Collegiality: When an elected board whose members represent distinct geographic areas must decide a narrow initiative — like flying a helicopter to avoid Northern Virginia traffic — the majority customarily defers to the colleague whose constituents are most affected. But eight Loudoun supervisors voted together to overcome local opposition to one businessman’s plan to commute by chopper from west Loudoun County.
Chuck Kuhn owns 532-acre Egypt Farm LLC in Philomont. In 2015, Loudoun County land use programs to encourage open space reduced real estate taxes on Kuhn’s land from $55,515 to $6,460.
Feb. 19, 2005 — Despite strong opposition, Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors on Feb. 18 voted 8-1 to allow Chuck Kuhn, CEO and president of JK Moving and Storage in Sterling, to fly a helicopter from his Egypt Farm up to 10 trips a week. Only Janet Clarke, Loudoun Supervisor in the Blue Ridge District where Kuhn’s helipad will be located, voted no.
Clarke wanted heliport hours restricted to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. as provided in an existing ordinance. But none of her eight colleagues supported her motion, instead granting Kuhn extended night hours to 10 p.m. to accommodate his commute to Gaithersburg.
“Mr. Kuhn, I guess you’re getting all that you want, even beyond what the ordinance has specified,” Clarke said before the vote [at 4:08 in video]. “It seems unfair … for us to expand [hours] for one applicant.”
According to Loudoun tax records, Kuhn owns seven parcels of land known as Egypt Farm LLC that comprise 532.45 acres east of the intersection of Snickersville Turnpike and Watermill Road. With total fair market value (FMV) assessed at $4,912,790, Kuhn’s 2015 tax bill would be $55,514.53 if Loudoun adopts an equalized homeowner tax rate of $1.13 in FY 2016 as proposed.
But conservation easements shelter most of Egypt Farm’s acreage from real estate taxes, defer $4,341,080 of its fair market value, and reduce Kuhn’s 2015 tax liability to $571,710.
Tax bills are computed by dividing the county-assessed total fair market value by $100, then multiplying by the current year’s adopted homeowner tax rate. For Egypt Farm, that math yields a 2015 tax bill of $55,514.53, $5,514.53 more than the annual salary of the chairman of Loudoun County’s part-time Board of Supervisors.
Subtracting Egypt Farm’s deferred land use value from total FMV, dividing by $100, and multiplying by $1.13, reduces Kuhn’s 2015 tax bill by $49,054.21, or 88%. So his 2015 tax bill will be closer to $6,460.32.
$4,912,790 FMV – $4,341,080 deferred value = $571,710/$100 = $5,717.10 x $1.13 = $6,460.32.
According to Leesburg Today, as part of his application for a special exception to county zoning, Kuhn will also donate $1,177 to the Philomont Volunteer Fire Department.
According to his company’s web site, Kuhn in 2006 hosted a town hall meeting for President George W. Bush at JK’s corporate headquarters.
Bringing Kuhn’s special exception application before the Board of Supervisors was Christine Gleckner, former manager of Loudoun County’s land use review division and advisor to the Loudoun Planning Commission. She now works in the Leesburg office of Arlington-based Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, a law firm of land use specialists in Northern Virginia. Managing shareholder for the Loudoun office is Va. Del. Randy Minchew (R-10) of Leesburg.
In pricey Loudoun County, land use programs intended to preserve open space often become tax shelters for owners waiting for prices to rise before they subdivide and sell. In 2013, Minchew patroned a bill in the General Assembly that rewrote a law requiring landowners to pay rollback taxes if they remove property from land use before its 5-to-20-year term expires. Minchew’s bill converted mandated rollback taxes to an option at the discretion of local governments.
Constitutional (elected) officers assess and collect real estate taxes in Loudoun. Commissioner of the Revenue Robert Wertz directs tax assessment and the county treasurer, Roger Zurn, directs revenue collection. Both are Republicans seeking re-election this year.
All 9 seats on the Board of Supervisors (BOS) are also open in 2015. All are currently held by Republicans. Two supervisors, Clarke and Ken Reid of Leesburg District, announced they won’t run again. After four terms in office, the last three as BOS Chairman, Scott York says he won’t run again either. And Broad Run Supervisor Shawn Williams announced he will run for York’s vacant seat as chairman, leaving the Broad Run seat open too. [Update 2/23/15: Williams has withdrawn from the race for chairman and will not seek re-election.]
The following comments are reprinted from “Loudoun Online Land Applications” (LOLA), the county web site for public documents related to land use applications. Egypt Farm’s special exception is SPEX-2014-0010:
On 7/21/2014 Louis H. Boink. Capt. USNavy (Ret.) says: We strongly oppose a helipad on Egypt Farm. We have cattle and horses all of which will be disturbed by low flying helicopters. Egypt Farm is a Bald Eagle habitat and must be protected. SAY NO, keep Western Loudoun rural and peaceful.
On 7/21/2014 M.J. McAteer says: I moved to western Loudoun to be in a quiet, rural setting. I do not want helicopters landing in my neighborhood and disturbing the peace.
On 7/22/2014 Sharon Peart says: Loudoun County should protect the countryside from inappropriate construction and light and noise pollution. Philomont is an area of outstanding natural beauty which should be protected. This shows poor environmental stewardship.
On 7/22/2014 Roy Beach says: NO HELIPAD! Upon acquiring Eqypt Farm, Mr.Kuhn repeatedly flew over my house spooking my horses and creating a noisy disturbance. It only stopped when he realized he needed a permit. And I fear it would negatively impact my property value!
On 7/22/2014 Amy Fox says: Everyone I know lives in this area because of its tranquility, beauty, and relaxing connections to the cycles of nature. Not the speed cycles of a helicopter. Vote no and keep the peace.
On 7/22/2014 Marilyn Finnemore says: We’re minutes away from Leesburg Airport, not some remote area where flying is necessary and the rights of neighbors arent in question. While I appreciate the plan to put the land in easement, we shouldn’t be held hostage because of it.
On 7/22/2014 Kelley Ahern says: NO HELIPAD! I have animals that will be frightened by the noise that a helicopter would bring. If Mr. Kuhn needs a helicopter then he is less than 15 minutes from Leesburg Airport. Let him park it there.
On 7/22/2014 John Anderson says: Please do not approve this thoughtless intrusion into what still remains of the rural complexion of this part of the county.
On 7/22/2014 Peggy Hurley says: I strongly oppose the creation of a heliport at Egypt Farm. Access to this property by air is completely unnecessary and inappropriate. Very serious safety issues involved.
On 7/22/2014 Duncan Donohue says: I oppose a special exception for a helipad on Egypt Farm.
On 7/22/2014 Mitch Diamond says: This application must include restrictions on noise, altitude and speed over neighbors. Helicopters from Mt Weather sometimes fly too low over our farm. It spooks the horses and makes working with them extremely dangerous.
On 7/22/2014 Sharon Blank says: While not in keeping with rural W. Loudoun, it is unnecessary given Leesburg Airport is 15 mins away & Egypt Farm has good road access. It also presents liability issues to landowners whose livestock are scared by a low flying helicopter
On 7/22/2014 Ed Levine says: I say let him build it. He brings many jobs and tax revenue to our county. He can already fly over his farm as much as he wants anyway without permission from Loudoun County or his neighbors. The thing to do is allow him to build it.
On 7/22/2014 Mary beth Lucas says: This will spoil our neighborhood character and decrease property values. Horses (one of western Loudoun’s best and most economically valuable features) and helicopters do not mix..
On 7/22/2014 Kirk Mainland says: I have seen how the Kuhn’s care for their and livestock.They own farms in VA where they raise livestock.He knows how to provide a quality environment. I’ve flown with him for almost 30 yr. He is respectful of how flying will effect residents.
On 7/22/2014 Brian Carlson says: As a Loudoun property owner, I strongly support the right to use his land as he sees fit.
On 7/22/2014 Tim Bagot says: I believe the benefits outweigh the concerns. Mr. Kuhn has a desire to provide emergency services to assist law enforcement, medical evac. I believe he’ll do everything he can to minimize any impact helicopter use may cause.
On 7/22/2014 Sara Parella says: I suffer from PTSD, triggered by helicopter noise. My daughter had a fatal accident and was airlifted by helicopter. I relive this nightmare when I hear helicopters. I would be traumatized daily.
On 7/23/2014 Devon Zebrovious says: I oppose this as Leesburg Airport can easily be reached; noise pollution affecting the rural nature of the area, potentially impacting property values; & likelihood of upsetting valuable horses located on farms nearby to Egypt Farm.
On 7/23/2014 Mark Donofrio says: I SUPPORT special exception for the Helipad. It poses no direct impact to the neighbors from the middle of his large property. The resulting noise is minimal and infrequent.
On 7/23/2014 Penni Korb says: As an adjacent land owner, I reject the notion that a heliport is needed in North Fork. I commuted to Washington DC for over 30 years. Asking Mr. Kuhn to endure a short commute to the Leesburg Airport doesnt seem unreasonable.
On 7/23/2014 Patricia Sharp says: Horses have a fright/flight response to Helicopter noise.Residents in the area have farms and animals that would be impacted disturbed.They were there first and do not want helicopter noise interfering with chosen and paid for way of life.
On 7/23/2014 Bill Blank says: Running a 7 seat commercial helicopter to reduce a commute is not a valid reason for an exception and it burdens emergency services. The community has already witnessed the noise and disturbance caused by this craft. Keep it at the airport!
On 7/23/2014 Ruth Davis says: I strongly oppose the approval of a helipad. Buzzing helicopters overhead of rural homes with livestock and wild animals just does not make sense. Dulles Airport is 40 minutes away perhaps that makes more sense for a helipad.
On 7/24/2014 Andrew Ross says: Mr. Kuhn flies the Eurocopter EC-130, it is one of the quietest helicopters in the world. Egypt Farm is twice the size of Leesburg Airport. I don’t thnk its unreasonable to allow one helicopter to occasionally land on 550 acres.
On 7/24/2014 Meredith Norbo says: I support land owner rights! Yes for the helipad. By the way, Paul Mellon’s championship racehorses seemed to do just fine next to the landing strip for jets on his property.
On 7/25/2014 Karen Martz says: Vote NO for the helicopter pad. Why to people move to rural Loudoun then want to change it? Please keep the peace.
On 7/30/2014 D Cates says: I strongly oppose the building of this helipad. Leesburg Airport is a short drive away. There is no need to further disrupt the community. We already have far too much air traffic this is disruptive to our lives.
On 8/3/2014 Frank Sciurba says: An unnecessary danger to all.
On 8/14/2014 Tamra Spink says: Say NO to the helipad. I support the rights of the rest of the Western Loudoun landowners who would be negatively impacted.
On 8/14/2014 Shannon Callaghan says: It’s his property and he should be allowed to have a helipad in the CENTER if he chooses. We get LOTS of overhead traffic coming/going to Mt. Weather – this isn’t going to make a big difference.
On 12/8/2014 Doug Steiner says: Preference against this application. Arguments of “in the middle of the property” hold little validity. Helicopters are inherently noisy. Overflights to Mt. Weather create enough annoyance. Another loss of rural western. Use Leesburg.