Charles (and others),
i felt rather in need of a break from paid work headaches and busyness for a few minutes tonight, so i hacked on this for a little while...
what's attached is an updated, improved, and largely untested URLResourceLoader. it's Velocity 1.5-dev dependent (largely due to logging), but doesn't need to remain so. i currently have it as being in the Generic Tools package, but if someone were willing to test it and/or write some JUnit tests for it, i think it may be core worthy. it doesn't really fit all that great with the rest of the tools, and i'm still impressed by your "been using it successfully for three years" endorsement.
so in particular, i'd like to know if the improvements work for you, but if you or someone else had time to provide some tests that would also help move things along.