers): what a surprise to hear now from our source Shallow Throat deep within the labyrinthine bowels of 1 Harrison Street that it too will be made up entirely of developers and their minions, the very same folks who dropped half a million bucks to put this bunch in office.
The board has already opened up the zoning ordinance to “make the county more business friendly,” which means among other things a planned change to allow mega-big-box stores to locate in any commercial zoned areas without the special exception hearing now required. (So much easier and more “business-friendly” when you don’t have those pesky citizens asking questions!)
County staff has also now been ordered to prepare a draft motion to amend the entire county zoning ordinance and reinstate the ZORC: which will then propose a series of wise, prudent, balanced, citizen-initiated changes from a single industry and single party and single sector of the economy that just happens to be identical to the supervisors’ major campaign contributors.
It’s increasingly clear that when they say “business friendly,” this board has one business only in mind: large commercial retail developers. Among the Republicans supervisors’ top campaign contributors, as noted in previous posts, are large developers of large retail space who would like to colonize Loudoun with more strip malls, more big box stores, not to mention electric flashing signs and other innovations designed to make Loudoun County look like Fairfax or anywhere else.
The new board is only too happy to oblige.