Too Good to Be True?
Mayor C.L. "Tim" Dimos sent a letter to the utility customers of the Town of Middleburg on Saturday in which he briefly outlined a proposal from Salamander Development for the provision of water and sewer to its project, the Salamander Inn. The letter describes terms of great benefit to the town, with no apparent downside. Seemingly, one would be foolish to turn down such an offer: a new sewer plant at no cost to the town and annual revenue of over $800,000.
Perhaps if approved, all will come to pass as the mayor describes and everyone will be happy; I certainly hope so. However, the letter and the memorandum of understanding submitted by Salamander Development leave several important questions unanswered, questions that I hope the Town Council and town residents will ask and consider prior to expressing approval of the agreement.
* What further development is being considered by Salamander? The memorandum proposes 120 guest rooms, but also stipulates payment for an additional 49 sewer taps -- for alternatives "consistent with its economic interests." The inn was originally proposed to be 40 rooms, then 58, now 120. Why not end speculation and uncertainty by submitting a master plan for the entire 350 acres, to include a conservation easement precluding further development? The town would then have a sound foundation upon which to base its decision. At present, there are only pieces of the puzzle.
* What purpose does the Comprehensive Plan serve? It has been ignored in this entire process, for neither it nor the zoning ordinance contemplates a development of this magnitude. By entering into this agreement, would the town not be saying that if the pot is sweet enough, it will ignore plans developed and affirmed over many years?
* What size will the new sewer plant be? Will it accommodate only what is currently projected within the town for the next 20 years plus the 120-room inn, or will there be excess capacity to encourage further development? The letter says the cost of a new wastewater plant is estimated at more than $4 million, but does not say what size plant that figure covers.
The town has done substantial work to remedy inflow and infiltration problems in its sewer lines, and the current plant is operating consistently at around 70 percent of capacity; there is no need to immediately replace it. Modernization of the plant could be accomplished at a much lower cost than $4 million if service were not to be provided to the inn.
I understand the appeal of the proposal to those paying utility bills in town, based on the elements itemized in the letter. However, this is a development that will substantially change Middleburg and the decision should not be made lightly. It appears that many support it solely on a financial basis and without an understanding of the ultimate size of the project. It may be wise to remember that if something seems too good to be true, perhaps it is.
Praise for the PEC
As a participant in the Piedmont Environmental Council's (PEC) community input session for residents of the Dulles District, I was perplexed as to what meeting Barbara Munsey must have been attending, considering the tone of her letter in the June 12 Loudoun Extra ["Guided Vision or Push Poll?"].
I had the distinct feeling my husband must often have when I recount a shared experience. He often looks at me as if I were from another planet, say Venus? It was as if Munsey and I were in totally different meetings. I know we were at the same one because I sat next to her.
One point Munsey made in her letter was that within her group there were seven residents and one was identified as a member of a subgroup of the Campaign for Loudon's Future and the PEC. I can only assume she was referring to me, as I was the only resident who identified herself as affiliated with anyone.
However, I am a member of the Citizens to Save the Transition Zone, an independent citizens group organized by people like myself in an effort to provide information on the impact of 40,000 new homes in an area currently slated for only 5,000. Before our citizens group formed, the only information being circulated was by the developer, and one can easily surmise what kind of message that was.
As a citizen whose only affiliation is with a group organized to protect our families' moral values and quality of life, I commend the PEC for taking the time to listen to the community and ultimately working to present these views to the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission. If our own elected supervisor is unwilling to listen to and represent us, an organization that is willing to do so should be commended.