Vote Yes Eight Times
I can't tell if the Board of Supervisors' decision to put eight separate bond issue referenda on the November ballot is, as the supervisors say, an opportunity for citizens to decide on each initiative individually or if some other more exotic political machinations are afoot.
I do know, with regard to the need for new schools and related infrastructure, that all I hear from most of the supervisors are the words "costs," "expenses" and "taxes." What I do not hear is by far the most important word when it comes to educating our children: "investment."
In more than 35 years as a registered voter, I have never voted against a school funding mechanism of any sort. My wife and I have two sons, now grown, so we have every reason to indulge ourselves in selfish, shortsighted and greedy thinking and vote against the bond issues because our taxes are too high and the schools are too expensive and those kids don't need all of that fancy stuff and blah blah blah.
But we don't think that way because our sons, educated in Fairfax County public schools, are thriving partly because of an education funded and supported by a community of mature adults who understand the value of a good education in molding future generations.
I intend to vote for all eight separate bond issues. I hope the citizens of Loudoun County who want a bright future for our community will do the same.
Thomas A. Bloch
Broadlands Needs Hospital
It has been my sad discovery to find that the members on the Board of Supervisors are merely politicians and not citizens committed to what the county and the residents need. Inova Loudoun Hospital's history, financial pull and influence have a grip so tight on the board that members are reduced to marionettes on strings with blinders over their wooden eyes. Whatever Loudoun Hospital wants, Loudoun Hospital gets.
Board meetings, much to my dismay, are merely a show. A few Broadlands residents show up each time in T-shirts bearing nuclear fall-out symbols. They get up and talk about their children, surmising that they might lose some of them to runaway ambulances and people in a hurry to get a sick family member to the hospital. I find the tactics despicable on so many levels it's hard to begin.
The portrayal of Broadlands residents as in opposition to the hospital is dead wrong. The only residents who have gotten so negatively involved are those who bought homes across from the commercial zone where the Broadlands Regional Medical Center would be built. What they don't understand is that if the hospital doesn't go there, they will have more office space and fewer buffers because that's how it's zoned.
Stand by for more whining from this group if the hospital isn't approved and building begins without their input. As a Broadlands resident, I was never asked my opinion by this group and was never shown a petition. Neither were lots and lots of my friends and neighbors.
As a real estate agent, I decided to see how the hospital's announced intentions affected the area. It turns out that the population has more that doubled since the hospital was announced, from just over 1,200 residences to more than 2,500. These numbers don't include homes under contract to be built. Many of the actors up for Oscar nomination for their stellar performances at the board meetings bought their homes after HCA Inc. purchased the Broadlands site and announced plans for the hospital. If they were so concerned about it, why did they purchase their family's biggest investment alongside it? All I know is that they made an excellent investment and should spend more time decorating and enjoying it and less allowing someone to needlessly stress them out.
If offices are built there and the same folks day in and day out drive through the neighborhood, would they be more or less likely to cut through side streets? When the majority of traffic is once-in-a-while visitors, they tend to use only main roads. I have never cut through any neighborhood on my way to Reston Hospital Center or Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, not even while in labor and in a huge hurry.
One last thought -- this hospital is about competition and excellent, accessible health care. Let's not get bogged down in the drama or allow Loudoun Hospital to parade a few employees and residents around as a smokescreen. They are worried about their bottom line and the board members are looking scared. Loudoun County residents need to let those board members know they want them to cut those puppet strings, remove the blinders and move the county into the new millennium.
Hospital Can Be Defeated
Due to the heightened awareness surrounding the proposed Broadlands Regional Medical Center, many residents who were neutral have become more knowledgeable and informed about the impact the hospital would have. As a result, they are now inclined to oppose it.
The one thing that has been consistent in the last three years is HCA Inc.'s arrogance and attitude of entitlement. Whether it was HCA's decision to purchase the property without the required approvals, its recent comments that BRMC will be a reality or its lawyer's comments to the Board of Supervisors' Land Use and Transportation Committee that its role was to help HCA get the special exception it needs, approval has been assumed to be a foregone conclusion. It sends an underlying message that the opinions of the residents, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors are irrelevant to the process.
HCA has tried over the years to wear down the opposition. It has been successful with some who feel that HCA is just too big to fight. However, I view it as the modern-day version of the David and Goliath story. I believe that if we, the underdogs, are persistent, have faith in the process and endure all the political and legal pressures it throws at us, we can overcome this giant and prevent it from overtaking our neighborhood.
Affordable Housing a Must
The high cost of housing in Loudoun County should be of paramount concern to the Board of Supervisors. In many parts of the county, prices are so high that many people can't afford to buy a home or rent an apartment.
Affordable housing isn't only for low-income families, the homeless or the unemployed -- it's housing for service workers such as teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters whose work is essential for a strong and vital community. If these folks cannot make enough money to live in the county they serve, they may be forced to live elsewhere. Overwhelmed by an exhausting commute and stress on family life, they may seek employment closer to home, which may lead to worker shortages in the county.
How the board addresses this problem will make a huge difference in whether the county can retain these vital workers. Unfortunately, the direction of the recently passed Rural Policy Area zoning proposal, as well as the lack of concrete policies to address attainable workforce housing, does little to tackle this issue.
Now that the supply of homes will be drastically restricted because there will be less vacant land within a reasonable commuting distance of job centers, home prices will continue to soar for the simple economic reason that supply will not keep up with demand.
The board should convene a task force to recommend land-use and zoning changes that are more friendly to affordable housing development. Examples could be extracted from Montgomery County, which instituted a notably inclusive zoning program that has produced more than 10,000 affordable units scattered in almost 300 subdivisions. It requires developments of 50 units or more to set aside from 12.5 to 15 percent of the units.
If the board ignores attainable housing for the county's workforce, folks who are having trouble buying or renting a home in the future can thank them and the myriad environmental groups that have made it harder to build in a region that is trying to isolate itself from larger developing regions and inevitable growth.
Christine Corrado Windle