Take the High Road

In a 1931 Virginia highway historical markers tourist guide, Loudoun "has the characteristic topography of the Piedmont section, a plain with rolling hills and gentle slopes."

These slopes are what defines Loudoun County, particularly in the west, and their falling to the McMansions, with residents who want to be "king of the hill," are the undoing of Loudoun as a beautiful, distinctive place. The revised Comprehensive Plan must protect this valued scenic resource.

During the bicentennial year, a wagon train with horses came across the country from Texas and camped one night in a pasture in Bluemont. The wagon master told me that the sight cast from the Clarke County line into the Loudoun Valley was the most beautiful of the whole trip.

No more! Houses line the ridges in the development of Stoneleigh near Round Hill. Houses built on the frontage of Route 7 have taken the charm away from the lovely Whitehall, now a reception center and the longtime residence of former Blue Ridge supervisor James Brownell and his community-spirited wife, Mac.

The beautiful old farms of Loudoun, Newstead, Ayshire, Langolin and Welbourne running toward Upperville into Fauquier County have saved the slopes, recognizing the foolishness of building on a hill.

Now a proposed housing development on the Short Hill Mountains near Hillsboro would ruin the view upward from Route 9, a main tourist trek into "wild, wonderful West Virginia."

Joe Bane of Highland Construction is working on finishing a land acquisition that would total 71.57 acres, giving him 14 building lots. The project was begun without proper permits and would have proceeded unless adjacent land owners such as Patric Copeland, of four generations' ownership, had not called the county's attention to the action there. The development would encompass the size of Hillsboro.

All county citizens should call their representatives to require a strict slope ordinance and particularly for protection of Short Hill Mountains, home of the native Redland family and site of the 1889 Ashbury Church with its cemetery along Ashbury Church Road, just off county Route 690.

It is not just that longtime county residents should have to go into debt for legal assistance to save the heritage for all of Loudoun.

Write, call or e-mail Loudoun County planning commissioners and supervisors. Working through our elected public officials is the American way.

Evelyn Johnson

Vice President,

Preservation Society

of Loudoun County

Bluemont

Pondering Moorefield

At a public hearing on Dec. 4, I urged the Board of Supervisors to postpone or deny approval of Moorefield Station -- 6,000 dwelling units and 9.6 million square feet of commercial space. Even though Moorefield has many excellent features, it is based on the assumption that Metrorail would be available at Route 772 by 2010.

New information has emerged since the board passed the General Plan that encourages this high, transit-related density, and the board adopted the PD-TRC zoning that permits an Edge City to be built at this site.

Since then six major setbacks to county plans have emerged.

1. The federal transportation administrator has stated that Metrorail to Route 772 would cost too much and carry too few riders. Without that support, the project will not happen for many years, if at all.

2. The sales tax referendum was defeated, and so there is no creditable source of funding for completion of the Loudoun Tri-County Parkway and Route 7 improvements essential to accommodate the potential 100,000 daily vehicle trips if Moorefield is built.

3. It is recognized that the Dulles Greenway will fall to a "level of service F" (major congestion) in the near future.

4. Under new Clean Air Standards, Northern Virginia will fall into noncompliance in 2005 that could trigger a cutoff of federal funding for roads and transit.

5. Rapid deterioration of the state and Loudoun fiscal situation demands prudence in approving massive new projects.

6. The semi-recession has undermined the commercial market and created a 17 percent vacancy rate throughout Northern Virginia that will slow new growth for three or four years. New "mixed use" projects such as Moorefield will build the residential, but not the commercial, leading to fiscal imbalance.

Given these facts, it becomes imperative that our supervisors rethink transit policies of the revised Comprehensive Plan. Moorefield Station is only one project, albeit the largest ever in our county.

Loudoun Station is moving toward approval with 1,800 units. Broadlands is seeking to rezone from office to 1,000 multifamily units in the transit area, and more proposals are likely.

Since the PD-TRC zone permits 16 units to the acre over 50 percent of the land area "pre-rail," the county could be faced with more than 6,000 residential units, no transit, no regional road improvements and little or no commercial.

Loudoun has been a leader in seeking state permission for an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance without success, but Moorefield clearly has inadequate public facilities, and the decision is in the board's control. Let's remember the cliche{acute} "when you're in a deep hole, the first thing is to stop digging."

Suburban Loudoun cannot absorb this level of residential development under present conditions. If approved, these projects could do major harm to the quality of life of our existing suburban communities.

The Claude Moore Foundation is a wonderful asset to Loudoun, having provided funding for many valuable community initiatives. It has been a cooperative applicant, but this should not be considered in making a rezoning decision not in the public interest. It's not "smart growth."

Alfred P. Van Huyck

Round Hill