Save Hillsboro's Past

We, the undersigned elected Hillsboro Town Council members and mayor, wish to comment publicly on a development proposed on Short Hill Mountain that would have a significant and detrimental impact on the town and its immediate environs.

It has come to our attention via public records, residents and visible on-site grading and logging operations that a 15-home development is proposed for 50-plus acres of highly sensitive mountainside land on Short Hill, directly south of Hillsboro and bordered roughly on the east by Ashbury Church Road.

Records indicate that during the past two years, the builder has quietly acquired a number of parcels of this forested and sparsely populated area. Once the builder secures sufficient adjoining lots, the stated intent is to bypass existing zoning restrictions via boundary-line adjustments to create lot sizes large enough to build upon.

Our strenuous objections to this proposed development on behalf of the town and area residents are based on several critical issues:

With much of the property at steep grades of 25 percent and situated directly above the town, a number of environmental concerns are self-evident. This area is severely strained to provide adequate water supplies to long-existing households, compromised by drought and rampant residential building in the vicinity.

This Short Hill development, with installation of 15 more wells and septic systems above the town, will exacerbate stress on already precarious water supplies in the town.

Much of the acreage in question is on land designated by the county as highly sensitive to mountainside erosion and should not be subjected to the grading and disruption this project will entail.

The scene is already jarring. The felling of trees began in late September, and the site opening on Ashbury Church Road displayed wanton disregard for acceptable clearing practices.

Within days, the construction company was issued a warning by Dominion Virginia Power Co. for disrupting electrical power in the area and was inspected by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for possible site violations. By Oct. 8, the county had issued several citations for violations that included no mountainside location permits, no grading permit, no valid forestry plan and no silt barriers.

On Oct. 18, the county issued a stop-work order, which has been violated at least five times. Subsequent notification was given by VDOT to the construction company of several violations related to the "logging" road being built off Ashbury Church Road, and finally, on Nov. 4, the road was ordered closed until those violations were corrected.

The inauspicious start of this project and surreptitious nature of the acquisition is clearly a forewarning of the developer's intentions and the potential for ongoing disregard for environmental regulations and community concerns.

According to VDOT formulas, the development would result in 150 car trips a day on Ashbury Church Road, a narrow, steep and winding gravel country road that empties into Hillsboro to an already overly congested Route 9. Anyone who has traveled on Ashbury Church Road or Route 9 in Hillsboro can easily envision the negative impact this would have on an untenable traffic situation.

As if the environmental concerns, traffic volume and related safety issues are not enough, the societal impacts of degrading a landmark view that has remained much the same throughout the centuries are significant. The approaches to the historic Town of Hillsboro are to be savored and shared by all, providing us a visible link to the past. Even the most strident advocate of suburban-style growth can recognize the irrevocable nature of the potential damage.

The east face of the Short Hills stands as a silent sentinel to the history of the area, the mountain cradling the tiny town in its narrow natural gap formed eons ago. The proposed development would clear swaths of trees and would stud that forested face with 21st-century outcroppings of ostentatiously illuminated oversize homes, further eroding our sense of place as well as our -- and succeeding generations' -- sense of history.

Native Americans, freed slaves and a significant black community historically inhabited this terrain during the past two centuries. Remnants of the community that remain, including the old Methodist Church and cemetery, are surrounded and threatened by the proposed development.

It is critical that we stand together to save what remains of the heritage of this area. Loudoun voters have repeatedly and soundly expressed their preference to protect the vestiges of our rural communities and contain suburban sprawl.

A clearer case of irresponsible development that is just plain wrong and flies in the face of the will of the community could hardly be imagined. Many of our residents and neighbors have invested significantly in preserving the historic homes, farms and nature of the Hillsboro area, not just for the present but also for posterity.

We ask for the support of our neighbors and fellow elected officials. Help us save this small slice of our past from reckless development. We will all sorely regret the alternative.

Mayor Steve Morgart

Council members Roger L. Vance,

John Ware,

Linda Banks,

Jeff Raich,

Henry Stribling

Psychiatric Services Here

Recent articles and letters about health care needs in Loudoun have revealed that some people do not know that inpatient psychiatric care for adults already exists here.

The Behavioral Medicine Unit of Loudoun Hospital Center, at the Cornwall campus in Leesburg next to Loudoun Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, has been serving adults 18 and older since 1985. We, its medical directors, are board certified in adult and geriatric psychiatry and lead a dedicated multidisciplinary staff of physicians, nurses, chemical dependency counselors, physical, occupational and speech therapists.

In the last few years, our unit has become a regional referral center unique in the Washington metropolitan area, specializing in care of older adults with behavioral and emotional problems associated with medical and neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's and stroke. We also offer a well established,intensive outpatient chemical-dependency program.

You or your family may never need our services, but the staff members of the Behavioral Medicine Unit want you to know that we're here for you, if you should. We're proud to offer these services and proud of the work we do.

Page Moss Fletcher, M.D.

Hillsboro

Arthur S. Rosecan, M.D.

Middleburg

Serious Health Threat

Our lives are at risk, as are the lives of our children and the lives of generations to come! As concerned citizenry and homeowners, we must unite to ask our Loudoun County leadership to act immediately to prevent an irreparable disaster from occurring in the eastern Loudoun corridor.

A massive dry cleaning production plant should not be permitted to occupy space on a small corner lot in Sterling (Augusta Drive and Route 7) that has been zoned for a neighborhood commercial shopping center. There are serious health and safety issues looming if this high-volume, hazardous chemical processing plant is permitted in the immediate vicinity of our communities and schools.

These sentiments were echoed loud and clear Nov. 4, when there was standing-room only at the Board of Supervisors' hearing to discuss the proposed fate and destiny of residents of Richland Acres, Westerley community and, ultimately, all of eastern Loudoun.

Improper land use destroys communities and goodwill by breaking legal contracts and moral promises. This restricted 2.4-acre shopping center was obtained in a proffered agreement and is zoned for size-restricted neighborhood commercial use.

According to the vision of the revised Comprehensive Plan, ". . . each new development should project the individual development and the broader community. The county will discourage strip development of any type and will develop zoning performance standards to discourage this pattern of development."

Therefore, how does a high-volume processing plant, stimulating transient car traffic, locate into this neighborhood shopping center? Surely, our leadership will deliver on its promise of applying the Comprehensive Plan to the eastern section of the county and thus enforce a neighborhood shopping center conducive to pedestrian-friendly traffic that "will stimulate social, cultural, recreational and spiritual environments."

This proposed cleaning facility would emit hazardous fumes and solid contaminates. PERC, the gaseous, rain-carried and solid waste carcinogen, would run directly downhill to contaminate our air and soil.

PERC would poison not only the content of Richland Acres's drinking wells but also pose the risk of contamination to the intake of the public water supply serving Loudoun and Fairfax counties. There would be a serious threat to wildlife along Sugarland Run Creek.

Consequently, if our environmentally conscientious neighbors in Fairfax County uttered a resounding "no," while California and Florida face ongoing massive efforts to clean up contaminated sites because of this identified carcinogen, PERC, why would Loudoun's leadership risk the possibility of a hazmat slippage in our neighborhoods?

Surely our leadership cannot deny the grave health threat to both air and ground contamination.

Our unpretentious community of Richland Acres resolutely believes that what is reasonable for an industrial site is not permissible for our neighborhood. There should be neither hesitation nor further discussion about location of this establishment.

We emphatically urge the Board of Supervisors to stop all permits for construction of this cleaning facility. We implore our leadership to give back our unique, serene countryside domain. Put to rest our increasing fears of transient traffic, escalating crime and the pervasive threat to public health and the environment.

We beseech our leadership not to sanction this facility. Common sense and a "right to know" about long-term effects for residents of eastern Loudoun should dictate priorities as we ask and answer this question: Just who will bear future liability for an inevitable catastrophic chemical cleanup?

Lyn Montgomery Wanagel,

Richland-Kentland Citizens

Association

Sterling