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

March 4, 2014 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge 3 comments
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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 center. A community pool complex. Beautiful natural areas. Walking paths. A frisbee golf course. Tennis courts. Campfire and grill pavilions. Baseball and soccer fields. It, in short, is a really wonderful place, purchased, crafted and planned by a board of supervisors with active community involvement. A community that knew what it wanted and worked, through its government, to get it done. … Continue Reading

Purcellville’s Broken Heart

February 5, 2014 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge 9 comments
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It is both interesting and so disheartening to read Wikipedia’s description of the place known as Purcellville.

It describes how in 1764 the town’s first known settler, James Dillon made his way here from Buck’s County, Pa. How an “early ox cart track” stretching west from Leesburg toward the Blue Ridge Mountains served as “the nucleus” of the town. How the first recorded business – “a combined store and inn” – arrived in 1799, followed by Purcel’s Store and Post Office, the town’s first stagecoach delivery (1841), a blacksmith’s shop (1848), and the first public school (1883). And, how on March 14, 1908, the town was incorporated by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. … Continue Reading

A Citizen-Directed Future for Western Loudoun?– What It Will Take

January 8, 2014 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge Be the first to comment
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The Blue Ridge Leader’s View From The Ridge feature was introduced in 1984.?This feature is intended to present to the public our big picture assessment of what is going on in our western Loudoun community – an independent and spirited assessment, free of the special interests that seek to control the day. As we begin 2014, we recommit ourselves to being that independent voice for you.

Why Is An Independent Voice So Important To Western Loudoun?

All communities, even small ones, have centers of power. As the people run their businesses and live their lives, it’s up to government, even if it is a small town council or county board of supervisors, to make sure everyone’s getting a fair shake. And, it’s up to the news media to make sure government is doing its job and conducting its business out in the open, while providing citizens a microphone with which to express their views.

This is critical in a fast growing community such as western Loudoun where hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake in land deals, residential and commercial development and political favors. And, it is absolutely urgent in a political atmosphere where town councils and boards of supervisors seem more interested in greasing the skids for developers than in serving the public. … Continue Reading

The Last Hardware Store?

November 6, 2013 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge 3 comments
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In their 2011 documentary The Last Hardware Store, noted portrait photographer and executive producer Sarah Huntington, director and veteran videographer Peter Buck and well-known advertising agency owner and writer/editor Drew Babb tell the nearly 100-year-old story of Nichols Hardware.

Representing, in many ways, the commercial lynchpin of Purcellville’s Historic District, Nichols Hardware is remarkable not only for the fact that it will celebrate it’s 100th anniversary next year, but also for the fact that you and I, old timers and newcomers alike can walk into Nichols today and experience the same thing a customer in the early part of the 20th Century would have experienced. Personal service. Quality products. Problem solving for that pesky household job.

Just as Nichols advertised back in the day, “We have the largest and most compete stock of hardware and furniture in the county … “ so goes the Nichols story today – not withstanding the product selection, size and reach of big box stores such as Home Depot. … Continue Reading

It’s Not “Time For Compromise”

July 2, 2013 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge 28 comments
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The photo op tents are in place and the state and local government officials, local business leaders and more are lined up – current and former mayors of Purcellville, Virginia Transportation officials, members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, local developers.

The press is here, and a broad white ribbon has been pulled across part of the Southern Collector Road. Bob Lazaro, the Mayor of Purcellville has conducted his ceremonial ribbon cutting signaling that the road is open, and a muted moment of hand-clapping has blown off into the warm June breeze.

Yes, the Southern Collector Road is open and ready for our cars and trucks and commercial vehicles. And, it’s a big, beautiful wide and majestic road. … Continue Reading

What Is Our Vision For The Future?

May 3, 2013 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge 1 comment
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On a beautiful spring day like today – or on any of the beautiful days we’ve experienced here in western Loudoun County lately – it’s hard to imagine that one morning you might wake up and wish things were different.

The sun is out and the weekend is here. You’ve got lots of errands to run but that’s OK. You’ll hit more traffic than you are used to if you head into Purcellville or Leesburg, or Tyson’s Corner, but you’ll put up with it. Once back home, maybe you’ll do a little gardening, take your kids to practice and then take a walk around the neighborhood, or maybe you’ll head out to a winery or a local farm to enjoy what the still rural aspects of our area have to offer.

Yes, it’s pretty nice living here in western Loudoun County. And, although everyone knows big changes are afoot, you don’t get the sense those changes will one day shock you.

But flash forward a year or two, or three, to Saturday, April 27, 2014 … or 2015 … or 2016 and imagine this scenario.

Your favorite old farm, the one trying to continue operations despite the road that was going through it, finally gave up and closed. Your favorite old time hardware is closed down, too – seemingly benign changes to the old downtown made it too difficult for their suppliers to get in and out of their loading dock. The woods that your yard backs up to got replaced. And, not just by another subdivision, but a huge apartment complex. The “back way,” that gravel road you’d take to avoid the more congested commuting routes has been made wider and is now paved; no longer a road that blends into its rural surroundings, it’s now just something that gets you from Point A to Point B. Looking out toward the west one night, instead of rolling hills and rooftops and the occasional horse farm, you see a big parking lot full of cars.

As we all enjoy our beautiful western Loudoun community today, new development projects in the works, new roads, and changes to how zoning decisions are made and government interacts with its citizenry are acting against the vision that is our rural and small town, quiet village way of life.
This includes the proposed 176-unit Catoctin Creek Apartments complex in Purcellville; changes to the town’s comprehensive and zoning plans; elimination of the special exception process, resulting in less public input on big box stores and other zoning changes; the Catoctin Corner commercial development that will add more drive-thrus and commercial strips near the entrance to Purcellville; the new hotel (or retail/condos) and parking complex planned for downtown Purcellville, and the plan to widen and level out this historic area’s sidewalks … all in the name of a new “Tourist District.”

And, then, for people in Purcellville and the communities within the town’s sphere of influence – including the towns of Hamilton and Round Hill and the villages of Lincoln, Philomont and Paeonion Springs, Waterford and others – will we see the open space buffers that now separate them from Purcellville shrink to the point where you don’t have a sense of being in a distinct community at all, and western Loudoun looks more like a Leesburg or an Ashburn? (Nice places to live, but not necessarily what you had in mind when you came here or chose to stay as a long term resident of the area.)

As newer residents and as long time residents, as we enjoy what we came here for and stayed here for, it’s important to remind ourselves that there are good forces of change and bad forces of change.

High-density development without regard to the quality of life of those around that development is not inevitable, unless we decide it should be.
Excessive new commercial development that enriches big national chains at the expense of smaller downtown businesses is the way most communities are going these days, but it doesn’t have to be the way western Loudoun goes.

Our agricultural heritage – and the local economic engine it represents – can be ours to cultivate and keep, if that’s what we want. (A Purcellville planning commissioner recently said that he couldn’t see a farm in town … is that how you feel?)

We elect our public officials to reflect what we want … and we should hold them to task.

We should be able to wake up on April 27, 2016, and know that, while we saw lots of change in western Loudoun, it matched our vision for where we wanted to live and what we came and stayed here for.

Spirit and Place Worth Protecting

April 3, 2013 by Andrea Gaines Columns, View From the Ridge 1 comment
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Long time residents of our area – and even folks who moved here recently – describe the place known as western Loudoun with great fondness. There can be lots to be discouraged about – the loss of one’s favorite dirt road, the coming down of an old barn, fast food restaurants where that old mom and pop luncheonette used to be …

But, while there are things to be discouraged about – things that we hope against hope (maybe unrealistically) will never change – every once in a while something happens that reminds you how very special western Loudoun really is. Something that motivates you not just to consider the positives, but to act in a way that cultivates and sustains them. … Continue Reading

Keeping Citizens at Arm’s Length

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

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
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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

Offsetting the Costs of Residential Growth

January 9, 2013 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, View From the Ridge Be the first to comment
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By Malcolm Baldwin

“According to a study by the Loudoun County Economic Development Commission, for every dollar in county tax revenue, residential costs $1.62 in services while commercial only costs $0.38 in services.” 

So wrote Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run District) in his December 2012 newsletter. Supervisor Matt Letourneau ?(R-Dulles District) noted the same facts in his own.

How will these facts about the costs of residential growth affect upcoming decisions of our Board of Supervisors, including Williams and Letourneau, who campaigned for lower property taxes and a stronger commercial tax base?

We may soon have some answers, as Loudoun now has eight applications to change zoning from commercial to residential that would result in a total of 10,000 new housing units. More than half of these rezoning proposals lie in Letourneau’s Dulles District, followed by Williams’ Broad Run, with the rest lying in the Catoctin-Leesburg joint planning area.   If approved they will add some 3,000 new students and require $282 million in capital facility costs. How would that square with the Republican goal of reducing taxes and increasing the business tax base? … Continue Reading

View from the Ridge

December 5, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, View From the Ridge 3 comments
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By Karen Jimmerson

Since people are free to move, we can assume that they have sorted themselves into areas that meet their preferences. Politicians make determinations about the appetite for growth on the basis of what they hear from their constituents. If we clamor for job and population growth in order to improve economic opportunities and amenities, then go for it. If we ask for this growth without significant increase in population, or if we believe that the quality of life is about as high as it can possibly be, then better to listen.

Purcellville Town Council has been spending on street walk improvements, an expensive water/sewer system upgrade, a new town hall, and now a second roundabout. I believe the quest to bring in more residents is to offset this debt and fulfill a promise made to businesses who have recently moved into town or wish to. Though it is a private developer who wants to build the proposed Catoctin Creek Apartments off Hirst Road, because it will be done with HUD financing, taxpayers foot the bill with our local, state, and federal dollars to provide that financing. But the cost goes much further. … Continue Reading

Please Skip the PR and Protect the Things We Love

September 5, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, View From the Ridge 1 comment
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By Andrea Gaines

Gov. Bob McDonnell has appointed Purcellville mayor Bob Lazaro to the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF).

The VLCF – designed to protect the working farms, forests, natural areas, parks, rivers, and historical sites critical to the state’s economy, culture and quality of life – has spent more than 42 million dollars since 1999. That’s serious money and political influence, and you have to wonder whether Bob Lazaro is a fitting choice.

In the five years since being elected mayor, Mr. Lazaro has overseen one controversial action after another regarding the preservation of Purcellville’s history and the conservation of the broader local environment upon which this growing town has such an impact. … Continue Reading

“We’re Going To Look Like Sterling … ”

June 6, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, View From the Ridge 7 comments
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By Andrea Gaines

In what many town residents will remember as one of the saddest days in recent memory, the Town of Purcellville last month bulldozed hundreds and hundreds of trees, including nearly 100 fruit producing trees, on the 250 year old working farm, Crooked Run Orchard.

Said local businessman Tom Inman, “We’re going to look like Sterling, and frankly, that’s not the reason I moved to Purcellville.”

The Crooked Run Orchard saga has been going on for many years – but this was a theshold moment. … Continue Reading

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Sustainable Planet

Pungent Curry

9 Apr 2014

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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

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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

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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

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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

Molly

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), …

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Real Estate Ticker

A Buying Opportunity?

6 Nov 2013

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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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Events

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

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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"

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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

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April 30, 2014

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

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SCOUTING FOR BRICKS

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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.

Recent Comments

View From the Ridge

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

4 Mar 2014

viewfromridge

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 …

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Editorial

Steady and Nobull

4 Mar 2014

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Park and Ride Lots for Western Loudoun

4 Mar 2014

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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 …

(2 comments)

Lifestyle

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

9 Apr 2014

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Sports

Nominate Your Hometown Hero

9 Apr 2014

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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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Letters

Medicaid Expansion Battle Heating Up

4 Mar 2014

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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

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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 …

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Another Vote To Overrule Purcellville’s Board of Architectural Review

4 Mar 2014

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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 …

(3 comments)

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