The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has its eyes set on several legislative changes in the future following this year’s General Assembly session.
Some of the shifts include impacts on tax sources and solar energy options.
In July, the board used its authority to “remove, relocate or contextualize” war memorials by accepting the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s request to remove the organizations’ Confederate monument. That was made possible after a change in state law following the 2020 General Assembly session.
Here are a few other items the board has discussed with county staff:
• Removal of dangerous roadside conditions
Info: New law requires property owners adjacent to a right-of-way maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation to remove any and all trees, tree limbs, shrubs, high grass, or other substance that might dangerously obstruct the line of sight of a driver, be involved in a collision with a vehicle, or interfere with the safe operation of a vehicle.
Action: Loudoun County staff will return to the board with an item on the pertinent safety provisions and potential impacts to property owners as it relates to new authority provided under §15.2-2009.1 of the Code of Virginia.
• Solar energy projects; revenue sharing assessment
Info: New law authorizes localities to assess a revenue share of up to $1,400 per megawatt on any solar photovoltaic (electric energy) project. The legislation also expands an existing tax exemption for such projects under certain conditions.
Staff from the Loudoun County Commissioner’s Office plan to bring forward proposed ordinance changes in the fall regarding Chapter 868 of the Loudoun Codified Ordinances. The office could also bring forward a separate information item that would address the revenue sharing on electric energy projects.
The Department of General Services and Planning and Zoning support the changes provided in the code and agree it would facilitate more solar energy projects within Loudoun, which is supported by the Loudoun County 2019 General Plan.
Action: Board tabled the item indefinitely.
• Special exception for solar photovoltaic projects and solar energy projects; national standards
Info: Legislation would allow Loudoun to include solar photovoltaic projects as a special exception use and to incorporate generally accepted national standards for the use of solar panels and battery technologies for solar photovoltaic (electric energy) projects.
The Natural, Environmental and Heritage Resources Strategy 9.5 of the 2019 General Plan supports renewable energy, and associated actions call for the county to become certified as a “solar-ready” community that supports solar farms.
Action: Staff will draft zoning ordinance amendments as part of the ongoing Zoning Ordinance Rewrite to include reasonable regulations and provisions for a special exception for any solar photovoltaic (electric energy) project.
Staff will also draft zoning ordinance amendments as part of the ongoing Zoning Ordinance Rewrite to incorporate generally accepted national standards for the use of solar panels and battery technologies for solar photovoltaic projects.
Revenue and taxes
• Courthouse and courtroom security; assessment
Info: New law permits localities to increase fees for each criminal or traffic case in its district or circuit court from $10 up to a maximum of $20. The assessment is collected by the clerks and appropriated to the sheriff’s office to fund courthouse security personnel, and, if requested by the sheriff, equipment and other personal property used in connection with courthouse security.
County staff estimates that fund would increase from $424,128 to $860,000 if implemented.
Action: Item tabled to the board’s Sept. 1 business meeting.
• Local disposable plastic bag tax
Info: Authorizes localities beginning no earlier than Jan. 1, 2021, to impose a tax of five cents per bag on disposable plastic bags provided to consumers by certain retailers, with certain bags being exempt from the tax. The bill allows every retailer that collects the tax to retain a portion of the five-cent tax and provides that the revenue accruing to the county or city shall be used for certain purposes, including environmental cleanup and the provision of reusable bags.
Action: The board did not take any action on the matter. A motion made by Vice Chairman Koran Saines (D-Sterling) to direct staff to develop and present an information item to consider the creation of a disposable plastic bag tax failed 4-5. Supervisors Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin), Matthew Letourneau (R-Dulles), Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) opposed.
• Local tax authority — Admission’s Tax
Info: One of several amendments to the state code modifying revenue mechanisms available to localities for the general purpose of providing parity between independent cities and counties. Loudoun would be able to tax up to 10 percent of the amount of charge for admission to an event.
Action: Staff will develop and present an information item to consider the creation of an Admission’s Tax for the board’s finance committee as part of the fiscal 2022 budget development process.
• Local tax authority — Transient Occupancy Tax
Info: Loudoun would be able to remove limits for transient occupancy tax. Any tax above 2 percent and up to 5 percent shall be designated and solely spent for tourism and travel. Allows tax above 5 percent to be used for general revenues. The county’s TOT tax is set at 7 percent.
Action: The board took no action. Vice Chairman Saines’s motion to consider a modification to the Transient Occupancy Tax rate for the finance committee as part of the fiscal 2022 budget development process failed 3-6.
Supervisors Sylvia Glass (D-Broad Run), Mike Turner (D-Ashburn), Buffington, Kershner, Letourneau and Randall opposed.
• Local tax authority — Cigarette Tax
Info: Loudoun would be able to place a levy tax on cigarettes of up to two cents ($0.02) per cigarette sold or 40 cents ($0.40) per pack. The Health Department is supportive of the implementation of a cigarette tax as a measure to reduce the number of active smokers.
Action: Staff will develop and present an information item to consider the creation of a cigarette tax for the finance committee as part of the fiscal 2022 budget development process.