Interruption In Loudoun County’s Online Services To Occur March 18-19

Loudoun County has scheduled a planned outage of the county’s computer network and applications and phone systems beginning at noon, Saturday, March 18. The planned outage is expected to last approximately 24 to 28 hours, ending between noon and 4:00 p.m., Sunday, March 19.
 
The planned outage will not affect the operation of critical public safety systems, such as the 911 emergency call center; however, the public’s ability to conduct some online transactions will be impacted. While the Loudoun County website, www.loudoun.gov, will be accessible during the planned outage, some online systems that are hosted on the website will not function. The systems that will be interrupted temporarily include, but are not limited to:

  • Tax payments
  • Credit card payments
  • RecTrac and WebTrac (registration and payment systems for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services)
  • Dog licensing payments
  • Issuing of building permits and scheduling construction inspections
  • Online mapping/GIS platforms, including the Floodplain Mapping resource
  • Library online services, including access to customer accounts and ebooks
  • Land records
  • Some online forms

In addition, the county’s email system and telephones in county facilities will be interrupted temporarily during the planned outage. As a result, delivery of emails sent to county addresses will be delayed as will responses. While most county offices will be closed during the planned outage, some telephone lines at open facilities may be interrupted.

County facilities that are open to the public on weekends, such as those operated by the Departments of Animal Services and Parks, Recreation and Community Services and the Loudoun County Public Library will be open on their regular schedules during the planned outage. These facilities may make adjustments to on-site services to accommodate any interruptions in technology caused by the planned outage and to minimize the impact on the public.
 
The planned outage is necessary to repair and replace equipment damaged during electrical failures that occurred at a county facility in January.




Loudoun County Online Auction Features Heaters, Ladders, Metal Lockers, Popcorn Machine & More

The Loudoun County government’s current online auction features a variety of government surplus items, including heaters, ladders, metal lockers, computers, books, DVDs, a popcorn machine and more. The auction will close at 12 noon, Thursday, March 16.

Detailed information and photographs of the items for sale are online.

Loudoun County sells selected items online through Public Surplus, which was created specifically for public agencies. Anyone interested in bidding on the items must be registered with www.publicsurplus.com. Registration is free, however, a ten percent buyer’s premium is charged to all purchases. Loudoun County government and school employees are subject to bidding limitations under the auction terms and conditions, which are available on the Public Surplus site.

Loudoun County has new hours for buyers to pick up their items at 14 Cardinal Park Drive, Suite 106, in Leesburg. Items must be picked up by appointment between 9:00 a.m. and noon or from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The dates for items to be picked up are noted on each auction item listed on the Loudoun County auction site.

More information about the sale of Loudoun County government surplus items is online at www.loudoun.gov/surplus.




Ladies Board Seeking Nursing Scholarship Applicants

The Ladies Board of Inova Loudoun Hospital is now accepting applications for nursing school tuition assistance. Scholarships are available to eligible students in various programs of study, including degrees at the associate, bachelor, master’s and doctoral levels. Since the Nursing Scholarship Fund was created in 1959, nearly 1,100 scholarships have been awarded, totaling over $1,500,000. 

Qualified applicants must: 

  • Reside or work in Loudoun County
  • Be enrolled in or accepted into an accredited school of nursing
  • Have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average 
  • Have completed 1 semester of nursing school or 30 undergraduate college credits.

Applications and more information are available online at ladiesboard.org or by calling 703-777-6357. The deadline for applications is April 11.




Growth Concerns – Take Two

The results from Loudoun County’s 2016 Annual Resident Survey – conducted by the Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia – was presented to the Board of Supervisors in early February. The survey gathers demographic information, evaluates citizen satisfaction with County services, and solicits citizen opinions on a variety of issues facing the County.

The survey is revealing.

It is here citizens share what attracts them about Loudoun County by answering the question: What single thing do you like best about Loudoun County? And, it is here that citizens share their concerns about what their future will look like, answering the question: What is the single biggest problem facing Loudoun County?

The answers to both questions show that the concern residents have about growth – also reflected in the County’s current Envision Loudoun process – is deep.

Some 17.9 percent of survey respondents said that the single thing they value most about Loudoun is its location/proximity to shopping/a major city, followed closely by the quality of schools (16.3 percent), and rural/open/country (14.8 percent).

When asked to identify the single biggest problem facing Loudoun County, over 36 percent – more than one-third – said that the problem is growth and development – “too much, too fast, not planned well.” A close second to that, at 32.5 percent, was traffic, followed by other things commonly associated with growth and development, including over-crowded schools, and road-maintenance issues.

Interestingly, taxes (too high, tax on wrong things) were identified by fewer than five percent of people as the County’s biggest problem, despite the increasingly clear connection between growth and higher tax rates.




It’s County Budgeting Time

On February 15, Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet presented to the Board of Supervisors a proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget of $2.5 billion. Public hearings on the budget were held February 28, March 2, and March 4.

The Board of Supervisors has now settled in for a series of six intensive budget work sessions, March 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, and 22. The County’s goal is to adopt a formal 2018 budget by April 4. The County’s new fiscal year officially begins on July 1.

The public hearings were fully televised on Comcast Government Channel 23, Open Band Channel 40, and Verizon FiOS Channel 40. They were also available on the County webcast system, accessible via www.loudoun.gov. The work sessions will be televised and on the County webcast system as well. Budget documents can be accessed at www.loudoun.gov/bosdocuments.

Under the proposed budget, for every $1 of county spending, 57 cents, or 57 percent, is earmarked for the Public School System, 13 percent to Debt Service, 11 percent for Public Safety & Judicial Administration, five percent to the County’s Capital Improvement Program, four percent for both Health & Welfare and General Government Administration, three percent for Parks, Recreation and Culture, two percent for Community Development, and one percent Non-governmental costs. Debt Service and Capital Improvement Program costs apply to expenditures for schools and expenditures for other county needs.

BOS Chair Phyllis Randall noted in a late February e-newsletter to citizens that the proposed budget is based on an estimated equalized real property tax rate of $1.135 and an advertised tax rate of $1.140. The current tax rate is $1.145.  According to Hemstreet, the homeowners’ equalized tax rate is to be $1.140. This rate would fully fund “the County’s critical needs and the LCPS budget.”

Randall, a mental health professional by trade, also noted that “Behavioral Health and Human Services has not been funded in years past, despite our growing population.  In Public Safety, talented staff leave for better opportunities.  We can no longer continue to ask staff to do more with less.”




Classes Help Seniors To Move To Achieve Better Balance

The Loudoun County Area Agency on Aging has launched a program titled “Moving for Better Balance.” The program encourages seniors to stay active and independent by improving strength, increasing balance and preventing falls.

Sessions will be held Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. through May 19 at the Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. located at 20145 Ashbrook Place, Suite 170, Ashbury. Interested individuals may sign up online at www.loudoun.gov/webtrac using Activity Number 227673-01 or by sending an e-mail to aaasupport@loudoun.gov.

To learn more about Tai Ji Quan, the research-based balance training program designed for seniors and people with balance disorders, visit https://tjqmbb.org.




Envision Loudoun’s Biggest Task Is Ahead

Envision Loudoun’s series of public Listening & Learning workshops – part of the County’s 18-month process to rewrite the Comprehensive Plan – wrapped up Jan. 11. The interactive website is now also officially finished with this initial learning phase. According to the Envision Loudoun website, citizen participation in the effort has been very good; “generating over 4,500 unique ideas and opportunities.”

So, now what?

If you’ve ever been involved in a planning charrette, or work session or public hearing, you know; When you ask people’s opinions on a subject, you have to show how and why you acted on those opinions. So, how will citizen comments inform the nitty-gritty planning details that determine how land is used and developed in Loudoun County?

If you asked the children who participated in Envision Loudoun workshops by “drawing” their future, you’d see both the positive and the unknown. Animals and trees and buildings live in harmony with each other. Large, unknown structures sometimes dominate the landscape. Parks and swings are everywhere, as are bright colors and favorite stores. And, you’d know you are being lobbied – for more parks, more shopping, more space between houses, a healthier environment, even for lower rents.

For the professionals trying to direct the process – all of whom have preferred Comprehensive Plan outcomes and policies of their own – the picture emerging from Envision Loudoun will be much more complicated.

The County’s planning consultants – the Ohio-based consulting firm of Planning Next – are focused on collecting, documenting and organizing all Envision Loudoun input with the goal of getting their client to the endpoint; a new Comprehensive Plan.

The real test will be how to translate the hours and hours of input, and stacks and stacks of maps, drawings, letters and suggestions into something that reflects Loudoun County, the long planning journey that has gotten it to this point and what kind of future it wants.

For some, the three part Rural, Transition and Suburban Policy Area strategy – focusing suburban development in the east … maintaining a protective, lower-density buffer in the middle … and preserving the rural west – is Loudoun County’s zoning bible. For others, this three-part strategy is not “trendy” enough. Said a consultant who helped the County launch the Envision Loudoun process, “Mixed-use in all its forms is really the rage right now …”

But, despite what is seen as modern and new, the continuous planning discussion Loudoun County has engaged in has focused not so much on the latest trends as the similarities between newcomers and people who have been here for generations. People stay in Loudoun and come to Loudoun, often, for the same thing.

Envision Loudoun’s most powerful developer interests, including builders, real estate investors and their consultants occupy key positions on the Stakeholder Committee and ZOAG – the Northern Virginia Building Association, Bowman Consulting and the Dulles Association of Realtors, for example.

Community, historic preservation and wildlife conservation champions are represented, too – the Loudoun County B & B Guild and PEC, for example.
Businessman Mike Turner, appointed to the Stakeholder Committee by BOS Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), sees the Comp Plan review as “a tension between what is and what will be.”

But, it may be the people in the middle – everyday Loudouners new and old – that will determine where Envision Loudoun takes us. If they speak loud enough.




Loudoun Animal Services Says Adoptions Up, Euthanasia Rate Down

Loudoun County Animal Services (LCAS) is celebrating a successful 2016 having saved more than 2,100 animals – more than in any other year in the agency’s history. Department of Animal Services Director Nina Stively credits policy and programmatic changes that helped increase adoptions and improved the health and welfare of shelter pets.

“While the results of the internal policy changes have been dramatic in terms of the number of adoptions in 2016, all the changes in the world could not have helped us save 2,132 animals if the people of Loudoun weren’t on board,” said Stively, who has been director of LCAS since September of 2015. “Volunteering, fostering, donating, adopting; lifesaving takes a village- or in this case a county- and we are so fortunate to be surrounded by a community of compassion.” 

Other notable successes in 2016 include:

  • 1,551 pets were adopted, an increase of 525 from 2015
  • 89 percent live release rate, up from 72 percent in 2015
  • Euthanasia dropped by 50 percent
  • 438 lost pets were returned to their owners
  • LCAS hosted a low-cost rabies vaccination clinic, helping 112 additional pets receive the vaccination
  • LCAS volunteers donated service hours valued at $91,137
  • Volunteer foster homes provided temporary housing and care for 303 pets and donated 9,537 hours of in-home care
  • The Pet Pantry, a partnership between LCAS, the Humane Society of Loudoun County, and Loudoun Hunger Relief, collected 12,877 pounds of dog and cat food, and made 2,069 animal care kits for Loudoun families in need.
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County Releases Interactive Development Map

The Loudoun County Department of Planning and Zoning has released an interactive countywide mapping system that will be of use to real estate developers and others. The initial phase of the map concentrates on residential development. Dubbed the Existing and Potential Development tool, it provides information on the existing use of structures and parcels, the location and number of housing units within residential projects that are approved but not completed, as well as ones that are completed, and the remaining residential potential of vacant parcels, as well as parcels not developed to their full potential, and approved projects that have not been completed.

The County said in a release that the mapping system “can be used for land use, capital facilities, and transportation planning purposes, as well as fiscal, demographic, and market analysis.” It said that it will also be useful for “land use scenario planning initiatives such as Envision Loudoun, the County’s effort to develop a new comprehensive plan.”

In the coming months, the map will also include non-residential projects. The mapping system can be accessed through www.loudoun.gov/DevelopmentMap.  The information in the present map is current as of July 2016, and will be updated quarterly starting this January. It is clear that the site was not designed for the casual observer.

It notes up front that, “The tool is complex and contains a large quantity of data. It is strongly encouraged that you refer to the help documentation before using the tool. The app is best used on a tablet or desktop.”??

The map was developed at the behest of the Board of Supervisors, which in January 2015 directed the staff to determine the housing-development potential in Loudoun under the County’s current land-use plan. The staff presented the results of its work to the Board in October.




Neighbors Calling on AT&T To Be a Better Neighbor

The residents that call the Short Hill Mountain area their home continue to monitor AT&T’s activities on the mountain’s ridge, following the tech giant’s abrupt withdrawal of permit applications to build a new “substation transmission” there.

A county decision to withhold certain project details as part of a Freedom of Information Act exemption has kept those who oppose the project in the dark. And, despite a recent meeting with the county, citizens are getting impatient at the lack of responsiveness to their complaints, about, among other things, the bright lights that now burn throughout the night at the site. AT&T has recently applied for a several new permits (VSMP-0016-0098 and WAIV-2016-0055), which appear to relate to a stormwater management plan and a waiver from the requirements of that plan. But, no one seems sure what that work it is for, as the FOIA exemption is keeping permit details out of the public domain.

Neighbors are clamoring for action from the Board of Supervisors, and see the ongoing lack of clarity as another example of AT&T’s posture of testing the boundaries of what makes a good neighbor.

AT&T has, they feel, been given the benefit of the doubt ever since – as this paper reported –AT&T’s original permit requests “went down in smoke” last June. AT&T claims that what they’re doing is a “continuation of a current use.” But, that’s the safe answer, as activities related to that use are the only thing currently permitted at this site. ?Despite repeated attempts, the use is still unclear nearly 6 months later, say neighbors.




How Will Envision Loudoun See the West?

Said western Loudoun resident Peggy McElligott, who participated in Envision Loudoun’s online exercises: “ … any plan should maintain the rural character of Western Loudoun and not interfere with rural tourism, which fails when the character of the neighborhood is no longer rural.”

Loudoun County held a series of public Listening & Learning workshops in November and December of 2016, part of the five-phase, multi-year effort to review its County-wide Comprehensive Plan. The process includes in-person workshops, an interactive website that mirrors the workshop exercises, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and other ways to participate in the planning process. The website portal – www.envision-loudoun.org – is available to citizens through the early part of January. All citizen- and stakeholder-input will then be organized as part of the next phase of the effort, when the County tries to put what it has learned into practice.

An Open Forum with an Uncertain Endgame

The County’s goal with Envision Loudoun is to solicit input to “Help make Loudoun County an even better place to live, learn, work, visit, shop, and raise a family.”

The outpouring of opposition to the the AT&T project on Short Hill Mountain, the Catesby Farm event center, and the special exceptions approved as part of the Kirkpatrick West Commercial Center demonstrate the durability of people’s desire to put limits on development, and get themselves back behind the wheel.

But, sustained pressure by developers to open more of Loudoun to suburban-style development, and to scale back on open space and other protections, while speeding up approvals, leaves the answer to a basic question still unknown: How and where will Envision Loudoun break up the County zoning map?

Kelly Burk has served on the Leesburg Town Council and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, and on New Year’s Day assumed her newly-elected position as Mayor of Leesburg, parts of which fall into the Transition Policy area. An experienced planner, Burk is clear on at least one Comp Plan issue. Said Burk in a recent interview with the Blue Ridge Leader, “If we don’t preserve the Transition Policy Area, there is something wrong with us,” linking the conservation of the rural west to the zoning laws that temper development in and on the borders of the TPA.

The Harris Teeter development decision, a hotly debated issue within the BOS, saw a 5-3-1 vote in favor of a 30 percent increase in the size of a Harris Teeter grocery store in the low-density TPA. Supervisor Tony Buffington has expressed support for protecting areas that his Blue Ridge District constituents want to save, but he also holds the view that TPA lands bordering on more densely zoned land carry their protections “in name only.”

Divergent Interests, Competing Visions and Blue Stickers

The wide variety of the individual, non-profit, business, neighborhood, and governmental participants in the Envision Loudoun exercise reinforces more than anything the complexity of issues the County has before it in updating the Comprehensive Plan.

In the mix are individual farmers and small agricultural companies that make their living off the land. There are marketing companies whose clients seek to build “new urbanism communities.” There are individual property owners looking for ways to protect historic properties that have been in their families for generations. And there are individual property owners looking for site-specific zoning changes that will make their land more valuable.

In workshop and online exercises, citizens are directed to address two broad issues regarding Loudoun’s future: “What do we need to do to make Loudoun County an even better community in the future?” and “How will we get there?” Participants cover maps with blue stickers identifying where they live, and place red stickers to show what kind of zoning they think appropriate for various locales. Participants may put a note in a western Loudoun village showing an old neighborhood they think needs protection, a now-open area where they’d like to see dense development, or a place they want reserved for open space. Importantly, participants include everyday citizens, and people in the planning and zoning business, including developers.

These people have expertise that individual members of the Board of Supervisors may draw upon, whether they represent developers or historic and wildlife experts who sit on the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Group, for example, which is charged by law to make specific zoning recommendations to the BOS. ZOAG in particular, chaired by top executives in some of Loudoun’s largest developer partnerships, will have significant influence on what the Comp Plan looks like, tempered, citizen groups hope, by the preservation instincts of the general public.
Numbers Versus Quality of Life

Loudoun County is home to more than 375,000 people, and covers 5,200 square miles. It is diverse, both culturally and economically.

But, the bigger picture – the heart of the matter from a zoning and development perspective – is that Loudoun County encompasses an area as important to the nation’s history as any in the country, and includes natural environments essential to the health of the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The county has so far managed to retain a sense of both the old and the new, and profited mightily from that.
At the same time, cutting-edge companies want in and Metro wants in. New residential development is booming, and commercial development aims to follow. Upwards of 3,000 new residential permits were issued in FY 2012, a combined total of more than 8,500 in FY 2013/2014, and a combined total of more than 7,500 in FY 2015/2016.

It sounds like a silly question, but the question is out there, and being asked in earnest: Where will Loudoun’s more than 1,400 farms, hundreds of precious historical assets – and more than 15,000 horses! – go, if growth is allowed to continue at this pace, steamrolling from east to west?

Where is the balance, and will the Comp Plan review answer that question?

Platforms for citizen participation in the effort to rewrite Loudoun’s Comprehensive Plan include: On the web –www.envision-loudoun.org; on Twitter; twitter.com/envisionloudoun; on Facebook; www.facebook.com/envisionloudoun. All are also encouraged to send comments to their individual Supervisors. E-mails can be found at www.loudoun.gov.




History’s Enduring & Mysterious Places

“Above the alter is a trompe-l’oeil painting attributed to Lucien Whiting Powell, a local artist, around 1880. The painting is done in three-dimensional designs and creates the illusion of an apse. The artwork consists of two fluted pilasters topped by composite capitals supporting a modified Gothic arch containing a white dove with an olive branch sailing among puffy clouds in a blue sky.” ?(Detail from Wikipedia’s romantic description of a painting inside Ketoctin Church.)

Trees in the shape of animals. Old stone bridges. Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers … buried side by side. Grand, 19th Century Italian Renaissance-style structures with darkened windows.

These are just a handful of the things and places that dot the Loudoun County landscape – bits of history and more that endure, adding to our area’s beautiful and sometimes haunting past.

You may drive by them routinely – to and from shopping or work or a nice dinner in western Loudoun. And, for that reason, they may be vaguely familiar to you. It’s said we’re in for a cold winter. But, the sun will surely be out, and giving us many beautiful days. So why not … get up and about … and beyond?

Ketoctin Baptist Church & Graveyard*: Ketoctin Baptist Church and its quiet old graveyard is bordered by Allder School Road on the north and Ketoctin Church Road on the east near Purcellville. Also known as Short Hill Church, the current structure was built in 1854. But, with earlier church buildings having come and gone, the first grave in the cemetery dates to 1777, making this site an enduring center of community for worshipers struggling through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the wars of the early 20th Century. The church was built without a bathroom and functions that way today. But, a tiny, tiny group of spiritual devotees hangs on, recently raising $15,000 for a bathroom and whatever services it can offer the community.

Bear’s Den Rural Historic District*: With places such as Humming H-ollow, Edna’s Cabin, and Heart Trouble Lane, this area is both little known and well-traveled … and quite intriguing. The well-traveled part is the hiking trail and old lodge known as Bear’s Den, accessed by Blue Ridge Mountain Road off Rt. 7 heading west. The little-known part is the large historic area around it, which contains over 170 contributing buildings, sites and structures late-19th– and early-20th Century homes and structures used as summer dwellings by wealthy Washingtonians. A fairly new addition to the romantic lore of the place is a chain saw sculpture carved out of a tree that depicts the true native inhabitants of the area’s mountain forests, including bears and owls. Hamilton Masonic Lodge*: When you hear the term Freemasons, all kinds of things come to mind. Secret societies. Upstanding philanthropic citizens. Tradesmen. Although its members think of themselves as exclusive rather that secretive, we still think of them with a bit of wonder. This sense of wonder is the same feeling you get looking from the outside into the historic Hamilton Masonic Lodge. The beautiful, three-story brick building with the towering belfry was built in 1873, and is recognized as a prime example of the Italianate style, popular from the 1840s to the 1890s. The building stands mostly unused today. But the masons’ rich history – whose members included Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, the Marquis de Lafayette, and others – makes this lovely building worth a look.

Hibbs Bridge*: When you think of historic bridges, you don’t often associate them with the modern kind of road known as a turnpike. But Hibbs Bridge on Snickersville Turnpike (Rt. 734) – built over Beaverdam Creek between 1810 and 1830 – was not only part of the first recorded turnpike in the U.S., but is also one of the few remaining two-span masonry arch bridges in the state of Virginia. Well used, this bridge has always been loved by locals. And, when state officials were debating about whether to tear it down, bypass it with a new bridge, or dismantle and move it, citizens choose “none of the above.” The bridge had not had any major repairs since 1932, when in 2007 it was rebuilt “to spec,” retaining as much of the old techniques as possible. Take a drive over it … a nice slow drive across history.

* Property/place has National Register status and/or additional historic designations.

outandaboutloudoun




Loudoun County Woman Charged with More than 100 Counts of Animal Cruelty and Neglect

A Loudoun County woman is facing more than 100 charges of animal cruelty and neglect after Animal Control Officers found inadequate living conditions at a property south of Leesburg.

On Wednesday, December 14, Loudoun County Animal Services (LCAS) received custody of 96 chickens, two dogs, three rabbits, two geese, five ducks and four pot belly pigs from the property after the owner, Kaitlin L. Leger, 29, of Leesburg, agreed to transfer legal ownership of the animals.

On Tuesday, December 20, a warrant was issued for Leger’s arrest. Leger turned herself in to authorities Tuesday night and has been released on bond. She is scheduled to appear in Loudoun General District Court on January 25, 2017. Leger faces two dozen counts of cruelty to animals (a Class 1 misdemeanor), each of which carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. She faces nearly 90 counts of inadequate care of animals (a Class 4 misdemeanor), each of which carries a fine of not more than $250.

Prior to receiving custody of the animals, Animal Control Officers conducted an extensive investigation on the property to ensure compliance with state and local laws for animal care. The LCAS action was triggered by a separate investigation by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office of an unsecured residence. LCAS subsequently executed a general search warrant with the assistance of the Sheriff’s Office.

LCAS took the animals to the Loudoun County Animal Shelter where they were assessed by staff and a licensed veterinarian, and provided with appropriate feed and shelter.

LCAS will continue to provide care for the animals until they have been cleared for adoption. Individuals who are interested in adopting any of the animals should call 703-777-0406 or e-mail animals@loudoun.gov to be placed on a notification list. Adopters do not need to live in Loudoun County. Updates will also be posted at www.loudoun.gov/animals.