Editor: After reading your article on passing of Jim Brownell, I wanted to point out another important contribution he made during his time on the Board of Supervisors.
In 1971, five Loudouners regularly campaigned in Richmond for the Virginia General Assembly to pass land-use taxation—land to be taxed on its agricultural value rather than its real estate value. They were Erskine Bedford, county agent Jack Brown, Joe Rogers, Jim Rowley, and Blue Ridge District Supervisor Jim Brownell—all farmers. That July, the assembly passed land-use taxation, but each county needed its approval. That September, Loudoun’s four farmer-supervisors: Jim Arnold, Bill Crossman, Henry Stowers, and Brownell voted land-use taxation into law in Loudoun. The three eastern Loudoun supervisors had voted against the bill, slated to be effective in 1973.
But then the board voted 5-2 to postpone passage, citing objections. The Loudoun Times-Mirror had called the bill “a bonanza for land speculators. The growing building and business community (Sterling Park, Dulles Airport were beginning to go strong) opposed it. Even the Loudoun Farm Bureau called the concept too liberal.
Jim Brownell then read every one of the 575 applications for tax relief and found, as he told me, that “many were bona-fide dirt farmers—excluding the Middleburg type.” The 575 owned 120,000 of the county’s 330,880 acres. Jim argued his case before the board and in spring 1974 it changed its vote to 7-0 for passage as long as back taxes for five years were paid by properties leaving land-use, and that tracts had to be commercially farmed for five years before receiving tax relief. The board then asked freshman Senator Charles Waddell to argue their case in Richmond. He did, and won.
Eugene Scheel, Waterford