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Hollywood Portrayal Of Mental Illness Is Mixed

March 9, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Ask Dr. Mike, Columns Be the first to comment

Dr. Mike, My husband has Bipolar Disorder, and we recently saw Silver Linings Playbook. I realize the movie is a big hit and that a lot of people really enjoy the movie’s feel-good message, but we are both very offended by the story. Bipolar Disorder is a serious mental illness, and it has compromised my husband’s life, and our family’s life, in many ways over the years. To portray Bipolar as something that you can get over in a short period of time is not only ludicrous but also insulting to those of us who live with Bipolar, and its painful realities, everyday. I don’t know if you saw the movie, but I know you were the head mental health advisor to the Bipolar Support Alliance of Northern Virginia, so we are curious to get your thoughts on this. -P in Loudoun County

P, I did see the movie, and I enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed it as entertainment, however, and not as a fully accurate portrayal of a mental health condition or treatment/recovery process. Whenever Hollywood attempts to address a mental health condition or mental health treatment, they will get some things right and they will get a lot of things wrong. As a psychologist, there are many errors in the film – regarding the diagnosis and symptoms, the therapist’s behavior, the rate of recovery, etc. But I think that there are many positives in the movie that make sense to me as well, the main point being that one’s environment and one’s relationships are essential for bringing about meaningful change. In my opinion, Bradley Cooper’s character, Pat, does not really start addressing his problems until after he is released from the mental hospital. The hospital served to over insulate Pat, and once he was released, he was forced to deal with real life relationships and experiences. Over time, and with several painful moments, he began to take responsibility for himself, including his feelings and behaviors, in the context of his important relationships. With small relational successes, he was then able to stay in reality more and more to get his needs met, as opposed to retreating quickly into fantasy or acting-out destructively. In the end, Pat was able to redefine himself, and he was able to find love again. He did so with therapy, medications and a strong support system. Individuals with Bipolar Disorder typically require all three of these very necessary ingredients in order to live successful lives. The movie got those parts of Bipolar Disorder correct, but, I agree with you, that the movie also took several liberties with this serious condition.

Dr. Mike, What are your thoughts on the 6 year old boy from Maryland that was suspended from school for pointing his finger like a gun at another student and saying “pow?” My husband and I feel that the suspension was absurd and that it just shows how politically correct we have become as a society. -G in Loudoun County

G, Yes, I agree that the suspension was absurd. The decision was absurd because first graders developmentally do not have a complete understanding of killing or murdering, and thus they should not be punished or held accountable for what they cannot grasp on a cognitive level. That moment, in my opinion, should have been handled between the teacher and the student, where the teacher should have corrected the student privately. But I do not agree with you that the suspension happened because of political correctness. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, as well as the other horrific shootings over recent years, have left us shaken as a society. I think that school systems are still trying to figure out the new normal when it comes to child safety, and in doing that, perhaps they may go too far at times. So, while I think you are correct in your position, there is also a part of me, given the several school tragedies we have suffered as a nation, that thinks erring on the side of conservative with guns (and even inferences to them) with students is actually a good thing.

Dr. Mike, Our 15-year-old son recently told me that marijuana is safer than alcohol and that there is research to support his position. He even went so far as to say that if we were living in Washington or Colorado or parts of Europe that smoking marijuana would be the norm for us all. Our son has denied using marijuana, but my husband and I are concerned about his newfound excitement for the drug. We have a zero tolerance approach to drugs and alcohol for our children, but we’re not sure our son does anymore. Your thoughts are appreciated. -W in Loudoun County

W, At 15, I would not be surprised if your son has been exposed to marijuana given its undeniable presence. I would also not be surprised if he has tried it or is actively using it given his excitement and advocacy for it. I think it is interesting that he has come to you to argue his points, and it makes me think that he is still looking for some direction from you on the topic as his parents. I think you should start by asking your son why getting high or using marijuana (or any mind altering substance for that matter) is so attractive to him. You can also ask him if any of his friends share his thoughts on marijuana. By letting your son discuss marijuana openly with you as parents, you will get a better sense of his exposure to it. Instead of arguing or reminding your son of your family’s zero tolerance rules, I would speak to him more from a place of concern. It is not that he cannot smoke marijuana, but rather that you would be very worried about him if he did. You should let him know that recreational marijuana use may or may not be worse than alcohol but that you are certain that both are bad for children and teens. You can let your son know that at 15 his brain and body are still developing, and there are some very real dangers in using substances for him now. I think you should also make the strong point that marijuana is still illegal in VA, and it likely will be for some time to come. Should your son get arrested for marijuana use or possession, he could face some very real consequences – consequences that could follow him through high school and perhaps even into college. At 15, your son is aging out of childhood, and police and the legal system will begin to treat him more like an adult for his crimes. Your son may or may not have tried marijuana yet, and he still may, but your talks should challenge him to think through his decisions. Teenagers sometimes do stupid things in attempting to assert their independence. If that happens for your son with marijuana, he should be held accountable and he should be supported to not repeat the behavior.

Michael Oberschneider “Dr. Mike” is the Founder and Director of Ashburn Psychological Services (APS), a private mental health clinic comprised of 12 MD and PhD level mental health clinician. He and his team are here to serve our Loudoun children, teens and adults. To learn more about Dr. Mike and the APS team, please visit: www.ashburnpsych.com or call (703) 723-2999.

Pruning Roses and Other Ornamentals

March 6, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Be the first to comment

By Donna Willliamson

There are always days in March that warm a gardener’s heart and bones. Little leaves are starting to show themselves and there is spring in the air.

Pruning roses might seem difficult but it is simple. Of course there will be scratches from thorns you rub against in the process. Take long gloves if you have them, sharp prunig shears, a lopper for work at the rose base, and a small container of white glue.

The glue is for the end of the branches – it will make it hard for borers to tunnel into the rose cane. Just dab a bit after pruning and let it harden. … Continue Reading

The Place of the Long-Hair Cows


It’s those cows. They just seem so appropriate in this place – sorta like the yaks of the Himalayas – those shaggy critters used to lug supplies up and down the dizzying inclines. Well, these guys have it a little easier – from what I can see – until their conversion into table products, anyway. Nice, lean beef on the hoof …

Oh, and, yeah – I know there are several places in Loudoun County where you can see these things – Highland cattle, I mean – originally bred along the cold, windy slopes of Scotland’s high ground and Western Isles. That memorable day I visited, the low-sweeping clouds of a spent tropical storm made it all the more fitting – as if this local herd and their stumbly patch of earth had risen to meet the weather. And, like a lot of other mountaineers I’ve come across, they don’t really have a lot to say: they seem content just to BE – too busy living their lives to spend too much time on commentary and self-analysis. Cow gurus, as it were. Well, like I say, they’re not in a bad spot; I could sure think of lots of worse places to plod out an existence – on which many of us two-leggers actually do – to my way of thinking. … Continue Reading

Keeping Citizens at Arm’s Length

March 6, 2013 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge 1 comment

Purcellville, arguably the single most powerful governmental force in western Loudoun, has made significant changes in the way it makes decisions on the major development and zoning issues of the day, including decisions relating to annexations and the town’s comprehensive plan.

In earlier times, the developer for a particular project would present his or her idea to a town committee tasked with reviewing the developer’s plan. Important committees included Infrastructure and Ways and Means, recently disbanded by the town. Once in committee, key documents and ideas would be shared with citizens in open meetings on the specific proposal. Citizens could also follow the issue as it made its way through the decision making process – by attending future committee meetings, accessing minutes from meetings, following press reports, and reviewing documents put forth by the developer. … Continue Reading

March Madness

March 6, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Hannah James Be the first to comment
Hannah James headshot

By Hannah James

With the weather getting warmer, more and more teenagers are seen frolicking in the fields … actually, upon closer observation, one can see that they are actually hard at practice for their next athletic event. Coaches are yelling, players are sweating, and balls of all sizes and colors are flying. Spring sport season has begun.

Spring sports season officially started at the end of February. Lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, baseball, and track and field are some of the common spring sports. Many students participate in these extracurricular activities, for many different reasons. … Continue Reading

What Has Changed for 2013?

March 6, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Amy V. Smith’s Money Talks, Columns Be the first to comment
Amy Smith-BRL

By Amy Smith

Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) with barely an hour left on New Year’s Day. A number of changes came out of the act that will affect your overall tax bill and financial plan for 2013 and beyond. While the outcome and resolution of the fiscal cliff means higher taxes for many, we now have certainty on the tax landscape for 2013.

This month’s column summarizes the changes resulting from ATRA. I will be offering financial planning strategies in future month’s columns for you to consider in 2013 that by taking action where appropriate may help you avoid an unexpected tax bill next April. … Continue Reading

The Con in Economics

March 5, 2013 by Tony Noerpel Columns, Sustainable Planet 2 comments

“In so far as a theory can be said to have assumptions at all, in so far as their realism can be judged independently of the validity of predictions, the relation between the significance of a theory and the realism of its assumptions is almost the opposite of that suggested by the view under criticism. Truly important and significant hypotheses will be found to have assumptions that are wildly inaccurate descriptive representations of reality and, in general, the more significant the theory, the more unrealistic the assumptions.” Milton Friedman [1].

I first read this remarkable passage by Milton Friedman a few years ago in Steve Keen’s book Debunking Economics [2]. Keen is one of only twelve economists to have predicted the recent great recession [3] so he is entirely credible. Still I’m a skeptical person and with due respect to Friedman I had to read the original paper. Even assuming Keen’s quote is accurate and it is; it may have been taken out of context, and it is not. I found Friedman’s remark so outrageous that I had to comment on it, and apparently so did a whole lot of other people. I came across the original paper along with several critiques by other economists, including Paul Samuelson, and philosophers, including Ernest Nagel, in Bruce Caldwell’s book Appraisal and Criticism in Economics, A book of Readings [4]. Economic methodology is an esoteric subject even for economists but the selections in the book are interesting and expose us to yet another example of how not to think. … Continue Reading

Willfully Ignorant

February 20, 2013 by Tony Noerpel Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.” IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, [1].

“The natural state of the Earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 70 feet higher than now.” Kenneth Miller [2].

“Science Literacy is a vaccine against the charlatans of the world that would exploit your ignorance.” Neil deGrasse Tyson. … Continue Reading

Preserving Lincoln Elementary and Loudoun’s Last Great Public Schools

February 7, 2013 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge Be the first to comment

A $310,000 regularly scheduled maintenance project for the 160 student Lincoln Elementary School has turned into a very convenient way for politicians to turn some of the most historic and educationally relevant Loudoun County educational institutions into nothing more than surplus property.

Certain members of the Loudoun County School Board are arguing that these small old schools – including (in addition to Lincoln Elementary) schools in Aldie, Hillsboro, Hamilton, Middleburg, and Round Hill – cannot meet the relative per-pupil cost achieved by other more modern schools – that they should be closed. And, what we really need to do is build a large $30 million or so new modern elementary school somewhere out in western Loudoun County … really? … Continue Reading


February 6, 2013 by Tim Jon Columns, Just Like Nothing (Else) on Earth 1 comment

I never thought I’d be doing this, but I really need to issue a formal apology here. I am very sorry, Middleburg. Yeah- you heard right; I feel I’d been neglecting one of our most charming places in the County (heck, one of the most charming little Towns in America, when you come right down to it).

You see, I’m very good at excuses, if you hadn’t already noticed. I can come up with an absolutely iron-clad explanation for having failed to perform some of the most painless tasks; but, on the other hand, I’m probably even better at apologizing. “Take responsibility!” I often say, and I’ll stand by my words on this one. It’s my own fault for not having answered the call of Middleburg’s many offerings over the past couple of years in this column- but no more. No, sir.

So, I grabbed the bull by the horns early one morning, camera and coffee in hand, and I made my touristic way down to the fabled center of the ‘Hunt Country’ in Loudoun’s southwest corner. … Continue Reading

Starting Seeds … Early

February 6, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Virginia Gardening Be the first to comment
BRL Feb. 2013 Williamson  Delphiniums

By Donna Williamson

Recently, I learned of a new way to start seeds outside – early. The idea came from a blog I routinely read and the idea involves milk or water jugs, with holes in the bottom, burned with a red-hot screwdriver. The jug is cut almost in half so the uncut portion can act as a hinge opening the top on hot days (frequently common in February and March). The plastic top is left off entirely. Or you might use the almost transparent plastic bottle-type kitty litter containers, which are larger and heavier than milk jugs.

Potting mix – slightly moist – is placed in the bottom half of the jug along with seeds that are NOT buried. Seeds can include perennials – columbine, digitalis, larkspur, delphinium, hollyhock, nepeta, lupine, bachelor buttons, and the edibles like spinach, kale, peas, broccoli, oregano, cilantro – in February. In March, we could try more tender plants such as cosmos, zinnia, marigolds, lettuce, basil, parsley, carrots, and beets. Label with magic markers on the jug. … Continue Reading

The Great Recession Is Over, Isn’t It?

February 6, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Real Estate Ticker Be the first to comment
Carl Fischer headshot

By Carl Fischer

For the past six months, the media has been filled with “promising signs” suggesting that our long housing nightmare is over … and based on personal observation, in our area of Northern Virginia, that certainly seems to be the case.

To be sure, affordable single family homes and townhouses are becoming very hard to find.

So when a new listing hits the market, you need to be fully prepared to act on it promptly, if the property meets your needs. This shortage of inventory has had the to-be-expected impact on prices … they are definitely going UP!

So what’s there to worry about? … Continue Reading

Needs Help Curbing Husband’s Comments

February 4, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Ask Dr. Mike, Columns Be the first to comment

Dr. Mike, I really enjoyed your interview with CNN reporter Moni Basu last week. I think your views on President Obama and Congress were very balanced and respectful. I am writing because I could use your help. My husband and I voted for Mitt Romney, and while I have moved on to accept Mr. Obama as my president, my husband remains bitter. He refers to Mr. Obama as “Captain Clueless,” “Obamanation,” “The Socialist,” etc. I am concerned since our 10-year-old son is now repeating some of those derogatory nicknames, and to my embarrassment, in public. I’ve told my husband that he needs to curtail his negative, political statements around the kids, but he is adamant in his position that our current president is not good for his country, and it’s “good” for the kids to believe that. Help. – R in Loudoun County … Continue Reading

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Sustainable Planet

Pungent Curry

9 Apr 2014


The latest version of the IPCC report is published and once again it will go unread by the great masses of climate science deniers and unreported by the media. So it might be useful to revisit the fundamental physical realities …

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Ask Dr. Mike

Understanding Teen Suicide

1 Apr 2014


By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. Northern Virginia has recently experienced several teen suicides. Last month, two Langley High School students took their own lives just a day apart from one another, and this month it appears two students at Woodson High …

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Virginia Gardening

Spring Is Coming

4 Mar 2014


By Donna Williamson March is an in-between month – some cold and the return of glorious warmth now and then. One way to bring some delight inside is forcing spring-blooming branches. You can cut branches of forsythia, cherry, crabapple, kerria, …

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Sushi's Corner

An Easter Swim

1 Apr 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.10.56 AM

I felt like a silly nim “cow” poop with these Easter bows in our hair. Okay Nelly, maybe you didn’t because you’re a girl. But me, a Mighty Cairn Terrier male? – PLEASE! Pleasing Mrs. B for Easter pictures was …

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Amy V. Smith's Money Talks

What Baseball Can Teach You About Financial Planning

1 Apr 2014

Amy Smith-BRL

Spring training is a tradition that baseball teams and baseball fans look forward to every year. No matter how they did last year, teams in spring training are full of hope that a new season will bring a fresh start. …

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Go Take a Hike

Blandy Experimental Farm

6 Jun 2012


By Molly Pinson Simoneau It’s no secret that I love a challenging hike. I’ve written here about hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah National Park. I’ve taken vacations with my family to Colorado where I’ve attempted to conquer a “fourteener” (a summit that is higher than 14,000 feet), …


Real Estate Ticker

A Buying Opportunity?

6 Nov 2013

Carl Fischer headshot

By Carl Fischer As a direct result of the uncertainty that has arisen from national and regional politics, with its unsettling effect on the Northern Virginia area, for the past two months there has been a market slowdown which has …

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From the Farm

From the Farm

5 Jul 2012

From the Farm

When the heat index reaches 110 degrees, as it has been doing recently, I try to keep in the shade, or stay indoors. But my lavender, about halfway from full bloom, seems to thrive in it. Hot and dry, I …

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April 2014
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: Art Gallery Reception for Featured Artists -- Abstract painter Evelyn Lopez de Guzman and contemporary painter Sandra Iafrate


April 12, 2014N/A

Meet Evelyn and Sandra and other gallery artists during a free, open to the public reception for this month's Featured Artists' exhibit "Living Color,” showcasing two accomplished painters Evelyn Lopez de Guzman and Sandra Iafrate, in a vivid and dynamic presentation of color, shape and our surroundings.

Evelyn Lopez de Guzman’s vibrant paintings awaken the viewer to connect with nature and the modern world through an interplay of shape, color, and textural materials.

Sandra Iafrate’s combination of realistic and surrealist interpretation of flowers, foliage and landscapes on spacious canvases convey a sense of movement and playfulness.

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Easter at "The Park"


April 19, 2014

Celebrate Easter at historic Morven Park with crafts for kids, an egg hunt in the formal gardens plus a traditional egg roll on the Davis Mansion lawn. Have a family photo taken with the Easter Bunny. Children should bring a basket for the hunt and a large spoon for the egg roll. $10/participating child (ages 2-12), $3/adult. Register at www.MorvenPark.org.

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VAL's Pals Kids Club


April 30, 2014

Join Inova Loudoun Hospital as the present their Beamer the Dog Program.

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May 4, 2014

Scouting for Bricks is an exhibit showing the Love for everything LEGO® . Come see amazing LEGO® creations by Fans of LEGO®, LEGO® trains, Mindstorms robots. We will also have live Star Wars Stormtroopers and an interactive play area with over 100,000 LEGO bricks. Scouting for Bricks is fun for the Whole Family! Visit us at www.ScoutingForBricks.com.

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View From the Ridge

Rural Loudoun Is Different, and We Say Dark Skies Do Matter

4 Mar 2014


In February of this year a sell out crowd gathered at the county public seat in Leesburg to provide feedback to the Loudoun County Planning Commission on the idea of adding additional sports lights to the upper athletic fields at Franklin Park. Franklin Park includes a really wonderful performing arts …



Steady and Nobull

4 Mar 2014

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Park and Ride Lots for Western Loudoun

4 Mar 2014


In 2003, the county purchased 22 commuter buses to serve a growing demand for bus service to Washington D.C. The demand has grown exponentially ever since. The county now owns or leases 65 large commuter buses (with plush seats and on board restrooms) and more are being added every year. The buses are often filled to standing room only as …



Sadie’s Race 5K and Fun Run Scheduled for Sunday May 18

9 Apr 2014


Sadie Smile Foundation is putting on the third annual Sadie’s Race/Walk and Kids Fun Run to Benefit Smile Train in Purcellville Sunday, May 18th this year. The race starts at 8:00 a.m. at the train station at 200 N 21st Street in Purcellville. Sign up at Active.com. When Sara Ablard lost her five year-old daughter, Sadie, two years ago, she …

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Dr. Joseph Rogers Dies at Family Farm

1 Apr 2014

Dr. Joseph Megeath Rogers, 90, died on Saturday March 8, 2014 at his Hillbrook Farm near Hamilton following a stroke. Physician, farmer, businessman, rural land conservationist, philanthropist and expert horseman, Dr. Rogers was a tireless advocate and practitioner of country living whose contributions in a broad range of interests were made quietly and with little fanfare. His public persona was …

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Zoldos Presented Citizen of the Year Award

1 Apr 2014


At the biweekly March meeting of the Lovettsville Town Council, Mayor Bobby Zoldos was presented the 2013 Citizen of the Year from the Lovettsville Waterford Ruritans. Presenting the award was Rick Adams, current president along with Board Member Peter Mullally and  Vice President Jeff Boogaard. Adams said, “On behalf of the Lovettsville Waterford Ruritans, we would like to present the …

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Around Virginia

Wolf Won’t Seek Re-election


Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) today announced that he would not seek election to an 18th term in 2014. He released the following statement announcing his decision: “I have decided not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress in 2014. It has been an honor to serve the people of northern …

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Virginia Can and Should Work Harder to Combat Hunger


By Congressman Frank Wolf Last year, the USDA reported a record number of Americans are struggling to put food on their tables. Across the nation, 49 million people – including 17 million children and six million seniors – are going hungry, a number that has grown substantially over the last …

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Kaine Statement on Navy Yard Shooting


U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on today’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by today’s tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. As we learn more about the horrific events that unfolded this morning, my deepest sympathies go out …

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Nominate Your Hometown Hero

9 Apr 2014


Upper Loudoun Little League’s Hometown Heroes scholarship closes on April 21, 2014. The application is available online at ULLL.org. The scholarship is open to all graduating seniors who played baseball for ULLL at some point in their growing up years.

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Lady Vikings Give Back

10 Feb 2014

The Loudoun Valley Girls basketball team held an event on Friday, February 7 at LVHS. The Lady Vikings celebrated “Pink Night” by honoring those who are battling breast cancer or have been affected by breast cancer. The event was held in conjunction with an event held at Woodgrove earlier this …

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Medicaid Expansion Battle Heating Up

4 Mar 2014


Did you know that there’s a very real possibility that a DC-style budget battle and government shutdown could come to Virginia? The Medicaid expansion battle …

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Endorsing for Profit Businesses?

4 Mar 2014

town of purcellville sign

I recently received an automated email message from the Town of Purcellville soliciting nominations for volunteer award recipients in cooperation with the Purcellville Business Association …


Another Vote To Overrule Purcellville’s Board of Architectural Review

4 Mar 2014

town of purcellville sign

The Purcellville Town Council, foolishly, in the view of many and perhaps most, has overruled its Board of Architectural Review and approved Mark Nelis’s and …



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