De Francis gets OK in Virginia

March 11, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

LEESBURG, VA — LEESBURG, Va.-- Joe De Francis scored a victory before the Loudoun County Planning Commission last night when the board voted 5-4 to clear the way for Laurel/Pimlico to build a track near Dulles Airport without further zoning changes.

"What this means is that they [Pimlico/Laurel] have been given 'by right' zoning and can go ahead and build their track right now, if the board of supervisors approves our recommendation," said Dale Pullen Myers, the planning commission chairman.

Myers, however, said she was "real disappointed" in the panel's decision. She lives in the Ashburn Farms residential community about a mile from the proposed track. When the planning commission held a hearing on the matter Wednesday night, 52 people spoke "and the feeling was 2-1 against the track," commission member Scott York said.

"What this decision says," Myers said, "is that the public doesn't count."

Myers and York both wanted a zoning ordinance change that would have required additional public input before the track could be built. However, York said the board of supervisors wanted to expedite matters and made it known that they wanted the "by right" zoning.

Terry Titus, a planning commission member who voted for favorable zoning for Laurel/Pimlico, said, "There are two different opinions expressed on this issue. One is the economic and business viewpoint and the feeling expressed at the hearing that building this track would be good for the entire county. The other side is the neighborhood issue. Both are valid. But in this case, the county won."

The zoning recommendation includes provisions for horses and racetrack employees to be on the course grounds only 30 days within the start of a meet and 10 days after a meet.

The recommendation also places a curfew of 11 p.m. on simulcasting.

Despite the zoning victory for Laurel/Pimlico last night, Myers and York said that a large number of residents will turn out on Monday when the Virginia Racing Commission holds a site visit and public hearing at the Loudoun site. "I guarantee you all those residents are going to be angry, and there are going to be a lot of phone calls," Myers said.

In contrast, when the racing commission visited Portsmouth and Virginia Beach on Wednesday, there was overwhelming community support for potential tracks being built in those cities.

The Loudoun board of supervisors meets April 6 to vote on whether it will approve the planning commission's recommendation.

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