Letter: Malcolm and Pamela Baldwin, Lovettsville

Editor: Anyone who attended the gathering of hundreds at the Lovettsville Game Club a few weeks ago to hear Parsons/AT&T present their Short Hill project had to be impressed with the breadth and depth of its opposition. It was a remarkable expression of reverence for the Short Hill, backed by the pragmatic understanding of the economic and environmental values that the proposed project would destroy.

No one in attendance went away persuaded by the applicants’ weak description of the benefits of a new 160,000 square-foot, 35-foot high building atop the Short Hill, especially after learning that residents and businesses in need of high-speed Internet services—especially in Hillsboro and Neersville—could not tap into the fiber-optic cables laid along Rt. 7 and Rt. 9 even before AT&T sought approval for its facility.

But democracy must ultimately depend on the actions of our elected and appointed officials, and in this case we were grievously let down by county staff as well as by the Planning Commission, most of whose members concluded that the project simply expanded the existing use and would benefit local citizens, therefore requiring only Commission Permit approval—which it gave by a 6-2 vote. The staff’s decision that only a Commission Permit was needed—and the Planning Commission’s approval of it—grossly ignored the obvious violations this project posed to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

As for benefits to Loudoun, our Communications Commission has found that there will be none.

We like to think that Parsons/AT&T’s sensible decision to withdraw the project—after the Planning Commission’s approval but before the Board of Supervisors could vote on it—reflected our strong local democracy at work. It was clearly aided by the amazing power of social media in sharing information as it emerged from the dogged and sophisticated research conducted by many of the 500-plus participants in the Short Hill Rescue Facebook page. Combined with the extensive citizen testimony before the Board of Supervisors along with small gatherings—and even citizen-taken aerial photography—citizens built an extraordinarily clear-cut legal case against the applicant, leading AT&T to withdraw its Commission Permit application.

But many citizens continue to fear that this is a tactical decision in a battle not yet over and none should rest easy until our Board of Supervisors rejects this application on its merits, not simply because of its withdrawal by Parsons/AT&T. Only then can we be assured that the applicant will not simply come back again with the same, or slightly modified, assault on the Short Hill.

We have every reason to trust that our Board of Supervisors will listen and respond with reason, not fear, and with steely conviction that this proposal is a disaster to be rejected in a permanent and definitive way, without possibility of resurrection.

Malcolm and Pamela Baldwin, Lovettsville

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