Editor: Our upcoming local elections provide an opportunity to set a new political course aimed at preserving the characteristics of our area that we value the most.
A recent University of Virginia poll reported that “rural open country, beauty, and scenic views” are among the things Loudoun County residents like the most about our area. It is easy to confirm this by standing beside Highway 7 or Route 9 on any summer weekend, when thousands of individuals and families visit the western parts of the county to ride their bikes, hunt, fish, pick fresh farm produce, enjoy horse shows and competitions, listen to live music, visit wineries, breweries and historic sites, and attend weddings or other family events. We live in a unique and special place, and it enriches our lives.
Unfortunately, we are rapidly losing this abundant rural heritage. Since 2000, one-third of our remaining farmland has been re-purposed for residential or commercial use. As I write, fields and trees are being cleared for additional, high density developments all the way up to the West Virginia border; some are already visible high on the Blue Ridge. The views along large stretches of our scenic byways, which used to showcase traditional farms and wooded ridges, are now more like the views of suburban communities in Fairfax County. Idyllic country roads are choked with commuter and commercial traffic and unsafe for biking and other recreation.
It will take strong and persistent political action at both the state and county levels to slow, much less reverse, these unfortunate trends. On this issue, the voters face a clear choice in the coming elections.
The incumbent in the House of Delegate’s 33rd District, Dave LaRock, has shown no interest and taken no action on this issue. While in Richmond, he has attempted to deregulate the residential development business, a self-interested effort rejected by his own party, and attempted to take credit for road expansions funded with citizens’ tax dollars. He declined to participate in a recent Farm Bureau event or to endorse its non-partisan proposals for improving the economic viability of the County’s traditional and small farms. He has nothing to say on the preservation of other open spaces.
On the other hand, Tia Wallbridge, Mr. LaRock’s challenger, is strongly committed to preserving our farms and green spaces. She enthusiastically supports the Farm Bureau’s proposals, as well as the efforts of the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition and similar organizations to ensure that the County’s new Comprehensive Plan strengthens, rather than weakens, protection of our open spaces. She is a strong advocate of preservation easements and other measures to permanently protect the County’s green infrastructure.
The election in November is critical to the future of our region. A vote for Ms. Wallbridge will be a big first step in overcoming the negligence of the past and preserving what remains of our rural heritage. This is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference.
John Ellis, Purcellville