Letter to the Editor: Divided MVCCA

Letter to the Editor: Divided MVCCA

To the Editor:

Last week, the MVCCA suffered a mini-implosion resulting from the controversial request by Furnace Associates, Inc. for a Special Exemption Amendment (SEA) permitting them to continue operating a landfill in the Lorton area until the year 2040, 22 years beyond the deadline imposed by the current Special Exemption. At last Wednesday's MVCCA's Council meeting, a resolution originating from its Environment & Recreation (E&R) Committee was debated and passed, after a contentious debate, by the slim margin of 10-9. The resolution was in opposition to the proposed SEA. Noteworthy to me is the fact that the MVCCA resolution makes no mention whatsoever of the position of the South County Federation (SCF) in opposition to the proposed SEA. During my brief time as chairman of the MVCCA's Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Committee, it was my strict policy to defer to the wishes of the SCF concerning any land use issues on lands in the South County area where its residents were most directly impacted. The MVCCA's continuing paternalistic attitude toward the SCF and its member associations and residents significantly reduces the MVCCA's influence concerning such issues. This needs to change.

Moreover, the 2010 decision of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in the New Cingular Wireless PCS case made it clear that the most closely adjacent residents to a proposed development carry the most weight concerning governmental decisions regarding those proposed developments. In that case, the MVCCA favored placement of a cell tower at the Masonic Lodge on Fort Hunt Road. The proposed cell tower was opposed by the adjacent residents on Plymouth Road who did not even have a citizens' association nor were they members of the MVCCA. Judge Brinkema sided with the Plymouth Road residents and her decision was affirmed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Thus, the MVCCA may as well have simply ratified the SCF's position on the issue since the SCF's position in opposition to the SEA is the one the Board of Supervisors and any Court would abide by.

The MVCCA currently has 55 member associations and requires 1/5 of them (11) to be present to constitute a quorum. As such, the MVCCA vote, split almost down the middle, did not even have as many proponents as minimally required for a quorum. The split vote in and of itself rendered the MVCCA resolution inconsequential.

After that vote took place, MVCCA Transportation Committee Chairman Catherine Voorhees proposed an alternative resolution favoring the proposed SEA. That proposal failed on a 9-9 vote.

Last Thursday, the Planning Commission took up the SEA for consideration and vote. E&R Chairman Elizabeth Martin requested that she be permitted to represent the MVCCA's position at the Planning Commission meeting. The MVCCA co-chairs denied the request. This is not surprising since a vote of barely 1/3 the members of the MVCCA, split down the middle as it was, evidences a lack of consensus on the issue. The appropriate course of action was to let the resolution speak for itself. Moreover, it remains surprising that the MVCCA Board continues to allow Ms. Martin to continue in her role as E&R Chairman while she simultaneously serves on the County Wetlands Board. This is in clear violation of the MVCCA's Bylaws which forbid a member of their board from simultaneously serving on a policy determining board of the County.

In the aftermath of Wednesday's MVCCA's Council meeting, one of its three co-chairs Christopher Low resigned his position as did the MVCCA Secretary Carol Coyle and Treasurer Patricia Gowland. Now the question is who will replace these resignees, particularly for the co-chair position? In recent years, co-chair positions have operated like a revolving door. Each co-chair is permitted to serve only three consecutive years and then must cycle out. Thus, co-chairs often serve for up to three years, wait a period of time, and then cycle back in. It would be refreshing if the MVCCA Board chose new blood. We will soon see.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon