Our all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors just keeps on showing its gratitude and loyalty to them that brought ’em — viz., the developers who plunked down half a million bucks in the 2011 election campaign to get them where they are today.
The Board is pushing ahead with a series of zoning amendments that will cut in half the amount of time staff is allowed to review rezoning and special exception applications; that would allow the Board to “waive” the requirement for any public hearing on proffers, special exceptions, and concept plans; and that would further shut the public out of the chance to be aware of or comment on proposed special changes being made for the benefit of special developers.
While of course presenting this package of goodies as part of its effort to “streamline” the process and make the county more “businesslike,” there is no doubt whatever why the Board is doing this. The county staff has repeatedly found that developers submit incorrect information in their applications in a deliberate effort to try to slip through provisions that are not in fact permitted. It’s up to the staff to catch these “mistakes” and remove them before the application proceeds — otherwise, as has repeatedly happened, it’s too late, and the developers — who have their bulldozers lined up to move the instant they secure their approval — have presented the county with a fait accompli before the error is discovered, if it ever is.
The staff has warned in their written comments on the proposals that by cutting review time in half, they will not be able to focus on “the quality of the information” submitted — which is a bureaucratic euphemism for “are these guys lying through their teeth, as usual?” The staff also warned:
Less notification for public hearings and expanding the changes to approved proffers, concept plans or special exceptions that can be made without public hearing or public review reduces the opportunities for Board and community input into the application. These changes may leave the community frustrated with the inability to clearly understand the proposal, to have constructive input to the process and to see issues addressed.
And the staff also noted that the no. 1 beneficiary of the changes will not be ordinary citizens seeking an adjustment for their individual parcel, but the big boys with the professional staffs and lawyers who can ram through their proposals themselves without assistance:
Less review time particularly at the checklist stage also means less opportunity for staff to assist applicants to correct or provide necessary information, which is the current practice. This will most impact applicants who cannot afford, or choose to process without professional representation.
Will the Board listen to their own professional county staff about these legitimate concerns? If you believe that, you (like the 3/4 of voters who couldn’t be bothered in 2011 to show up at the polls and prevent their county from being taken over by a bunch of crooks) have been asleep for the last two years.