Businesses and homeowners in Purcellville took up the cause of parents to the east, west, north and south fighting to save their small schools.
If you drove through the village of Hamilton to the east and the village of Lincoln to the south you saw signs of every kind demanding to “Save Lincoln Elementary,” “Vote For Kids,” “Save Hamilton Elementary,” and “Small Schools = No New Debt.” And, then those same signs started popped up in Purcellville proper. And, then there was a very-well attended school board meeting on Monday, April 21, followed by a 6-3 vote on Tuesday, April 22 which settled, for now, whether these small community-based schools would close. And, the answer was, NO.
I don’t know if the simmering sentiment that our elected officials plan other things with which we fervently disagree will spill over into Purcellville’s town-wide elections on May 6. But, I hope that it does. At the very least, I hope there is a bang-up turnout at Purcellville’s May 6 polling place … ironically … Emerick Elementary School.
In recent months Purcellville expanded its town borders significantly by annexing the Autumn Hill/Mayfair development, which will add 257 residential units to the town, overcrowding our near-capacity schools and adding to the town taxpayer’s ever expanding debt (now $7,000 for every man woman and child). Late April papers filed by the developer indicate that the interests behind this development want even greater densities – 32 additional homes and more industrial.
The current town council also overruled the experts on its Board of Architectural Review approving, virtually unchanged, the massive 100,000 sq. ft. Vineyard Square project – smack dab in the middle of Purcellville’s still-commercially vital historic downtown. Has the project’s self-described Monticello-like style made citizens feel a little better about the impact this 4-5 story structure will have on the historic Nichols Hardware, Magnolia’s at the Mill and other small businesses that operate there?
Then, in a really out-there proposal, in March the town considered an entertainment center/apartment complex of sorts that would have included bumper boats, miniature golf, batting cages, a go cart track, a laser tag course, an arcade and more – right next to a private residential neighborhood and not far from a high school. Citizen opposition caused the developers to pull back and rethink their bumper boat strategy, but, for how long? Will it come back repackaged (a third time) right after the election?
One person commenting on the proposed closings of Lincoln, Hamilton, Hillsboro and Aldie elementary schools said, basically, shut’em down – they’re old buildings, not “monuments.”
Not so fast. Monuments represent something from our past we set aside for future generations to reflect upon. But, they are static. Not used in the way they were before. Symbols.
However, places such as our small village elementary schools, our historic downtown commercial areas, and the operating farms and vineyards that ring old but growing towns such as Purcellville, these are not monuments.
These are choices. These are American ways of life we want to preserve, perpetuate and hold out as ongoing working models of our best selves.
We accept change, but we don’t bow to it as if we didn’t have a voice in what change should look like.
We are also becoming more sophisticated about the fiscal choices put to us.
We heard that some of the small schools the Loudoun County Public School System suggested we close had higher per-pupil costs that our larger, newer schools. But, we knew that some of these small schools were operating at a lower cost per-pupil and that building new and bigger elementary schools in the west will require taking on more public debt.
We heard that the additional residential water and sewer hookups that come with increased residential development would bring in more utility fees to places like Purcellville. But, we also knew that residential development requires $1.62 in infrastructure costs for every $1 it returns in taxes.
We heard that the development of historic downtown Purcellville was inevitable because the developers had the zoning. But, we also knew that our public officials determine what the zoning on a particular parcel should be. And, we knew that our elected officials set that debacle in motion in 2008 when they gave the developers the zoning for Vineyard Square.
Maybe that’s why the voter’s point of view is changing on these issues.
Maybe we’re taking on a different mood. Maybe we’re getting just a little but smarter.
Maybe Purcellville will vote that way on May 6.