Editor: Last week’s edition of Loudoun Nowcontained several articles of major importance to rural Loudoun. The on-going debate on the future of Rt. 15; land in conservation programs; the Buffngton proposal for grants for conservation easements, the Farm Bureau and town’s concerns about the Envision Loudoun 2040 Plan all raised in one way or another the fundamental question underlying the future of rural Loudoun County.
Pretty much all agree that rural Loudoun is an asset to the county with its vibrant rural economy, the flow of tourism dollars, its equine industry, and innovative new agricultural enterprises. All set among the beautiful mountains, streams, and landscapes and featuring historic villages, buildings and sites connected by a network of unpaved rural roads little changed since the 18thCentury.
What then is the debate all about? As the population increases in the rural area two important groups are emerging with conflicting visions.
There are those who are invested in the rural area either commercially or by their personal choice. They are investing significant capital in the wineries and breweries, the modernization of farms, and for their horses and other animals. Some among them maintain large and costly estates. They seek the preservation of a rural life style known in Loudoun for over 200 years.
At the same time an ever-increasing community is growing who have moved to rural Loudoun for its beauty, for more affordable housing, and relatively easy commute to jobs. These folks seek the amenities of the suburban lifestyle with widened road arteries, paved roads, larger commercial and recreational choices, lighted ball fields, modern schools, etc. They are not invested in the rural lifestyle and often can be critics of those who plead to maintain the old values.
This conflict is a constant challenge to our political leaders who try to balance between these competing visions for the future recognizing each has claims to put forward. However, with the County projecting at least 7,500 more by-right houses in the next 20 years the weight of the balance could shift substantially to the suburbanization of the rural area and the loss of the rural economy. A fresh commitment is needed from the county that Loudoun’s traditional rural area will be retained as a permanent asset, and subsequent decisions of the staff, Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors will not waiver from this long-range rural vision. It will require avoiding the immediate pressure to allow inappropriate land uses or road commitments.
Years ago, George Kirschenbauer, then on the Planning Commission, mused that it was too bad that property deeds in the rural area could not provide a warning that “suburban amenities will not be provided” in much the way deeds in the airport noise zones warn the buyers of the risks. Alas, his idea went nowhere.
Al Van Huyck, Round Hill