Editorial: Shared Challenges

The ramping up of east-versus-west rhetoric on the Board of Supervisor’s dais is a troubling turn for the governing body, which had largely avoided such tiresome themes during its term.

The ploy has been most overt during debate over the merits of two land conservation programs—Transfer of Development Rights and Purchase of Development Rights—but can also be heard as an undercurrent in the development of the county’s new comprehensive plan. The comments are especially stark given the importance these same supervisors repeatedly have placed on the success of the rural economy and the need to protect rural land in their previous comments and actions.

Regardless of whether this changing tone is to be attributed to election-year tensions or to some simmering constituent frustration, it doesn’t bode well for the future protection of the county’s special land use balance that is commonly cited as a bedrock of the Loudoun’s overall quality of life. It only takes five votes to reverse decades of careful planning—irreversibly so.

As far as TDRs and PDRs go, communities around the commonwealth and around the nation has successfully implemented the conservation programs. Transfer of Development Rights should be used to advance the community’s land use goals, offering a creative way to promote both conservation and sensible well-planned development. A Purchase of Development Rights program is just one more tool to protect rural land from the whims of future county boards who may value open spaces—or lower the service costs they represent.

But as we’re finding with many elements of the ongoing countywide planning exercise, there’s not much creativity being explored.

For example, how about taking the east-west friction out of the equation in developing a funding source for PDRs? When faced with a similarly controversial expense, a previous Board of Supervisors developed a Metrorail funding program that was designed to put the payment burden on those likely to receive the most direct benefit. A special tax on land closest the rail line is expected to cover the county’s share of the construction costs. What if a similar funding program was designed in the rural area? What is some of the tax benefits generated by the success of those dynamic new businesses was invested in a conservation program, at least enough to leverage grants from other available sources.

These are not east-versus-west questions; these are shared community challenges. If we fail to address them today, our loss will be felt for generations.

2 thoughts on “Editorial: Shared Challenges

  • 2019-03-10 at 3:57 pm
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    Great Editorial – This is a topic that goes to the root of the relationship between Richmond and Loudoun as much or perhaps more than east vs west Loudoun. As we explore “if” I wonder how often we look at the evidence of whether there are Supervisors and State Legislators whose REAL agenda is precisely to support the full urbanization of loudoun all the way to the West Virginia border. (Anyone willing to publish who the donors of politicians are and whether they are developers or not?) Isn’t the “transition zone” merely a label set up to insure voters in the west don’t realize it is merely a step toward the next transition zone slightly further west? Anyone notice how the transition zone itself is being intensified with high density development? Isn’t the state and the entrenched party loyalists already viewing Loudoun as a harvest zone hoping we continue sending income and sales tax to Richmond with deliberately disproportionate amount (composite index) being returned to support our schools? Loudoun’s funding gets re-distributed to other Virginia counties whose tax rate is far below the state average of 79 cents while we are told to be grateful to only pay around $1.05. Do we need a wall along Loyalty road to get the point across? Are the high density power lines the SCC supported being placed along the W&OD just for show? Again – great topic – thanks for opening up a needed discussion.
    Bob Ohneiser Esq.

  • 2019-05-03 at 2:16 pm
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    TDRs and PDRs are not going to solve the problem of western land owners wanting to sell their land. As long as the prices for land keeps increasing, the greater the incentive to sell out and retire. If owners are making enough money from their ag businesses, they will not be motivated to move. I have seen very few suggestions on how to help the ag business owners and farmers increase their income. As an example, I see very few places for farmers’ markets in the county. Leesburg has one on Saturdays in a parking lot. Would it help if Parks and Rec provided pavilions at major parks like Franklin for farmers, wineries and others to display and sell their products? The county already provides lower taxes with land use tax classification and conservation easements. To be clear, I have not run an analysis of how many lots could realistically be harvested from a TDR/PDR program. I once asked Eugene Scheel how many western land owners were lined up to sell their development rights. He could not think of any at the time. Another facet of the TDR/PDR proposal is that developers could buy development rights from one RPA owner and use those rights to develop land in another part of the RPA. How happy would the owners next to that development be? It just seems to me that much energy has gone into proposing development rights when the are significant unintended consequences of using them as land conservation methods. And, it also appears that the energy being consumed on development rights might be better spent in finding other ways to augment ag businesses’ profitability.

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