Lane Closures on Tysons Boulevard, Galleria Drive March 20 to 24

Lane closures will take place Monday, March 20, through Friday, March 24, on Tysons Boulevard and Galleria Drive near the Tysons Corner Metro Station to permit the realignment of the curb.

Drivers are asked to use caution and remain attentive to all signage, barricades and speed limits.

See below for more detailed information. All work is weather permitting.

Tysons Boulevard Southbound

When: Monday, March 20 – Thursday, March 23, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Friday, March 24, 9:30 a.m. to noon
What: Turning lane to left closed
Where: From north side of Galleria Drive to Route 123
Why: Curb realignment

Galleria Drive Eastbound

When: Monday, March 20 – Thursday, March 23, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Friday, March 24, 9:30 a.m. to noon
What: Turning lane farthest to left closed
Where: On approach to Tysons Boulevard
Why: Curb realignment




First Look at Envision Loudoun Results

On February 23, the Loudoun County Planning Department presented to the Board of Supervisors the results of Phase 1 of Envision Loudoun, the County’s ongoing effort to update and rewrite the County’s Comprehensive Plan.

A fact-finding exercise for the Comp Plan rewrite, the information being gathered includes a full documentation and analysis of the market, housing and other business, employment, and lifestyle trends impacting Loudoun, along with input from citizens, public officials, and stakeholder groups about where they want the County to go.

Both sides of the growth debate seem to want more control and less unpredictability in planning and zoning policies. But, that is where the consensus begins and ends.

When asked “How will we know when we have succeeded?” one pro-growth participant said – rather bluntly … “When higher density is approved.” But another participant countered with “… when the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors learns to say ‘enough is enough’ to developers.”

A Carefully Orchestrated Effort
Loudoun’s Comprehensive Plan was last updated in 2001. While the intervening years have delivered on the dreams of some, they have shattered the dreams of others. The participant who said success will be measured by whether or not “the farms are still here,” may be worried. The individual who wants “the type of growth that has occurred in Arlington County over the past 30-40 years,” may be feeling pretty good at the moment.

Adding to the high-stakes is the belief of developers that obstacles to success include NIMBY attitudes and exclusionary zoning. While the other side include is concerned that the developer community has a lock on the planning process – because of its voting control over the ZOAG and the Envision Loudoun Stakeholders Committee.

“A Community-Based Vision … for Loudoun County”
The perception that developers have an undue influence has put County leaders in a defensive posture.

For this reason, listening and learning participation rates are presented in a consistently strong, front-and-center manner at every opportunity, with the County reinforcing the huge effort it has put forth to get citizens involved.Highlights of that citizen participation include six public input sessions – some of which featured several hundred people, 1,400 online and in-person participants, and 5,000+ individual comments.

Also in the mix are the directives in the Comp Plan Charter – prepared by the BOS in 2016. While citizen input favors strong controls on development, the plan charter is less clear. Citizens want to preserve the Transition Policy Area – which today serves as a buffer between the suburban east and rural west. But, according to the plan charter, “… the new plan will outline policies for addressing the most pressing issues Loudoun faces …” including the future of the TPA.

A 24-Hour Streetscape vs. Dark Skies
Participants in Envision Loudoun were asked what needs to be done to make Loudoun County a better community in the future … how success would be defined … and what obstacles participants see to achieving success.

Some participants favored Fairfax-style development while others sought a virtual moratorium on new construction.

One pro-growth Loudouner favors projects that allow people to live where they work and work where they play, a nod to mixed-use developments, including town-center-style “24-Hour-Streetscapes.” But, others want to support what they say is working. “We need to follow our comprehensive plan for maintaining a vibrant rural economy in Loudoun that includes all segments of agriculture,” said a rural-business promoter. Pointing out that within the state of Virginia, Loudoun is number one in wineries, grape acres, and berry production, the participant continued, “We need to recognize that we are doing a good job, and address small regulatory and zoning issues when they arise, but not lose sight of the fact that it has been a success!”

We also have the playful and oddly cosmic among us. Said one participant, “Keep Western Loudoun Wild and Weird!”

A Better Future for Loudoun – By the Numbers
Overall, a clear majority of participants see the balanced approach taken by the current comprehensive plan as a successful one. And, they want that balanced approach – as represented by a suburban east, a transitional middle, and a rural west – preserved.

When asked what kinds of things would make Loudoun an even better community in the future, over 23 percent expressed support for transportation improvements, often in relationship to specific developments. On that point, pro-development advocates and those supporting slower growth were often in agreement.

A nearly equal number of people – 22.5 percent – saw opportunities for improvements to the “Built Environment.” This broad category includes ideas and opinions relating to zoning policies and regulations, land use planning, and how development patterns succeed – or fail — to protect historic places, sensitive environments, and small town character. In the category of the Built Environment, data centers were the focus of dozens and dozens of comments challenging the negative impacts they can have on communities.

The preservation of our environmental and agricultural heritage was cited by 15.4 percent as the way to improve Loudoun; 11.6 percent cited lifestyle issues – including parks and recreation, and county amenities dedicated to the arts, youth, sports, and health; 6.4 percent cited gains in employment; 4.6 percent cited housing, including affordable housing; 4.3 percent cited community infrastructure assets, including the internet; and 4 percent cited greater services for seniors and others.

Next Step for Envision Loudoun
Most Envision Loudoun participants seem to agree that growth – whether you love it, hate it, or simply accept it –is not going away. The question will be, will the County take its cue from the citizenry to preserve a balanced approach between the old and the new?

In the coming months the County will continue to engage the public and various stakeholders, and hope to answer that question with something akin to a “vision” for all three policy areas – the suburban east, the transitional middle, and the rural west.

In defining what success would look like in this process, one commuter said, “When it doesn’t take 30 minutes to get from Brambleton to Rt. 50.” Another said, “When we have reduced the number of dirt roads by 80 percent.”

People love shorter commutes … but as the county with more miles of dirt roads that any other in Virginia, we also know and love the idea of a slow and scenic ride.

So, what will Loudoun’s future look like?




A Duplex That Is Not a Duplex

Property owner Shawn Rowley spoke before the Purcellville Town Council, February 28, regarding the R-3 Duplex Zoning District. His issue … can’t a structure that looks – for all intents and purposes – like two separate homes above ground, still be considered a duplex, if, underground a hidden wall in the back connects the two?

Rowley built a duplex on G Street recently. Even though the property is currently zoned R-2 (Single-family Residential), and duplexes are not allowed, he was able to do so because the previous Town Council had grandfathered the property under the R-3 (Duplex Residential) zoning district in 2008.

The structures on G Street have the appearance of two single-family detached homes. The homes are joined by an underground wall, which runs between and connects the rear wall of each unit. So, Patrick Sullivan, the Town Zoning Administrator, determined that the two units met the definition of a duplex.

Rowley said, “What made this possible was working with Town staff to come up with a solution that benefited the Town and improved the street scape.” He said the land was unsightly by any standard, and had a dead tree on it. “We were able to work with Town staff to make it happen.”

Mayor Kwasi Fraser put this “definition of a duplex” on the agenda for discussion at the recent Town Council meeting. He said he appreciated innovation and creativity. But, as it conflicts or is perceived to conflict with the Town’s zoning ordinances, he wanted to make sure that such an exception is brought before the citizens and neighbors, not just the zoning administrator.

“I have requested several times for an example throughout the United States where a duplex as defined as such, two separate structures that look as two separate residential buildings; to date I haven’t seen any. So, I want for us to make it clear that within the Town of Purcellville a duplex is a structure that shares a common wall vertical or horizontal, and not a wall that is hidden [underground] in the back,” said Fraser.

Vice Mayor Karen Jimmerson, agreed, saying, “The only thing that concerns me is that we grandfathered a zoning … and I am used to grandfathering a use. Why would we grandfather a zoning? Everything around it is zoned differently and that specific use was kept intact; that seems very odd to me.”

Council Member Nedim Ogelman said, “I don’t think it’s about the use, it’s about the process and the clarity of law, and the clarity of guidance and whether this definition was intended to have that kind of unit or not.” Ogelman said that this should not be subject to one person’s interpretation.

Council Member Doug McCollum said, “Frankly, I am at a loss at what the concern of the Council is for this construction. I don’t share your view about the district. I look at the definition of the R3-Duplex Residential District, these two houses fit in well with the neighborhood. They are duplexes that are very well done.”

Council Member Kelli Grim said that Council needs to look at all the properties that are subject to this zoning. She said that she has yet to find where this has been done in other places. “We could see beautiful homes torn down and duplexes placed throughout the area. And I don’t think that the majority of our residents want to see our town turn into this.”

In a 6-1 vote (with McCollum voting no), the Council decided it will consider a zoning text amendment for duplexes at the next council meeting.




Public Meeting Held on Proposed Senior Community Development

The owner of the Stuper property, in the Town of Purcellville, along with the contract purchaser – Buckeye Development – hosted a presentation and public input meeting at the Carver Center, Monday February 27, on a senior living community being proposed for the 20-acre property along N. Maple Avenue and Hirst Road. The meeting was attended by approximately 40 residents, along with Purcellville’s Mayor Kwasi Fraser and several Council Members. The proposal includes active adult housing, continuing care, memory care, adult day care, medical care, and other potential complementary uses.

Jeff Lessans of Bucheye Development discussed possible apartments for ages 55 and older. He also discussed an assisted living center to include a memory care facility, an adult day care facility, and a possible child care facility.

Affordability was a main concern of the attendees, and the opinion that there is a need for something like this in Purcellville. Residents have to go to Ashburn, Winchester, or beyond for assisted living facilities.

Lessans said he was just in the early stages of the proposal, and he is open to more community input along the way. It was noted other Buckeye representatives that this type of proposal would not generate as much traffic as other uses. Also, it would not add to the impact on the schools, and would contribute to a community need.

“We are excited to meet and work with the Town of Purcellville’s citizens to gain input into our proposal for this land.  We strongly believe in and promote community involvement during the land planning process to ensure we are addressing the community’s needs and concerns prior to filing a development application with the Town.  Our goal is to provide a quality senior living community that not only provides housing, but the opportunity for its residents and their families to have access to complementary services.  However, it is important to us that the community is equally excited, and supports our proposal,” said Ed Smariga, Buckeye’s principal. 

For more information contact Linda Erbs at Linda@lauercommercial.com or 703-850-3641.




Another Local Mountain Making News

Homeland Security Mt. Weather Comments Due February 22

The Department of Homeland Security has placed legally-required public notices in area newspapers seeking comments on a major expansion project at the Mt. Weather Emergency Operations Center. The deadline for public comments is February 22.

While the Mt. Weather expansion is not specifically linked to AT&T’s activities on Short Hill Mountain, the citizen’s group Short Hill rescue – and other citizens and groups – are following the issue with great interest.

The two locales – just over 20 driving miles from each other – fall under a wide variety of telecommunication, zoning and environmental statutes and regulations providing for public input under certain circumstances.

MWEOC is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA and straddles both Clarke and Loudoun counties. As such, a dozen state, local and federal government agencies are party to FEMA’s communications on the project, including the Loudoun and Clarke County Departments of Planning, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and at least 9 others.

The project involves the construction of a 30,000-sq. ft. structure known as Building 437 on the footprint of a building demolished in 2014, the demolition of an old warehouse building, the paving of a now gravel parking lot – to provide space for 45 cars, and the modification of a road at the complex.

The public notice was posted per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires that all executive federal agencies review a proposed action, and alternatives to the proposed action, with a basic Environmental Assessment (EA). If the assessment shows “significant impact” on the environment, the agency must follow up with a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). FEMA reviewed two options in its Environmental Assessment – a no-alternative option (leave things as is), and moving forward with the project – and found that, per NEPA standards the project would have “no significant impact” on the environment, which frees it from the requirements of a formal EIS.

Homeland Security’s EA and no significant impact findings are on file at the Berryville Library and the Purcellville Library.

FEMA will finalize its “no significant impact” findings and have authority to proceed with the project without an Environmental Impact Statement “if no substantive comments to the contrary” are received by February 22, 2017. Comments sent by email should be directed to: Comments437EA@fema.dhs.gov, and by mail to: MWEOC, ATTN: K. Ellis, P.O. Box 129, Mt. Weather, VA 22611.

Click below to view Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center’s:
Fact Sheet
Chapters 1-2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4-7




Homeland Security Justifications Behind Short Hill Blackout

In January, the Loudoun County Department of Planning advised citizens impatient for details on AT&T’s continuing activities on Short Hill Mountain that key aspects of the work – including the amount of power, and the number of new utility lines, generators, and more that might eventually be required – would remain under Freedom of Information Act blackout, not available to the public.

Said Deputy Zoning Administrator Michelle Lohr, in an email to Sam Kroiz of the Short Hill Rescue citizen’s group: “The County is advised that the telecommunications facility that is the subject of [citizen inquiries] is deemed to constitute ‘critical infrastructure’ as defined in the Homeland Security Act, and, as such, information that reveals any details of the facility … is protected from disclosure in accordance with the ‘Critical Infrastructure Information Act of 2002’.”

While under intense public scrutiny since AT&T abruptly withdrew a permit application related to a “continuing use” last year, the bind that Short Hill’s immediate neighbors are in is just now coming into view. The permitting process for upgrades to an existing use first flew off the rails when citizens turned out in record numbers for a series of public meetings. Things quieted down when AT&T withdrew the permit, but, heated up again as intense construction, night lights, and earth-moving activities continued. Spokespeople for the County and AT&T have routinely directed citizen questions to SPAM 2016-0067, a permit for “grading and electrical work.”

The company has denied reports that Short Hill is being prepared as the site for a full-blown data center. And, concerned neighbors fear that many of the things the public has both the right to know – and the right to influence through the planning process – will be set in place before the public has the opportunity to mount a challenge. Since AT&T is operating legally under SPAM 2016-0067, none of the activities currently underway is subject to Board of Supervisors review or public scrutiny.

According to the Short Hill Rescue group, with the FOIA blackout in place, the potential for a use as intensive as a data center – with no further public input – is staring rural western Loudoun right in the face.

In Related News … Wireless Companies Seek Relaxed Approvals
A proposal now before the Virginia legislature – House Bill 2196 – would strictly limit Loudoun County’s zoning oversight with respect to the installation of “small cell” wireless facilities.
The bill, introduced by Del. Terry G. Kilgore (R) (House District 1) provides for “a uniform procedure for the way in which wireless communications infrastructure is approved by localities and installed in public rights-of-way.”
Originating from the telecommunications giant SPRINT, HB 2196 would make the siting of wireless infrastructure much easier for all companies – limiting both the information given to a locality and that locality’s power to require facilities to get approval for special exceptions, special use permits, or other zoning safeguards.
The bill is opposed by local preservation and conservation groups, including the Piedmont Environmental Council. And, these groups have another influential ally in the fight, the Virginia Municipal League. According to VML, the bill has “significant ramifications for local government including the use of public property without proper remuneration, loss of local land use control and blind permit approvals … “
Speaking to the larger issue of community input with respect to how and where telecommunications service infrastructure is located, Michelle Gowdy, General Counsel for the League said: “While localities are working to bury public utilities to enhance the beauty of their communities, wireless providers want to inundate rights-of-way and public property with towers and unsightly structures … These small cells may be placed on towers up to 120 feet tall and will have bulky cabinets along with antennae attached … The wireless carriers say that these aren’t cell towers, but to an ordinary eye, they sure look like them.”




Public Information Session on Leesburg Floodplain Overlay District Planned

The Town of Leesburg will hold a public information session regarding the proposed Floodplain Overlay District on Tuesday, January 17, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be in the lower level banquet hall of the Ida Lee Park Recreation Center (60 Ida Lee Drive).

During the meeting, town staff will provide an overview of the proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments establishing the Floodplain Overlay District and answer questions. Property owners within the proposed district will receive a letter from the Town providing detailed information regarding the proposed amendments and legislative review process. Property owners in the proposed district are encouraged to attend this meeting. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

The primary purpose of the proposed Floodplain Overlay District is to protect life and property from flooding, consistent with federally-mandated requirements for Town participation in the National Flood Insurance Program. Federally-backed flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, and business owners located in communities that participate in this program. Establishment of the proposed Floodplain Overlay District will bring the Town in conformance with the updated Floodplain Insurance Rate Map and Flood Insurance Study for Loudoun County as prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with an effective date of February 17.

Affected properties will be subject to the requirements and use limitations of the proposed overlay district in addition to the existing requirements and use limitations of their base zoning district which will not change. The proposed amendments apply to properties in general proximity to any stream draining an area of 100 acres or more and subject to recurring flooding.

Following the public information session, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed Floodplain Overlay District at their regular meeting on Thursday, January 19. The Planning Commission meets in Council Chamber on the second floor of the Leesburg Town Hall (25 West Market Street). Planning Commission meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. The Town Council’s public hearing on the proposed district is scheduled for Tuesday, February 14.

For more information, visit the Town website at www.leesburgva.gov/floodplain, or contact Irish Grandfield, Senior Planner at igrandfield@leesburgva.gov or 703-771-2765.




Kaine Rides Silver Line To Assess Progress on Dulles Extension

In an effort to assess progress on Phase II of the Silver Line, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) rode the Metro from Tyson’s Corner to the Wiehle-Reston stop with Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld and received a tour and briefing on construction of the extension to Dulles International Airport from Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority officials. Kaine made securing $900 million in federal funding for Phase I of the Silver Line project a top transportation priority.

“I’m a huge supporter of the Silver Line,” Kaine said. “From working on getting Phase I from the drawing board to the groundbreaking as Governor, and now seeing the progress being made on Phase II; this is exciting. It is such a necessary project to keep up with the growth of Northern Virginia, and especially to serve Dulles International Airport, which is one of the two key hubs for Virginia’s national economic reach.”

Later in the day, Kaine visited Prince William Forest National Park as part of the National Park Service (NPS) centennial celebration. Kaine and his staff committed to visit every NPS unit in Virginia by the end of 2016, and the visit to Prince William Forest Park completed Kaine’s effort. He also met with a chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) in Annandale to discuss workforce development and issues affecting Virginia’s federal workers.




Catesby Vote Scheduled for December 6: UPDATE

Update: At the December 6 Business meeting the Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 to approve the Catesby Minor Special Exception with Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) voting against.

Unexpected Commercial Use Garners Widespread Attention

The December 6 BOS Business Meeting starts at 5:00 p.m. At that time eight individuals can sign up to speak. At 6:30 p.m. an unlimited number of speakers can sign up. To sign up in advance to speak call 703-777-0204.

The Catesby proposal, permitting by minor special exception the operation of an events center on the historic, 160-acre Catesby Farm is on the agenda for a vote at the Board of Supervisor’s business meeting on Tuesday, December 6.

In the AR-2 Agricultural District, Catesby has been in permanent open space easement si­­nce 2004. The easement provides that neither the property nor the structures on it can be modified except to further its agricultural use, language designed to accommodate a farm, an equine business, even a B&B – many of which have operated for decades in the area.

But, Robert and Michelle LaRose – heirs of tech giant and philanthropist Robert E. LaRose – hope to sidestep the easement’s agricultural restrictions – and the area’s agricultural zoning – in favor of a temporary events center model. They want a special exception to hold up to 20 events per year of 200 people each, with most necessities – from staff, to tents, to bathrooms, to shuttle buses, to catering, to music, lighting and safety/security personnel – brought in and taken out on an event-by-event basis.

The proposal has generated lots of opposition since making it to the board’s agenda.

The Mosby Heritage Association, Unison Preservation Society, Piedmont Environmental Council, Goose Creek Association, Land Trust of Virginia and others oppose the project. Said the UPS, “[We] do not oppose economic development … [but] Approving this application … would allow for hallowed ground to become a parking lot.” (The Civil War 1862 Battle of Unison was fought on the property.)

The Loudoun County Health Department notes that new wells may need to be drilled on the property, something that may not be allowed by the 2004 open space easement.

In recent months, the heirs purchased additional land adjacent to the site to address limited and narrow dirt road access and other barriers, and proposed moving the 90+ guest cars parking area. Other County meeting notes show language in a standard disclosure made by Planning Commission member Eugene Scheel during a Briefing/Work Session of that body in March noting that he had met the day before with the Catoctin Farmer’s Club “regarding a proposed resort type complex at Catesby Farm near Willisville,” information not contained in the public record that makes up the application.

With Catesby certainly on his mind, in an October 16 letter to the Rural Economic Development Committee, Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said that the protection of the rural, historic and scenic character of the west is one of his top priorities.

Buffington believes that economic growth in the west is necessary to save it. At the same time, however, Buffington has acknowledged that on issues such as the preservation of dirt roads his constituents are “uncomfortable” with the balance that has been struck so far.

With regards to Catsby, Buffington is on record saying that he will do what the citizens want. However, he would not commit to how he will vote. This, despite the fact that hundreds of citizens spoke in support of the many profitable by-right uses available to property owners in the area, and against the new and very different use requested by Robert and Michelle LaRose.

In an onsite interview with the LaRoses as this paper went to press, Michelle LaRose recounted instances of how their family had held many many large private events at Catesby over the years. She also made clear that their preference is not to operate a traditional B&B.

Editor’s Note:

In researching the water and sewer needs for the special events center proposed for Catesby Farm, the Blue Ridge Leader reviewed several memos and email communications presented as attachments to an extensive Department of Planning Staff Report on a public hearing that took place on October 12, 2016 with respect to SPMI-2015-0018, Banquet/Event Facility, SPMI-2016-0007, Road Access Standards Modification and SPMI-2016-0018, Number of Access Points Modification.

The report and attachments include ongoing issues and discussions as to how to accommodate the water and sewer, including waste disposal needs of the proposal. This includes suggestions that the applicants might consider applying to put new public wells on the property.

The full 111-page Staff Report on the October 12, 2016 hearing can be found at www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=3362.

Additional backup documents can be found below.

Health Department Letter 2/9/16
Health Department Letter 4/25/16
Health Department Letter 6/10/16
New Wells E-mail




Kline Annexation Fails – Comp Plan Language Promoting Annexation Eliminated

On November 8, the Purcellville Town Council voted to deny the Kline/Purcellville Crossroads Annexation application 6-0-1, with Council Member Chris Bledsoe absent. This was one of the new Council’s significant actions to date.

Pleasants Kline, along with three other property owners, had requested the annexation of approximately 50.4 acres. Currently zoned JLMA-3 (one house per three acres), the property is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Berlin Turnpike (Rt. 287) and Harry Byrd Highway (Rt. 7) and along St. Francis Court.

The proposal called for approximately 70 residential units, 75,000 square feet of commercial space, an 80-room hotel, and Tilley’s Entertainment Center, including indoor and outdoor commercial recreational facilities.

Council Member Nedim Ogelman said it was very fortunate for the future of Purcellville to bring back this proposal back for a vote, because he felt that during the election citizens were expressing their opinions on this issue. “There have been 59 emails submitted for the record tonight relevant to the Kline Annexations in general – one email in support of Kline. We should act, because citizens expressed their views – they have the information they need – and we act on the expressed will of what they want,” said Ogelman.

Council Member Kelli Grim said, “It’s long, long overdue. There is a plan for the JLMA [Joint Land Management Area], it’s clear – staff at the County level has said it in the memo sent March of 2013 – the Purcellville JLMA is no longer planned as a Town growth area, but instead will protect the existing residential development pattern, and serve as a County transition area between the Town and the rural policy area.” Grim continued, “Further, the CPAM [Comp Plan Amendment] that was passed retains existing planned policies which recognize the existing JLMA as a district planned land use area, and maintains the current County zoning designation for the area.”

“In 2012, recognizing that the Town did not desire any increased density and growth outside the current incorporated Town boundaries, and to the JLMA – the Purcellville Joint Policies Review Committee and the Town Council called for the repeal of PUGAMP [Purcellville Urban Growth Area Management Plan],” said Grim. She pointed out that the JLMA will develop in accordance with the underlying County zoning ascribed to the area, which is one house per three acres. The growth area outside the Town limits does not exist unless the Town Council takes it up, Grim pointed out.

Mayor Kwasi Fraser said, “I was told years ago, hope is not a strategy and hope is not a plan. Annexation for the sake of annexation in the hope that in the future that we can control it – we need to put that into the right context. This Town has seen many annexations that took over 20 years for someone to develop it. We need to see what the plan would be, and do we have the infrastructure to support it. Net net, we need to be careful what we plan for.”

The Town Council voted against the annexation, and voted to return 75 percent of the application fee, which is in accordance with state law. The annexation would not be compatible with the Town’s existing scale and Comprehensive Plan.

Comp Plan Resolution

Council Member Nedim Ogelman also asked Council to amend resolution 15-01-12, which initiated the Comprehensive Plan Review and Amendment Process. He said, “The first and fundamental reason I am asking to bring this back is that the original resolution has an assumption that reads ‘Whereas the Town has been asked by land owners in Loudoun County to consider further expansion into the Town’s jurisdictional limits’ – so it’s essentially saying one of the reasons we are doing this is because landowners in Loudoun County asked the Town to consider expanding the borders to consider annexing, and there is no similar language about the citizens of the Town. So, there is no language that citizens of the Town want this.”

Ogelman said this “struck me as inconsistent with the Town’s representative government, and in addition to that, this land that is zoned by the County already exists in the County … and the Town, with the absolution of PUGAMP, has said they don’t want to grow anymore.”

This was something that was significant in the election – referring to growing the Town. “There is no requirement to consider areas outside of Town when reviewing the Comprehensive Plan,” he said. “The idea of expanding the Town’s jurisdictional limits, or considering to expand them, because landowners in the County asked us to do that, with no consideration to what the citizens in Purcellville want, didn’t ring true to me, and what I myself committed to in the election; and that’s why I wanted to bring it back.”

Council Member Doug McCollum disagreed, saying, “I think it is unwise to oppose this issue.” He continued, “We need to have a supply of land – mixed use, industrial and commercial have received support during the Comp Plan review.”

Developers have attended the review process and expressed their desire for expanding the Town.

Council Member Kelli Grim said the wording is flawed when “we are going to do something with our Comp Plan based on landowners, and not addressing our citizens and residents.” Grim pointed out that the Town has doubled in size in 10 years. “We are finding as we break this onion open, talking to our consultants, that there’s a lot of other policies that we can put in place, because if growth paid for itself we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now. Developers have gotten carte blanche, and the citizens get stuck with the bill.” She noted that previous politicians have approved development that has not complied with the current Comp Plan.

“If growth paid the bills then we would have an excess of money,’’ said Council Member Karen Jimmerson. “Fairfax County has no more boundary. They have nowhere to go, so they are doing infill, and are facing a political cliff.” Jimmerson continued, “They don’t have any more land. For us, we have Mayfair, Catoctin Corner, Purcellville Gateway, and Purcellville Green – and all of those things did nothing to make a dent in our debt. They haven’t lowered our water bill, they haven’t lowered our taxes. And so, I can’t find any rational argument that I have to go expand my tentacles. Any resolution we have has to involve the current residents.” She also said that the previous resolution excluded the residents of Purcellville.

Mayor Fraser said that he supported the proposal to amend the language of the resolution. He said it does not “put a stop on saying that we will never consider annexation.” We need to be able to look at the entire landscape, and determine whether we have the infrastructure to support whatever decision we need to make.”

“Where in this resolution does it say we will never consider annexation? It doesn’t say it. It puts the citizens first, and I fully support it,” said Council Member Ryan Cool.

Town staff went back and forth on whether or not to delay the vote one month to notify the applicant – since staff had not done so. The Town attorney told Council numerous times that the Town would not be in legal jeopardy if they voted on the resolution.
Said Council Member Cool, “We are here to take action. We are not here to pontificate and talk all night. So people want the government to take action to do things.” Cool continued, “If we are not in fear of legal action, let’s do what the people put us here to do and take action. And I am happy to make the motion.” The motion passed 5-1-1 with Council Member Doug McCollum voting no and Chris Bledsoe absent for the vote.




Chapman Appeals State Decision; Easement Overvalued By 95 Percent

In 2008, Purcellville developer John Chapman, of Chapman Brothers LLC and Valley Medical Center LLC, placed approximately 10 acres of vacant land located near the intersection of Hatcher Avenue and Hirst Road in conservation easement. Known as the Chapman DeMary Trail, the long, narrow parcel is in a FEMA flood plain, with South Fork Catoctin Creek winding through the property.

A pre-donation appraisal is required to put a property in conservation easement. The higher the development value of land in question, the larger the tax benefit afforded the donor. The appraisal Chapman submitted to the state valued the property at $4.3 million dollars. The C-1 commercial office zoning that ran with the property would have allowed nearly 400 parking spaces, and commercial buildings of 112,000 square feet.

In December of 2008 – the Virginia Department of Taxation verified the conservation easement, and provided land preservation tax credits in the amount of $1,945,600 to Chapman. Property owners may use the tax credits themselves, or sell them to individuals who can claim the credits on their federal and state tax returns. At the time the easement was approved, however, VDT also stated – in a letter dated December 31, 2008 – that, “Any value of the donation on which the credit is claimed is subject to review, audit, and challenge by all appropriate tax authorities.”

In June 2011, VDT notified Chapman Brothers LLC and Valley Medical Center LLC that, based on its review, original and subsequent appraisals were not satisfactory, and considered to be unreliable. VDT also noted that because of the inconsistency of the information and lack of support or explanation in both appraisal reports, it had contacted an independent appraiser. That new appraisal put the fair market value for the conservation easement on the 10 acres at $216,000, a reduction of 95.56 percent from the $4.3 million submitted by Chapman Brothers and Valley Medical.

Chapman Brothers and Valley Medical sold tax credits to 77 taxpayers. Loudoun County court records show four lawsuits – filed individually or as groups – from people trying to recover tax losses resulting from the faulty appraisals, including penalties and interest. As of press time, Chapman’s conservation easement appeal date has been set for November 7, 2016.




Chapman Challenges Citizens/Local Farmers on Facebook

The social media world lit up recently with, Sam Chapman’s Facebook claim that Sam and Uta Brown, owners of Crooked Run Orchard in Purcellville, were seeking new commercial zoning for their property. Chapman also suggested that the rezoning might be connected to the current Comprehensive Plan Review, citing the website developed to keep citizens updated on the process: www.planpurcellville.com. The post was also marketed as an advertisement for greater coverage.

Chapman, son of developer John Chapman, was defeated early this year in his quest to join the Purcellville Town Council, but is still maintaining his Facebook page for that purpose.

Referring to the comp plan review, Sam Chapman’s October 22 message urged readers to “Attend these meetings and see first hand [sic] how the crooked ran orchard will get their property ‘upzoned’ to commercial FREE of charge.” The message and challenging tone of Chapman’s post continued, “The Browns are the most clever developers in Purcellville. More details coming soon. Who’s in whose pocket?” and finished with the hashtag #scheme #factcheck.

This is a baseless statement and the Browns continue with their long-term goal of placing their entire farm in a conservation easement to protect and preserve it for future generations.

Sam and Uta Brown have been working to hold on to their farm and protect it from development for many decades, despite the town taking eight acres by quick take condemnation that split their farm in two. A post on the citizen-member Facebook page called Purcellville Matters described Chapman’s post as “sour grapes” referring, perhaps, to Chapman’s electoral defeat.

The farm, in fact, has been in Sam Brown’s family for 250 years, and part of the property is already under conservation easement. Citizens attending Comprehensive Plan meetings have continued to express their desire to see the farm remain open space.




To Pave or Not To Pave

The Strange Saga Of Greggsville Road

Some things seem to move really slow here in western Loudoun County – that hay-hauling tractor in front of you on Snickersville Turnpike, or the gang of wild turkeys trying to make it to the other side, for example. And, some things seem to happen virtually overnight.

For Madeline Skinner and her husband Mark – owners of the Philomont General Store – things moved way too fast with the recent VDOT/Loudoun County decision to pave all 2.8 miles of Greggsville Road (end to end), from Jeb Stuart Road to Telegraph Springs Road – which are both also gravel roads.

First, neighbors saw engineers taking readings and measurements, and placing red stakes at various points in the road. Inquiries were made to find out what was going on with Greggsville Road. But, at that point the public hearing had already taken place, and the Board of Supervisors’ had already voted to approve the secondary roads six-year plan including the paving of Greggsville Road.

In a strange twist, the funding for the work on Greggsville will come, not through VDOT to the county, but via funding secured by Senator Dick Black (R-13th District). Black first submitted earmark legislation to fund the paving project. That earmark did not make it into the final state budget, so Black requested funding as part of a “pilot program.” Opponents of the paving say that this was approved despite the fact that Greggsville did not meet the required pilot project criteria. To qualify, Greggsville would need to intersect with “existing paved roads” at both ends. Greggsville Road meets gravel roads on both ends – Telegraph Springs and Jeb Stuart Roads are both gravel. Greggsville Road is also a very low traffic road.

The twisty-turny way the road ended up on a list to be paved was further complicated by the fact that Senator Black’s third highest campaign donor – who contributed $101,400 to Black – lives on Greggsville Road, leading several citizens to question the motivation behind what one called this “road to nowhere.”

In fact, Senator Black has been clear in his support of paving Greggsville saying: “Please pave the road … I’m not for many of them, but this is one we ought to do.”

Although not suggesting any impropriety, neighbors claimed that it is very rare for a Virginia state official to get involved in the paving of a little known rural road.

“I respect Senator Black’s stand on issues of importance to the State of Virginia,” said a nearby neighbor. “But, I’m surprised he would have his hands in this kind of thing. Locals should make these decisions.”

Many of those in favor of the paving live in the nearby newer subdivisions of Hunting Hill and Willowin. And, although records show that supporters of the Greggsville project have voiced their concerns about the condition of the road going back to 2014, there are questions about those activities, too.

Said Skinner, “I have the [2014] letter to Janet Clark … from the Hunting Hill/Willowin HOA and their petition, also a letter to the Board of Supervisors by a concerned individual who worked very hard to share all these facts. To be clear, my husband’s and my name appear as signing the petition, it was an error on their part, we did not sign it.  We DO NOT WANT Greggsville Rd. paved.  The community’s safety is at risk.  Speeds will increase, there is no question.  Reconsider the decision.”

Further muddying the recent decision is a Rural Roads Update provided by Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) in his “Catoctin District Update” from October 2014.

In that update Higgins discusses a “Rural Road Ride” with Senator Black, Delegate Randy Minchew (R-10th District), Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd District), Henry Plaster of a local preservation group’s rural road committee and VDOT representatives. The purpose of the ride “focused on observing the progress of eleven rural roads selected by VDOT for additional maintenance this year … to bring lasting maintenance solutions to the highest traveled and most resource-demanding gravel roads.” Higgins’ updated continued: “[the] Tour observed great improvements to the drainage and surface quality of the roads … as of October 2014, all eleven roads identified as the Top 11 Priority Roads in Loudoun have been completed …including Route 622 Greggsville Road between routes 611[Telegraph Springs Road] & 630 [Jeb Stuart Road] – 2.81 miles.”

Although a paved, impervious surface is necessary for high traffic roads, dirt and gravel works just as well for low-traffic roads – as long their surfaces and basic features are well maintained. Specific maintenance techniques include keeping roadside ditches and drainage pipes in good working order, rounding out road edges to facilitate water runoff, filling potholes in with gravel, treatments that reduce dust, etc. The photos shown here reflect the current condition on Greggsville Road between Jeb Stuart Road and North Fork Road, shortly after the road surface was dragged with basic road maintenance equipment.

Paved roads invite greater speeds and, by default, tend to favor car travel over uses such as walking, horseback riding and cycling, whereas well-maintained dirt roads accommodate all on a more equal basis.

The Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition represents some 30 organizations working to protect the county’s historic and environmental assets, including its outstanding network of rural roads. The organization’s Rural Roads Committee has been working side-by-side with county officials and VDOT to protect historically significant roads, with Greggsville at the top of its list, along with Williams Gap Road, Nixon Road, Lakefield Road and Rocky Lane. “Almost all the rural roads we use today,” notes the LCPCC, “appear on Yardley Taylor’s 1854 map of Loudoun County … Greggsville Road, also clearly visible on the 1854 map was named for the Greggs who owned and farmed property nearby in the early 19th Century … This road was very likely used by the huge Federal Army of the Potomac as it came through Loudoun in late 1862 in pursuit of General Robert E. Lee after the terrible battle at Antietam.” According to LCPCC testimony, the rural road plan developed in by VDOT and the county “will do far more damage to our rural road network that is necessary to address [specifically] identified issues.”

LCPCC and the Loudoun County Equine Association, which also opposes the paving of Greggsville notes that while rural dirt roads can make automobile traffic a little less convenient at times, they are irreplaceable assets to the mainstays of our rural economy and tourism industry. The equine industry alone – which includes horse events, horseback riding and training, as well as horse breeding and veterinary businesses – contributes $180 million annually to our economy (excluding property taxes). The industry also supports some 3,000 jobs and brings over 75,000 spectators and participants to Loudoun every year, one-third of them from out of state.

Supporters of the paving cite safety concerns. Records from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office show just five incidents occurred on this stretch of road in the last five years (January 2011 to October 2016). Most involved driver error and one involved a car colliding with an animal.
greggsvilleroad1greggsvilleroad2