Grateful for Fire Response

Newspapers and television tell us about how communities rally around their own in emergencies, but it is not until you experience this phenomenon firsthand that you really can appreciate its magnitude. On Jan. 18, we had a fire at Morningside House of Leesburg, an assisted living residence for more than 65 seniors ["Fire Forces Elderly From Care Facility," Jan 20.]. We were quite fortunate the fire was small and extinguished by the sprinkler system. Our own quick staff rescued the one resident who was in danger.

Within very short minutes, help began to arrive. At the risk of missing someone, I salute town and county fire and rescue personnel (including the administrative staff who walked us through the day), their auxiliary and the county's Central Kitchen (who fed us at Fire Company!), parks and recreation and the Area Agency on Aging (who transported all of our residents when we evacuated the building), the Red Cross (on the scene immediately), our neighbors (who volunteered their telephones and helped evacuate), Leesburg Baptist Church and the Church of the Nazarene (who let us use their kitchens until ours was back in operation) and the local media, who showed respect for our residents and the situation.

The staff and residents put monthly fire training to the test and were calm and responsive. Three staff members, Gilbert Lewis, Connie Mason and Judie Painter, rescued the one resident. Even our contract cleaning crew was a vital part of the team. My hat also must go off to the families of our residents, many of whom took their loved ones home or to a motel for the night.

We are back in our building, everything is working and everyone is safe. Our deep appreciation goes to all of those who made it possible.

JULIE FRANKLIN

Executive Director

Morningside House

Leesburg

Sprawl's Next Threat: Litter

As a resident of Lincoln, I'm dismayed by the sprawl that threatens our dirt roads and the spirit of the Goose Creek Historic District. Sands Road, the once-scenic gateway to Lincoln from Hamilton, has more than just new houses lining it's roadside at Stone Eden Farm. Recently, this rolling dirt road has been littered with paper, plastic and fiberglass construction debris scattered from the bushes to the treetops. One would think that in light of the public sentiment against sprawl, contractors would be careful not to "up the ante" with their careless littering. The lack of respect for the countryside is obvious, and it's hard to drive by Stone Eden and not ponder the future impact of many dozens of acres yet to be developed here.

Concern is compounded when the future of the Frazer Farm, also on Sands Road and skirting the Goose Creek Historic District, hangs in the balance. One can only imagine how the development of this 200-acre tract will likely contribute to the accumulation of more clutter.

The builders at Stone Eden should be vigilant about keeping Sands Road litter-free and understand that it serves more than just their construction crews. This dirt road traverses part of the Goose Creek Historic District, bisects the Manassas Gap Railroad bed and is a favorite "backdoor" entry into the village of Lincoln. Paper, plastic and fiberglass debris do not blend well with the scenery.

CAROL MORRIS DUKES

Preservation Foundation

Lincoln

3 Questions for the County

Don Tenney's two recent letters establish an important point: He is bereft of the ability to make a reasoned argument regarding the use of government for personal gain. The following three important questions need answers for Loudoun County residents, preferably by Scott York, the newly elected chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

1. There are roughly 110,000 adult residents living in Loudoun County, 92,000 are registered to vote. In this most recent election, 30,318 voted--just one-third of all registered voters. The successful candidates vying for seats on the Board of Supervisors received, on average, 55 percent of all votes--about 17 percent of all registered voters and 15 percent of the adult population living in Loudoun County. How does this establish a mandate for "revolutionary" change of any decision-making function of the board, including zoning? If Loudoun residents had been disgruntled with the results of the previous board's decisions, they would have voted en masse to oust the outgoing board. That was not the case. How, then, is this outcome not simply a coterie of well-organized activists having co-opted the forces of government to maximize personal benefits at the expense of the remaining 80 to 85 percent of the adult population?

2. Recent reports have claimed that when asked for the cost (with respect to increased taxes only) of the Transition Team's recommendations, the team had nothing to offer. (Imagine returning home after "planning" for a new car purchase. You describe the beauty of the new Rolls Royce you recommend your family purchase and your spouse asks the reasonable question, "How much?" and you have no answer. How much credibility do these people really have?) Is this an indication that Loudoun residents should expect four years of ruling with reckless abandon?

3. What the Transition Team did have to offer was recommending the establishment of a $1 million legal defense fund to ward off "takings" suits by affected landowners, and an additional $6 million per year to pay off western landowners as an incentive to refrain from developing their land. (As George Bernard Shaw once said, "When the government robs Peter to pay Paul, Paul will always be a willing participant." You can bet that western Loudoun landowners, the group with the highest percentage of registered voters going to the polls, promoted this treat!) This works out to about $156 in additional taxes per year for the average household just to fund these two programs. Given the consistent rulings of the Virginia State Supreme Court, and the 15 years of U.S. Supreme Court rulings upholding landowners' rights in takings cases (i.e. governments have been required to reimburse property owners when zoning changes adversely affected the value of their land), should the 80 to 85 percent of Loudoun residents not voting for "radical" change expect significant increases in taxes over the next four years in order to benefit the 17 percent who did?

MARK STECKBECK

Sterling