Letter: Michelle and Scott LaRose, Middleburg

Editor: On Dec. 6, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on a Minor Special Exception application we submitted earlier this year concerning our Catesby Farm property.

Unfortunately, our limited proposal has been met with an undue and unwarranted level of misinformation and mischaracterization by many opponents, especially those who seek to use this vote to make a broader and more complex point about growth in western Loudoun, rather than focus on the true and just merits of our minor and straightforward request.

In short, we are simply pursuing an option afforded us under the county’s existing Comprehensive Plan and its Rural Economic Development guidelines—that is, to host up to 20 limited events of less than 200 guests on our 200 acre-plus property over a 365-day period.

This involves no permanent construction, no impactful changes to the property or scenery, and no use of certain roads in proximity to the farm.  It involves some temporary tents, temporary lighting and music, and parking—all located in the middle of our expansive property and away from others.

Importantly, we have made—during the course of this process—no less than 10 substantial concessions in an effort to address concerns, mitigate any potential impact, and demonstrate genuine good faith and understanding.

While we could have easily pursued an option to turn Catesby into a B&B enterprise, we deliberately chose not to—even though doing so would have afforded us the ability to host even more events and on a larger scale than what we currently seek.

Those who are opposing our efforts fail to recognize that, already across western Loudoun, dozens of enterprises already function as event centers—holding events almost every weekend, seeking to generate revenue in the same way we are. These include a multitude of local B&Bs, wineries, breweries, and others.

Which raises the question: why should our proposal be held to a higher, unfair and unequal standard?

Concerns have in the past similarly been expressed about venues in their nascent stages—such as Salamander Resort, Middleburg Film Festival, and Shadow Creek Weddings & Events—all of which bring in hundreds of people dozens and dozens of times annually. Yet all these venues have taken root in Loudoun to widely-acclaimed success and heralded as generators of jobs, needed revenue, tourism, and business pioneers for the area.

Our family has been a good neighbor and resident of western Loudoun for many years. We cherish the lifestyle and traditions of our special community. We want to open the doors of Catesby and share its beauty and heritage with others.

We have earned the right to pursue the same dream and mission others have pursued in Loudoun. We deserve the ability to carefully, smartly and prudently host visitors on our property to generate much-needed revenue to survive financially and reinvest in our farm to preserve it in its pristine state for our children and future generations to enjoy.

Loudoun County staff has recommended approval for our request. The Virginia Outdoor Foundation has indicated our proposal is fully in compliance with existing easements.

We hope others will see the many benefits of our request, and support us on Dec 6.

Michelle and Scott LaRose, Middleburg

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