The Piedmont View

Fall 2012 Piedmont View

Finding the right balance for Piedmont wineries. The Charlottesville Western Bypass is more than a local issue. Gov. McDonnell's Uranium Working Group putting the cart before the horse. And more.


Dear Friends,

What do the Western Bypass, uranium mining, transmission lines and the regulation of farm wineries all have in common? Each is an example of our communities facing a tough choice as to what we want the future of our towns, our counties, and our region to look like.

These are all land use choices; decisions as to how we are going to move forward in our relationship with the land that sustains us. With the national presidential campaigns in full-swing, it is easy to tune out the news concerning local zoning issues, revised ordinances, transportation funding, and comprehensive plans. Yet, these are the issues and decisions that will directly shape our communities and our day-to-day lives, on both physical and functional levels.

Over the past year, there has been an increasingly heated debate over whether and how local governments should regulate the entertainment activities of farm wineries in Virginia. This is a multifaceted issue with multiple interests involved, and what works for one county doesn’t necessarily work for another. As more farm wineries make their home in the Piedmont, localities will have to decide what future they envision for their rural areas and their communities—and how farm wineries fit into that picture.

In June 2011, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors shocked constituents by holding an unpublicized, late-night vote to resurrect the Route 29 Western Bypass, northwest of Charlottesville. Since then, VDOT—under pressure from political interests in Lynchburg and the McDonnell administration—has put the Bypass on the construction fast-track. While communities north of Charlottesville may think this bypass is only a local issue, there are compelling reasons for Virginians everywhere to pay attention—and it’s not just the quarterbillion dollar price-tag. Big picture: this bypass is part of VDOT’s vision to transform Rt. 29 into a Central Virginia Interstate; acting as an alternative to I-81 and I-95. This is not only a bad idea, it’s not feasible without a massive right-of-way acquisition and billions of dollars in funding.

The quick update

In 2007, Virginia Uranium, LLC, (VUI) began lobbying hard for the General Assembly’s standing moratorium on uranium mining and milling to be lifted. The corporation has big plans to start a mining and milling operation in Pittsylvania County, and PEC and our allies have fought them every step of the way. There is simply too much at stake. Uranium mining and milling in Virginia would be an extremely dangerous experiment. In the United States, uranium has only been mined in arid regions— where low rainfall makes it more feasible to contain the radioactive and toxic mining waste. Virginia is anything but arid. 

For six years, the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH)—a massive, unnecessary 765-kV transmission line— has threatened Virginia. The line was to start in southwest West Virginia, travel northeast through previously undisturbed land, eventually cross through Virginia’s northern Piedmont, and wind up near Frederick, Maryland. PEC and our allies have been fighting this wasteful project for years, and we have some good news: The PATH transmission line project is officially dead. On August 24th, the Board of PJM, our regional grid operators, voted to cancel the project.

PEC’s Fellowship Program, which just finished its sixth year, gives college and graduate students a comprehensive look at the work PEC does in this region—with the hope that the participants will take what they learn in the program into their future careers and communities.

PEC has been hard at work  in many areas these last few months. Read a brief story from each of our 9 counties.

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