Tag Archives: Development

“Envision” – end of rural?

Lovettsville in Loudoun’s Rural Area

Lovettsville in Loudoun’s Rural Area

Loudoun County, self-described as one of the richest and most splendid counties in America, has set upon producing a “new” comprehensive plan, titled, “Envision Loudoun,” and, to that end, sought to obtain the opinions of the community in what were called, “listening and learning sessions,” to determine what that plan should look like for the County including its rural area.

David Truman, a political scientist, wrote that public hearings and input sessions may be to inform the governing body or they may just be methods to expel political energy while disregarding the will of the people.

Focusing on Western Loudoun, the comments from listening, learning and postings in this ongoing process include thousands of published comments (in small 10 pica type) to preserve Western Loudoun and to stop the development that is underway; this is a sample of the comments:

  • “Stop the urban sprawl and protect Western Loudoun.”
  • “Maintain two distinct areas, rural west, urban east.”
  • “Keep the West rural.”
  • “Stop growth.”
  • “Contributing to this is the county caving in to developers’ desires…”
  • “Economic development should not be a higher purpose than livability – property rights matter.”
  • “Rural roads should be left unpaved.  If people move to the rural area it should be for the aesthetics of the area.”
  • “Protect culture of western Loudoun established over last 250 years.”
  • “Protect stone fences throughout western Loudoun, along historic roadways in western Loudoun County, e.g., Beaverdam Creek Historic Roadway.”
  • “Maintain open spaces.”
  • “Preserve current agriculture [and] farms.”
  • “Historic villages aren’t meant to support traffic.”
  • “No big box stores [in] Western Loudoun.”
  • “Love Western Loudoun as it is, keep open space, horse farms, fight development pressure/housing development.”
  • “Stop the residential development.”

At the same time, the public’s opinions were released, there was a separate “Foundation Report” that purported to represent the findings of the “listening” and “learning.”

It described how “Loudoun County has evolved from a collection of rural villages” and from when it was “primarily an agricultural community.”

Rather than cite the will of the residents in the County, and in Western Loudoun, the Report says there is a “growing market demand for new types of development and community amenities.” Continue reading

The canary in the stream

Horse fly larva

Horse fly larva

The expression and the actual practice is “the canary in the coal mine,” a means to detect deadly levels of carbon dioxide gas that overwhelms the canary, signaling to the miners that they might succumb next, and so they are fairly warned to escape.

There are comparable early warning signs, using other small creatures, to detect whether the river and stream waters that we drink, fish and swim in may be “impaired,” or significantly degraded.

Unfortunately, we do have “impaired waters” – so this is not an academic question.

All our County’s streams are affected by human activities, especially development, and some do not meet the standards of the Clean Water Act and Virginia Water Quality Standards for recreational use and aquatic life.

We have to be concerned about Catoctin Creek and Goose Creek and their tributaries, Little River, Limestone Branch, Piney Run, Broad Run and Sugarland Run.  We all have an obligation as stewards to use but not alter or compromise this most essential natural resource, the waters by which we live.

We have pollution from storm water runoff, grazing, failing septic tank systems.  The more impervious surfaces we have, the more our watersheds are compromised.  Nor can we ignore the fecal bacteria mostly due to livestock.  We have to remediate against these polluting practices.

The good news is that there are things we can do to protect and preserve our waterways and we have the means to detect when our streams are “impaired.” Continue reading

Historic bridge remains at risk

johnLewisBridgeYou may wonder what happened to that historic one-lane bridge on Featherbed Lane that VDOT seemed inclined to alter or destroy.

Well VDOT is having another meeting on February 9, 2016, at 6 p.m. at the Old School in Waterford, and the bridge is still on the chopping block.

There is an effort by the Catoctin Creek Scenic River Advisory Committee to preserve the bridge’s historic standing and maintain its listing in the National Registry of Historic Places and in Virginia Landmarks Registry.

In 2003, VDOT “hot zinced” the bridge to preserve it and instead made the bridge more brittle.

According to the Advisory Committee, VDOT now admits that may have been the wrong thing to do.

The challenge is to repair the bridge consistent with the recommendation of Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources.

Marc Holma, the Architectural Historian, for the Division of Review and Compliance, wrote on behalf of the Department, that “the Architectural Evaluation Team decided that only Alternative 2A [of VDOT’s proposals] would preserve enough of the bridge’s historic design and materials to keep it listed in the NRHP [Nation Register of Historic Places].”

johnLewisBridgePier

The Advisory Committee would prefer that this Alternative 2A not have a pier as when there are storms, trees and branches, they accumulate around the pier. The current configuration of the bridge has no pier.

The Advisory Committee said that you have to go out there after every storm clearing out the log jam when you have a pier or piling.

VDOT is distressed that trucks weigh too much and may have trouble clearing the upper trusses.

One resident asked why is a truck traveling on that road, much less the bridge.

Is this really a way to create new paved roadways to facilitate more development, rather than preserve and protect this charming back road and historic bridge?

On the northeast side of Featherbed Lane, just over the bridge, there is Waterford Downs, a development slated to have 93 homes on 3 Acre lots, with 5 built already.

For trucks to avoid the dirt road and the historic bridge, in order to get to the development, requires that the trucks go around on other roads, taking an additional 45 minutes.

These narrow dirt roads are not meant for such heavy traffic.

One member of the advisory committee suggested that, if the bridge is revised and widened, then the dirt road may be next to be widened and paved.

It remains a bitter irony that, while the bridge was named after a preservationist, John G. Lewis, its own chance of preservation is at high risk.

Mr. Lewis had been the local regional representative for the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, now known as the Department of Historic Resources.

John spearheaded the Scenic River designation for Catoctin Creek that flows beneath the bridge.

This tension may be resolved, either to preserve or destroy the bridge and its historic nature, at the meeting scheduled for February 9th in Waterford.

We should not squander another historic treasure. We have to make this work and save the bridge.

Political brawling in Loudoun

boxingBrawlFighters like politicians don’t always know when to step down.

Loudoun County Board Chairman Scott York is that kind of fighter who doesn’t know when to quit.

On about January 8, 2015, Scott said he’d put a lot of thought into whether he’d quit and decided his future “just didn’t include being Chairman for another four years.”

If Ali, a three time heavyweight champ, had listened to Doc Ferdie Pacheco, he might have gone out like undefeated heavy weight champ Rocky Marciano, physically intact, laurels strewn in his wake, without the humiliation of a drubbing by Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes.

York badly wanted those laurels from the Chamber of Commerce and he told them, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, not to worry, he really wasn’t going to go for a fifth round to get elected.

The Chamber conferred on pug Scott York his desired “laurels,” and, no sooner did they rest upon his hallowed crown, did he throw a sharp left jab at his own integrity, and jump into the political ring, seeking re-election.

“Slippery” Scott is like a small club fighter who slips punches, shifts his stance to suit election year allies, tracks backward in the ring, the “Slippery” Scott shuffle, and, between rounds, his corner men treat his cuts, an expanding contributing entourage of developers, according to VPAP, including real estate developers, general contractors, highway contractors, building trades, excavation contractors, so they can have their hoped-for fifth round, more pay days by our County, for even more development. Continue reading

Take down those signs

blackKingSignsWestern Loudoun was and still is mostly a garden of delight. And other sections of the County have their special and distinctive charms.

I can’t say from observation what’s going on in the East but I suspect it’s about the same, as I’ve been told it is, especially along Sterling Boulevard.

In the West, I can tell you, the rolling green fields and three board horse fences are punctuated, awfully close to the road, with offensively large, in-your-face, self-adoring, political signs, at many turns in our local highways and dirt roads, the letters as tall as a small child, and thick in their indecent calligraphic display.

These monster signs have been posted by Republican pols who, for the most part, are characteristically comfortable with any development, almost no matter how it compromises or may ultimately destroy our marvelous countryside.

These signs are “the medium” for their “message.” (This is a nodding adaptation of Marshall McLuhan’s oft-quoted sentiment that – the “medium is the message.”

If President Reagan had a bipartisan sense of humor, he might say, “Take down those signs.”

As an old hand at this political business, I know that pols believe that 85% of a vote in an election is name recognition. So these signs don’t say anything but the candidate’s name and office.

I strongly suggest that you note the names on these signs and recoil from pulling the lever on any one of them – if you find their postings in as off-puttingly bad taste as I do.

We judge character by a person’s actions – and publishing these obnoxious larger than life, narcissistic nudges to our memory lobes, and leaving these monster signs out there as a persistent eyesore for months before the election, squatting on the good taste of the community, plainly suggests that these wannabe electables, view any objection to their signs, like Rhett Butler might in “Gone with the Wind” – “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

Those hosting the signs no doubt make the lame protest – we can do what we want with our property, or with the consent of the property owner. Well, there really are some things one should not do. And maybe there should be a law about this – if the current freedom comes unrestrained by responsibility. Continue reading

No more endearing hugs. Darn.

In light of yesterday’s WaPo story by Caitlin Gibson, I think it’s safe to say that the lovefest between Scott York and Eugene Delgaudio has indeed run its course.

[Delgaudio attorney Charlie King] is probably just drinking the same clown juice that Delgaudio is, because I have no idea what the heck he’s talking about,

said York in response to King’s statement. In that statement, distributed to the media after the board unanimously stripped Delgaudio of his standing committee appointments at its first 2013 business meeting, King tries to suggest that this is all about York, that York has a “pattern” of alleging misconduct, ignoring the fact that Mr. Delgaudio is the subject of a criminal investigation.

A divorce settlement is pending, we hear.

As many have pointed out since the investigation began, and long before it was handed over to the special prosecutor, it is standard procedure to place an individual under investigation on suspension pending resolution of the matter. At the very least, Real Advocate and others argued, Mr. Delgaudio should be barred from shaping revisions to the county’s aide policies. Supervisor Williams attempted to call for stripping Mr. Delgaudio of these duties back in November, but was thwarted by York, allowing him to participate in the Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee making those revisions. Now it appears that York is the sole target of Mr. Delgaudio’s wrath, at least publicly.

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“Sprawl Is The American Dream”

With all the crazy coming out of Loudoun Republicans lately, its easy to forget that underneath that hard shell of cultural divisiveness is a sugary nougat of truly awful policies.

Take, for example, a race that has flown under the proverbial radar this year. The race for Algonkian Supervisor, which sets long-time community resident and activist (and personal friend, in the interests of full disclosure) Denise Moore Pierce against long-time conservative gadfly Suzanne Volpe. Here’s a race that can, and should turn truly on policy grounds, because there is a clear difference between the candidates, and a clear choice to be made.

Specifically, Ms. Volpe, who is running to represent a “mature” community in Loudoun, one with established neighborhoods, schools, traditions and families, is an advocate – and an unabashed one – for sprawl. Indeed, she gave a speech calling development sprawl the American Dream. A stark statement for a stark choice.

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Business, Development and Supervisor Kelly Burk

Business and development are not synonyms.

As Loudoun’s 2011 election season heats up, it is worth remembering this simple fact. Many candidates and campaigns will spend the time between now and November trying to conflate the two, though they are quite different. Often, you will see candidates who are in favor of careful consideration of development, what has been termed as “smart growth” in the past, lambasted as being “anti-business” or even “anti-job,” when nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the best way to be pro-business in Loudoun County is often to examine questions of development with an eye towards their economic impacts and benefits. After all, every development application is, by its very nature, a short-term zero-sum game. The decision to use a parcel of land for one purpose necessarily eliminates the option to use to another purpose, at least for the foreseeable future. Loudoun has seen this principle in action over the past decade, with the decision on, and subsequent collapse of, One Loudoun being the most striking example.

You will recall that One Loudoun was supposed to have been an engine of business growth at a perfect, unique location. In fact, it was billed as a centerpiece for economic development in the County. But a funny thing happened on the way to paradise, One Loudoun’s developers went bankrupt, and the residents of Loudoun have gained nothing in terms of revenue, job growth or economic development from that once-paragon project.

This is why all questions of development must be examined closely, and with a critical eye. Development, by necessity, means permanence. And the costs and risks of a wrong decision echo through the county for decades.

Leesburg’s own Supervisor, Kelly Burk, is the Chair of the Transportation and Land Use Committee on the Board of Supervisors. She takes this job as Supervisor very seriously. When making a decision for the County, she considers not just the short-term, but also the long-term impacts of that decision. This is true for everything she does, from budgets to zoning to, yes, development decisions.

Witness, for example, the process that the Loudoun Hounds baseball stadium went through for approval. Supervisor Burk was at the center of that process, working with all stakeholders and eventually forging a compromise that allowed baseball to come to Loudoun while preserving critical habitats for endangered species and ensuring the benefits of the project, including much needed transportation improvements, accrued to the residents of Loudoun. The successful approval of the Stadium was the result of Supervisor Burk’s efforts, and in the end, Supervisor Burk voted “yes” because she found a willing partner in the Stadium’s development team.

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Kelly Burk has made a career of working with local business communities in Leesburg and throughout Loudoun to create sustainable conditions for business, and job, growth. During her terms on both the Town Council and the Board of Supervisors, Ms. Burk has worked tirelessly to improve the business conditions at the Leesburg Airport, and has been widely recognized for those efforts by Republicans and Democrats alike. Unlike this piece of land, or that piece of land, the Leesburg Airport truly is a unique factor in Loudoun’s economic engine. It’s enhancement and protection creates good, long-term, high-paying jobs that return revenues to the County’s coffers and bring business to the County’s companies.

Furthermore, Supervisor Burk has actively, and regularly, put together events to find jobs for her constituents. She has sponsored two annual job fairs (so far) that connect local businesses with young people looking for work. In this, she has directly addressed the single largest portion of Loudoun’s unemployed: young people. No one else in Leesburg, on the Board or on the Council, has pro-actively connected employers with job seekers as a regular part of their elected duties.

All too often, Republicans in Loudoun County equate development with economic growth, when all evidence is to the contrary. Indeed, in the past few years, Loudoun’s growth has come not from development (witness, again One Loudoun), but from the expansion of Loudoun’s existing businesses and the development of new ones. It is this kind of economic development that brings good, long-term, well-paying jobs to Loudoun. Those are the kinds of jobs that improve Loudoun’s revenue and can sustain our success.

Perhaps this is why so many businesses in Leesburg, and throughout Loudoun, trust Supervisor Burk. They come to her with their problems and concerns, and she looks for ways to help. And more often than not, like with the airport and the job fairs, she finds ways to help, and makes them happen. That is putting Leesburg first, and that is the job of a Supervisor.

Utah’s Abandoned History, A Cautionary Tale

An interesting diary up on DailyKos observes the successful campaign of developers in Utah to eliminate the state’s archeologists and anthropologists so no one would notice when Utah’s heritage and history gets bulldozed.

Rood, along with state archaeologist Kevin Jones and physical anthropologist Derinna Kopp, who also lost their jobs Tuesday, stepped into the view of Gov. Gary Herbert, lawmakers and the Utah Transit Authority in recent years when they raised concerns about a proposed commuter rail station planned in Draper. UTA proposed the train stop and mixed-use development on the footprint of an ancient American Indian village, the earliest known location of corn farming in the Great Basin. – DailyKos

Imagine if someone wanted to bulldoze the oldest known site of tobacco farming in Virginia, and you get the level of significance involved in this story. The entire diary is worth reading for the whole tale of government-official interventions, vulgar namecalling, and abandoned skeletons. I’m not kidding, abandoned human skeletons.

Thankfully, I believe that most developers here in Virginia and Loudoun are a bit more respectful of our archeological history. Indeed, many recent developments have specifically included proffers for preservation of local history, though the actual carry-through on those promises has been hit or miss. That being said, Utah’s experience, in which a developer actually wrote the bill eliminating the positions responsible for conserving Utah’s physical history, can and should serve as a cautionary tale reminding us that we must remain vigilant in the protection of our history.

Of Power Towers and Trees

Two of Loudoun’s more loquacious activists and commentators have entered into a bit of a debate at Leesburg Today. Leesburg’s own Ann Robinson wrote a thoughtful letter about power lines, trees, development and piorities, framed in the context of a long drive she recently took.

Looking out my balcony windows this morning, I see a steely high voltage tower where just over a year ago, huge evergreens graced the view, shielding my community from both noise and pollution. The air is dirtier, the atmosphere filled with the sight and sound of nonstop traffic, with the very ugly reality of high tension wires cutting a scar across the town. Was this degradation absolutely necessary to bring electric power to those who need it? No. The wires could have been run underground-but someone convinced the powers that be that the cost would be too high.

Too high for whom? I would have paid more for electricity in order to maintain the pollution shield of large old-growth trees. Their contribution to the health and well-being of my family and me is immeasurable. Who knows how our lives are now shortened by the combination of dirty air, tension and high voltage electrical wires constantly overhead. Surely, if we the consumers could have paid a little more and the electric company’s investors accepted a little less in ROI, then we could have saved our quality of life. – Ann Robinson

I, for one, happen to agree with Ann on this one, and have been a proponent of full undergrounding of major power lines for a few years now. Ann’s letter illustrates the unrecouped cost of decisions to act, or not act, made by our elected leaders years ago. Dominion earns billions in profit, even while sometimes failing to do their essential job. I think we can and should insist that companies like Dominion repay us, the public, for the unfunded costs to our land and community that they impose as part of their business. It doesn’t matter whether those costs are lost old-growth trees, or more traffic, or the need for more schools. If your business decisions directly incur a cost on the public, you should be responsible for offsetting that cost in some manner. We should get our fair share, and you should pay your fair share. That is my choice, and my priority.
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