Good Morning and Happy Holidays from Tim Jon for the Blue Ridge Leader! Here’s your News Stories for Sunday, December 13th…
Church and State (corner of)
Well, it just got too political, they say- and I don’t blame them. Seems the local Rotary got tired of all the tail-chasing over the past week or 10 days over the courthouse display regulations; they more or less picked up their toy trucks and went home (in other words, no Christmas Tree erected in the historic spot in downtown Leesburg from the local club in something like 50 years).
As overworked as I am this time of year, it makes me kind of sad.
I not only enjoy tradition, I really used to feel good as I’d walk past the annual Tannenbaum, there in front of the old Courthouse.
Sort of a yearly passage, which, by all reports, we’ve now lost.
Given a bit of time to catch my breath and create, I’d probably compose a critical ballad on the theme of O little Town of Bethlehem- with woes of mixed messages from local government resulting in a change such as this- and probably some wishes for more respect between the rational & the sensitive when it comes to decision-making in the political arena.
Now, not even all the wise men and all the King’s horses can put Humpty together again, it seems, after a series of perhaps misguided but honest attempts at maintaining control over allowing decorating in the public space.
Oh well; we’re puttin’ in a Christmas wish for some common sense in government- local, state and national- howsoever contradictory that may seem.
Probably harder than world peace.
Maybe we’ll get that instead.
So- the Loudoun Supervisors reversed the Courts Advisory Committee, and then the County Board tweaked the regs some more, after getting second thoughts, due to not only the number of requests for displays in the courthouse square, but the potentially controversial character of some of the applications.
My, oh my.
Lemme warn ya, though; if we’re screamin’ about this like it’s the end of the world, then things really can’t be all that bad.
Trust me on that one.
And if ya really want to make someone unhappy, put recreational trail through their neighborhood.
Well, yeah- let me explain.
The old Southwest Connector’s rearing it’s head again- and for some, it’s a face only a mother could love.
Or, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor.
Anyway, lots of folks in southwest Leesburg have a problem with plans for an eventual link between their sort-of landlocked area and some of their surroundings.
And we understand the concerns: fears of increased crime, worries about the cost, basic invasion of privacy, etc.
It’s a seven million dollar baby and would eventually connect Chancellor to Clubhouse and those neighborhoods to the W and OD Trail near Loudoun County High School- by way of a recreational trail for bikers, runners and walkers.
We’ve been watching and listening to this one for over 10 years, and it’s always been a contentious issue: some want the pathway connector for greater access and others oppose it for various reasons.
We don’t expect this to change until a bigger problem makes the opponents forget this one for the time being- then, they’ll go back to their opposition.
With all due respects.
Better than Sledding
And, just in time for freezing temperatures pushing all the kids inside to play out the winter, we proudly announce the opening of a skate park in the Dulles South area. South Riding to be exact- imagine taking a spill on a concrete slab in weather like we enjoyed this past week!
Well, I’m sure the youngsters won’t notice the cold as they celebrate the 56 hundred foot facility at the Multi-purpose Center.
It’s got ramps, rails, stairs, ledges, quarter pipes and something called a pump bump.
I’ll stay as far away as possible, but you can expect this place to be filled with teens on their wheelie-board-things.
The South Riding Homeowners Association and the County Park ‘n Rec Department put the project together.
Hope it’s just as successful as the Catoctin Skate Park in Leesburg- another great partnership.
Just don’t hit any reindeer.
In the Counting House
Well, back to the more serious stuff; you know, after the holidays, the County Government’s gonna face some tough music on the financial end of things. The Loudoun Supervisors figure to get down to the nitty gritty on the budget- and our guess is: no one will be completely happy about the decisions.
One scenario- which would help pay for service levels roughly equal to what they are now- would hit us all in the pocketbook (per household, that is) to the tune of a little under eight hundred smackeroos- on average.
I’m glad my bill wouldn’t be affected that much- and I don’t think the Board will adopt that version of the final budget.
But I’d also be concerned if some of those really cool programs at the local libraries would disappear- or if Loudoun Public Schools would start in on a long, slow downslide (which I really don’t think is gonna happen).
Well, make sure you check out our interview scheduled for today with Leesburg Supervisor Kelly Burk; she told us the budget deliberations sort of loom before her like the Ghost of Marley and those three other apparitions for ol’ Ebeneezer.
Not that Kelly’s a miser or a bad boss; it’s just that this financial stuff has her concerned like the rest of us.
Should be an interesting chat.
We’ll talk about some other stuff, too (Kelly teaches Special Education for the public school system and she used to serve on the Leesburg Town Council).
A little closer to the “’Tis the Season” motif, you’ve still got a few days left drop off donations headed for overseas troops. One of our local sports organizations- Greater Loudoun Babe Ruth- coordinated a holiday collection drive- in cooperation with the Freedom Alliance of Dulles- to bring some much-needed cheer to soldiers in uniform- in the form of some simple entertainment items and really what amounts to basic necessities.
Several drop-off points across the County accept donations until Thursday- and here’s what they’re looking for: travel-size toiletry items, snacks- sealed, individual units and some of the smaller, personalized recreational ‘n’ entertainment things (batteries, stationary, crosswords, little games, DVD’s- that sort of deal).
So- here’s where you can do your Santa routine with the stuff: two spots in Purcellville- the Loudoun Valley Community Center and the Purcellville Library, Gold’s Gym in Ashburn and a place called Grease Monkey in Sterling.
I can’t think of a better destination for a gift- or a bunch of ’em- than to some of our soldiers in uniform in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
Kudos to these groups for organizing this.
Save Our History!
And on behalf of a much-closer-to-home need- don’t say there’s ‘no room at the inn’ for some of the priceless artifacts of this County’s timeline. One of our favorite local resources- the Loudoun Museum- put out an urgent plea this past week for the use of some emergency space to house their collection.
No kidding- it’s really that serious; they found out that their current space- known at Odd Fellows Hall and the adjacent building at Loudoun and Wirt in Leesburg- just won’t make the code requirements- even after the current renovations finish up.
So- ”Anybody’s Dad got a vacant office?” as they used to ask in the old Garland and Rooney Musicals.
That’s the basic situation: the Museum needs roughly a 12 to 14 hundred square foot plot- in which to plunk down some 76 hundred historic items for safe-keeping.
That’s about 50 feet by 25- a pretty good sized chuck of interior real estate.
Needs to be climate-controlled, too.
Don’t know how long they’ll need it, but you can figure it’ll be pretty much a permanent deal.
At least that’s what they’re hoping- if it works out that way.
There Oughtta be more LAWS
And that reminds us- we wanted to give some more attention to another really worthwhile institution in our locality- and they need a new home, as well. We told you last week about the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter’s search for bigger accommodations.
Still no word on their scoring such a find.
Their current facility could probably serve a population of about one-quarter of Loudoun’s current number of residents.
The LAWS Board of Directors would appreciate even just a couple of acres of land- on which they could build a new facility from to-be-donated funds.
We’ll keep putting this one out there until they find a solution.
In the “Good on Ya” column, we’re happy to announce that an anonymous donor pledged a $10,000 donation to a local teaching resource- if those funds can be matched by others. The Loudoun Literacy Council issued word on the offer; they’ve had similar support in the past- and this would certainly make their budget numbers line up a lot more easily- looking at the next Fiscal Year.
This group does phenomenal work in our locality and we put our official stamp of approval on their operations.
Well, the Town of Purcellville concluded another chapter in their ongoing range war over land, water, population, roads, and just about anything else this poor little community can find to fight about. The local Council approved annexation this past week for one of their next-door neighbors- Patrick Henry College- and this action just about had a call for martial law before they were done.
Citizen outcry nearly drowned out Council comments at times at Town Hall, and Police stood by to intervene- until local officials restored order.
Protests came for the perceived motivations behind the action: accusations ranged the gamut from Council Members’ scheming for over-development, over-commercialism and over-use of the local water supply.
The Town’s previously acted to include other acreage on the eastern end of the community- and this may lead to eventual completion on what some call the Southern Collector Road.
Others have alternate names for the project.
Can’t print those here.
Funny thing is- the land for Patrick Henry College stayed in the same spot, despite the recent vote to annex.
It didn’t move an inch.
Should have known that was coming.
Hard Hat Zone
Speaking of “out of the frying pan, into the fire,” we should send out a welcome to the County’s new Administrator- Tim Helmstreet. He can celebrate the holidays, then try to come up with a means of plugging a $150,000,000 hole in the local budget.
Hope he’s got his seat belt fastened.
“Welcome to Oz.”
Tussle over the Dais in Leesburg
And, expect the political fire to flare up at least a bit more after the holidays- as it looks like we got ourselves a contest for Mayor in the County Seat. Leesburg Councilman Tom Dunn announced a campaign for the Seat; he faces multi-term Incumbent Kristen Umstattd.
Sounds like it could be a face-off over development: Tom in favor and Kristen opposed.
I’m sure it’ll get much more complicated than that, but it could be exciting; so many times in local elections the candidates can wind up pretty much sounding the same.
Dunn and Umstattd are both very well-spoken and willing to give advice ‘n opinion; they’re also both pretty good listeners- often a rare trait in politics.
Councilman Dunn runs a mortgage banking business and has lent support for more commercial activity.
He says he can attract more businesses to Leesburg.
Mayor Umstattd touts a record of penny-pinching at tax time, opposition to high-density development and a strong voice to protect the interests of in-town water ‘n sewer customers (much to the chagrin of those outside the boundary line).
Tom Dunn currently serves his first Council term.
Kristen Umstattd’s in her fourth term as Mayor; she served on Council for about 10 years prior to taking the helm.
Town elections come up in May.
The candidate with the most votes wins (local contests have been particularly feable in getting residents to the ballot box).
Focus on local healthcare sees a perk in national attention: Inova Loudoun received accreditation from the American College of Surgeons’ Program for Breast Centers. This puts the local institution in an upper class which includes only about 70 other such accredited facilities in the country.
The Breast Care Institute at Inova Loudoun received a three-year stamp of approval from the national accreditors.
The review covers over two dozen standards of breast cancer treatment and other procedures.
The South Rises Again
Well, sounds like Loudoun gets a new playground for Christmas. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority took in about a hundred 50 acres on the southern end of the County.
The land lies just east of Route 15 and north of Route 50- across the road from the historic Mount Zion Church.
The acreage represents a combination of land actually purchased by the Authority from the Church and another adjacent portion leased from the Piedmont Environmental Council; the PEC had bought that chunk earlier this year.
The NVRPA touts the site’s significance to the Civil War- linked to the Battle of Aldie dated June 17 1863.
Union Scout Alexander Davis formerly owned a farm at the location as well; he joined up after sustaining a Confederate attack (seems they didn’t take kindly to northerners at that time in Southern Loudoun County).
Management for the nearby Aldie Mill Historic Park- just down Route 50 to the west from this site- and also under the auspices of the NVRPA- plans to look after the new acreage for the Authority- as well as the Mount Zion Historic Church.
I guess you could say it’s an area with quite a past.
Let’s hope for a great future as well.
Expect further word on public access to these sites as the weather becomes a little more hospitable.
May those who fought here rest in peace…
Zuzu’s Petals, and other holiday movie trivia
Need a boost to ‘get into’ the Holidays this year? The Tally Ho Theatre in Downtown Leesburg starts a seasonal selection of movies on Friday- at a buck a pop.
If you’ve never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you owe it to yourself.
“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
Even you, Clarence.
The schedule runs through Christmas Eve, appropriately enough.
Tim Jon for the Blue Ridge Leader