Tag Archives: Loudoun County

How Narrow the Band in Western Loudoun

In this picture is a broadband source to connect to the Internet

In this picture is a broadband source to connect to the Internet

Out in Western Loudoun, near Lovettsville, there are various ways to get on the Internet.

There is of course by satellite connected to a dish by your house.

There are broadcasting links atop various structures including a silo out by Stevens Road.  What else would you expect in the country?  It had to be on a silo.

Dishes are put outside home windows pointed toward the “broadcasting” structures including the devices affixed atop a silo.

You have to look long and hard to see the connecting devices including atop that old silo.

Connection to the Internet via silo

Connection to the Internet via silo

The County Board has promised it was going to make a difference to broad band in Western Loudoun.

But little or nothing has happened to do so.

Some were surprised by the recent pronouncements by Loudoun’s Economic Development folks  that “Loudoun County Leads Virginia in Broadband Use.”

“According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau,” according to the County’s Economic Development Crew, “Loudoun has the highest percentage of households with a fixed broadband (not mobile) Internet subscription in Virginia.”

Unfortunately, this is “somewhat” off the mark as they are really only talking about eastern Loudoun.

There was a broadband survey that the County conducted earlier this year.  It was in May and was extended through July 27, 2018 for residents to express their opinion.

There was an online map that showed the reaction.

Only “blue” was “great” and that was dominant in the eastern part of the County; “green” was “hit or miss” online (heavy in the West), and “red” was “terrible” (dominant in the West) and, as a result, the map of Western Loudoun looked like the onslaught of a teenage acne condition.

The survey map that was – and isn’t any longer

The survey map that was – and isn’t any longer

By the way, if you go looking for this map, as it appeared, and found in this article, it’s vanished; one source argued that’s what the County does to “hush” up what they don’t want the community to consider.

The original url was http://loudoungis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=1a995526e50c424896bfa48fdb793d9e .

When you go to that address (url) now, you will find a map and an array of only blue dots and no legend as to what the blue dots represent.  Continue reading

Got a Room at the Inn?

There’s an increase of homeless elderly (sketch by J. Flannery)

There’s an increase of homeless elderly (sketch by J. Flannery)

If you’re looking to make a difference for the less fortunate this Chanukah and Christmas Season, to help the homeless find shelter and the hungry to find food to eat, think about “Mobile Hope” in Leesburg as some Lovettsville folk are doing.

If you need some advice on what to give in the way of food, there’s a “window” into what works best in the winter, on the side of the Lovettsville Historical Society. Continue reading

Save, Don’t Pave, Our Gravel Roads

Feather Bed Bridge on an historic dirt road over Catoctin Creek

Feather Bed Bridge on an historic dirt road over Catoctin Creek

There is a growing effort to save Loudoun County’s old gravel roads from being paved.

By some accounts, Loudoun has more unpaved roads than any other County in the Commonwealth – about 250 miles – down from what some say was once 500 miles.

The County has, especially in the West, resisted attacks to develop and destroy the County’s pastoral setting; but, if something isn’t done, there will be fewer miles of unpaved roads.

Some walk or ride down Lovettsville’s Georges Mill, nearby Axline Road, Picnic Woods Road, or Ash George Road.

Over by Waterford, there’s the Clover Hill Road, and Downey Mill Road.

There are an array of roads south of Lincoln, Virginia.

In every direction near Middleburg, there are unpaved roads to discover worth a walk a run, a trot, or a ride.

Tim Jon, a columnist for the Blue Ridge Leader, has been cataloguing the beauty of the roads of Loudoun County for years.

The effort to save these roads has prompted a partnership by and between America’s Routes and the Mosby Heritage Area Association, hoping to underscore the hundreds of years of history and beauty and country peace that these roads represent. Continue reading

The Threat to the Rural West

Convening the Rural Summit at Salamander Resort in Middleburg

Convening the Rural Summit at Salamander Resort in Middleburg

A Rural Summit was convened by the Chair of the Board of Supervisors, Phyllis Randall, last Friday at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg, reflecting a concern by many that the push by developers, favoring suburban gentrification of Western Loudoun, threatened to build thousands of residential units that will compromise, if not destroy, the natural treasure that is Western Rural Loudoun.

Lovettsville Vice-Mayor Jim McIntyre who attended the Summit said, “I think the biggest thing we have to communicate is the value of Loudoun’s Rural West.  We can’t emphasize that enough.”

Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton said, “It’s all about the Comprehensive Plan.  The Comprehensive Plan is ‘the’ document which will govern land use for all Loudouners for the next 20 or 40 years.  It’s just as important to Loudouners in the East as it is to the West.  If we continue unconstrained development, it means worse schools, higher taxes, more transportation, and we destroy the Western Loudoun … we all enjoy.” Continue reading

Government – Just Leave Us Alone!

There was a time when a diary that you wrote in long hand, in India ink, kept confidential in a false drawer in your worn mahogany desk, was private, and safe from the prying eyes of anyone including our government – as a matter of law.

Not so anymore.

I advise my clients these days to destroy their mental notes.

From the vantage of a criminal defense lawyer (and “recovering” federal and state prosecutor), I’ve seen the most craven governmental intrusions into individual privacy – shocking to any Accused person who never before had to endure the unwanted embrace of a criminal prosecution.

Little has improved since the author’s privacy article published in 1972

Little has improved since the author’s privacy article published in 1972

Here in Loudoun County, if you’re arrested and denied bail, when you are jailed in Loudoun’s Adult Detention Center (ADC), don’t make the mistake of talking about your case on the jail house phone with your wife (or anyone else), because everything you say is taped – and they’ll use it against you.

We have an “expectation” of what is private, predicated upon our 4th Amendment right to be secure in our person and property, and the penumbra of other constitutional rights.  This is what must be protected.

Who would expect it was right and just to intercept a family conversation when the Accused has no other way to talk to his family?

We believe we get to control what information is circulated about ourselves – in or out of jail.

But practice and the law is more complicated than what we might fairly expect and what common sense dictates.

When I was a puppy law student, I was concerned with privacy, so much so that I wrote about it for our journal, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.

Our technology was relatively primitive in the 70’s.   Indeed, I wrote how intrusions into a person’s privacy might not have been possible “if the information was manually handled and manually disseminated.”  Continue reading

Black lives should be honored – not just tolerated

Congress approves DC statue of Frederick Douglass in Capitol complexIt’s high time that we had a statue placed on the Loudoun County Court house lawn honoring abolitionist Frederick Douglas and the black Union troops from Loudoun County that fought for the union and for their freedom from slavery.

In Washington, DC, there is a statue to Black Union Troops.

There is a statue of Frederick Douglas in the Capitol.

But we have no memorial in Loudoun.

You may not appreciate that there’s good and sufficient history to do so.

Kevin Dulany Grigsby, a Loudoun native, believes his black ancestral heritage from the Civil War has been overlooked, invisible in Loudoun County, particularly how Blacks fought for the Union.

“It was the movie, ‘Glory’,” Kevin said, “while I was a Junior at Loudoun County High School, that revealed to me that there had been black soldiers fighting for the Union in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.”

“It was my cousin, Vernon Peterson,” Kevin said, “who first told me, that there were Black Soldiers from our Loudoun County who fought for the Union.  He told me the story of Dennis Weaver, an African-American Civil War veteran, who was buried in the Rock Hill Cemetery in Southwestern Loudoun.”  Weaver, Kevin learned, had been a slave in the Bluemont area and enlisted at – what we now know – as Theodore Roosevelt Island.

These revelations contrasted sharply with what Kevin had been taught about blacks in school.  “In our Loudoun County school text book,” Kevin said, “they pictured blacks as families of slaves, the few pictures they showed, and all I could see was pain and suffering.  I was embarrassed, and it brought upon me a sense of shame.” Continue reading

A fowl tax

This hen will now cost you $165 to “permit” you to have a chicken coop.

This hen will now cost you $165 to “permit” you to have a chicken coop.

The County is taxing Western Loudoun farm buildings, by the authority of the Commissioner of Revenue, by assessing pole barns for taxes that the County never assessed before this year.

Even among those barns that were assessed previously, farm owners have been confounded by by the amazing leaps in assessed value.

In one case, the increase in assessment was a factor of thirteen times greater, from a $2,000 assessment last year on a 60 year old barn to a $26,000 assessment this year, with the questionable explanation, by the assessor, that the owner of the barn had painted the barn.

Farmers say this arbitrary policy of assessments is hardly reasonable and is fundamentally unfair.

In another setback for farmers in the West, following upon these Assessments, the County, by a new Zoning Ordinance, circulated this past Friday, requires that farmers obtain a permit for each chicken coop that a farmer has or acquires.

This is how the current zoning permit procedure reads.

It is described as the “procedure for obtaining a zoning permit for a coop/shelter for chickens.”

It says, “the property owner shall complete a building and zoning permit application form … that is accompanied by a plat showing the proposed location of the structure with distances to property lines …”

The term, “shall,” makes this requirement mandatory, and not permissive.

The permit fee – apparently mandated for each separate coop – costs $165 each.

The coop is described as a “structure.”

Farmers have asked the Commissioner of Revenue in connection with the increased assessments, to explain exactly what the Commissioner meant by the term “structure.”  The Farmers are of one mind that they got no answer at all.

As for the coops, chickens generally live mostly in small mobile boxes that house or protect them from the elements and from predators.

These coops are not large stationary structures that required a zoning permit or a health department permit in the past.

It is hard to make out a fair rationale, Farmers say, when the County requires permits for chicken coops about the same size as a dog-house but require no permits for a dog house. Continue reading

Words matter

Supervisor Ron Meyer

Supervisor Ron Meyer

George Orwell, author of “1984,” made the point that language has the power in politics to mask the truth and mislead the public.

In “1984,” in his novel, he coined the phrase “Newspeak,” referring to the abuse of language by the government.

In Loudoun County, we have long had a “transition” area in the County’s Comprehensive Plan, serving as a buffer between western Loudoun (rural) and eastern Loudoun (suburban).

Every Members of the Board of Supervisors knows what that means.

In a recent County study, inviting us to “envision” the future, we were told there is a “market” demand to add 50,000 residential units to our already over-crowded County.

Citizens have said loud and clear – we do not want 50,000 more units – not in the West or the East or the Transition area,

When the “vision” statement for the “new and improved” comprehensive plan was considered by the Board of Supervisors last week, a majority of the Board favored myopia, narrowing the County’s “vision,” and kicking the County’s long-held land use policy of “transition” to the curb.

Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) feigned a misunderstanding of the English language when he said, “As far as saying something’s a transition setting, I’m not sure what that means in the English language.”

If Mr. Meyer suffered a language lapse, he could have consulted a dictionary.

Merriam Webster says a “transition” is the “passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another.”

Loudoun’s “transition” area is a “passage” from suburban development through mixed development to rural development.

Mr. Meyer understood perfectly what and where the transition area was when, as a Board candidate in 2015, he answered the Chamber’s questionnaire, faulting the Comprehensive Plan, including the Transition area, under review and subject to revision now.

Mr. Meyer said, “Current planning does not reflect community realities in this [transition] area and it will be vital to better plan the transportation network and land use polices to ‘fill in the gap’ in a smart and responsible way between suburban areas in Ashburn and Leesburg in this small corner of the Transition Area (underscoring supplied).”

Mr. Meyer’s shoddy mimicry of Orwell’s “Newspeak” sought to eliminate “transition” to compromise any thought or memory of the policy that has preserved and protected the County’s special character.

Nor did Mr. Meyer stop with his faux misapprehension of what “transition” meant.

Mr. Meyer swelled with intolerant and disrespectful humor, when he said, “What is the transition setting, does that have to do with someone’s gender identity?’” Continue reading

The living legend – farmer “Jimmy” Spring

The Movie – the Living Legend - “Jimmy” Spring

The Movie – the Living Legend – “Jimmy” Spring

Another example of why Western Loudoun is worth preserving and maintaining is the kind of farming folk that made this County.

Perhaps more people need to understand and consider what kind of people made Western Loudoun what it is, and why it must be preserved because what’s best about the West is a lot more than geography.

It’s about core values that sustain a community when the center doesn’t appear to hold any longer.

We have just recognized a “living legend,” long time Lovettsville farmer, James “Jimmy” Spring, 95.

Jimmy likes to tell stories, but this story I’m telling is about “Jimmy.”

It’s about Jimmy’s values, the ones we treasure as a community, that we celebrate, seek to emulate, because these values he shares give us a place to stand and enable us to achieve a worthy objective, whether it’s farming or anything else we might consider worthwhile.

Aristotle said, “Nothing improves your aim like having a target.”

Jimmy had a target, and a way to reach it, because he had the character transparent to everyone else, revealing exactly who he was, and what he was made of.

His force of character defines his life, as a living legend, and it’s particularly instructive for all of us to consider this man in our time of fact-free discourse of a seemingly rudderless and unworthy cast.

This past Sunday at about 3PM, at the local Lovettsville Lutheran Church in the basement, a crowd of 120 came to hear Jimmy’s story, and to watch a movie prepared by yours truly that expands upon the remarks I’m making here (the movie was posted on line after its premier at the award ceremony – and it’s free – https://vimeo.com/195151504 ). Continue reading

Loudoun citizens battle AT&T, declaring “not on our mountain”

The “view” from the Lovettsville Squircle on Memorial Day

The “view” from the Lovettsville Squircle on Memorial Day


The Short Hill Mountain is a scenic and pre-historic geologic treasure for which the County Board of Supervisors is responsible as stewards to maintain and preserve and protect; the County’s Comprehensive Plan memorializes this praiseworthy obligation.

Many citizens have objected that AT&T wants to deface the mountain, by placing a Costco size industrial building, atop the mountain, visible for miles around, sucking up millions of gallons of water, and megawatts of electricity, in a rural and residential area, and the community is calling foul, and demanding that the Board stop AT&T in its tracks.

Citizens on both sides of the Mountain are demanding that the Board overrule the permit that the Planning Commission, they charge, improvidently granted, and that the Board do this at its meeting scheduled for June 23, 2016.

There have been public and private gatherings all for the purpose of defeating this permit. There have been statements and letters published and forwarded to the Board and on social media. There are resolutions to this effect. Some are drafting reports they may submit to the Board. Citizens are seeking audiences with their elected representatives at every level – county, state and federal government. Continue reading