On the Ground

Read a brief story from each of our 9 counties.


Limiting Rural Development a Priority for Residents

As a part of its Liveable Communities Project, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) released a “Community Priorities Questionnaire” this June. The questionnaire was created to find what issues residents of Albemarle and Charlottesville consider most important in planning the future development of their community. Out of a list of more than 50 issues, participants were asked to rank the top 10 issues that are most important to them.

Good news: According to the responses, the highest priority for residents of the County and City is limiting development in the rural area. Other top priorities included improving bicycle facilities, the protection of open spaces and natural resources, and encouraging sustainable development.

The data from the questionnaire will be used to help focus planning priorities as the city and county review their comprehensive plans. Visit www.1-community.org to learn more about the survey and about the Livable Communities Project.


Historic Family Farm Protected

The Clarke County Easement Authority recently completed a conservation easement on the 121- acre Buckley Farm. The Buckley’s have owned the property, which is near White Post, since the 1930’s, and they have farmed it since 1882. PEC helped make this project possible by matching funds through the Clarke County Conservation Fund of the Piedmont Foundation. Funding was also provided by the USDA Farm & Ranch Protection program, the VA Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, and a sizable donation by the landowner, Randy Buckley.

This conservation easement is an important success for Clarke County. Not only will it protect an historic family farm from future development and subdivision, the easement will also ensure protection for important natural resources—including prime soils, open space immediately adjacent to the Greenway Rural Historic District, a scenic viewshed from Lord Fairfax Highway, and the headwaters of Westbrook Run. Westbrook Run is a tributary in the Spout Run watershed, which the EPA has designated as an impaired waterway.


The Western Outer Loop–Culpeper’s “Road to Nowhere”

With $7.1 million from its General Fund and $8 million from VDOT, Culpeper County is proposing to construct a connector road—known as the Western Outer Loop—from Rte. 729 to Rte. 522. This proposed road is an ill-conceived plan that will cause hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land to become suitable only for speculative residential development.

While the County’s Capital Improvement Plan states that the road would be required to improve traffic circulation and congestion in and around the Town of Culpeper—no study has been conducted by the Town, County or VDOT that shows this proposal will provide congestion relief.

There are already over 7,000 buildable lots in Culpeper, meaning there is no point in wasting taxpayer dollars to subsidize additional residential development. Furthermore, construction of this road would increase pressure to complete the loop by adding a connection to Rte. 29 immediately west of the Lake Pelham—the Town of Culpeper’s drinking water supply.

VDOT is proposing to begin purchasing right-of-way in the Spring of 2013, but PEC will be working to stop Culpeper’s “Road to Nowhere.” We will be updating you as this issue progresses. In the meantime, you can visit our webpage—www.pecva.org/culpeper—for more information.


Another stoplight on Rt. 29?

The recent approval of the Creekside development means the construction of 1,100 residential units east of Rt. 29 along Preddy Creek Road. It will also potentially mean a new signalized intersection on an already backed-up road.

The developer of Creekside proffered a new east-west connector road connecting Rt. 29 to Preddy Creek Road. By accepting this proffer, the County essentially agreed to support a stoplight at this intersection. This stoplight will be in direct conflict with VDOT’s Access Management Guidelines that were adopted in 2008, which seek to manage through traffic on Rt. 29.

Even though the County’s Comprehensive Plan specifies this stoplight as “temporary,” Greene County residents should be concerned of potential long-term consequences. Anyone following the news this year knows that Albemarle is considering the wasteful Western Bypass (see article), south of Ruckersville, to avoid numerous stoplights. If Greene is not careful, we may find ourselves the beneficiary of our own Ruckersville Bypass. PEC believes there are solutions to that do not involve a new stoplight on Rt. 29. We will be monitoring this development and updating you as more information is available.


Weakening Environmental Protections, Reducing Public Input

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors is considering changes to the Zoning Ordinance and the Facilities Standards Manual that would concede the local government’s ability to protect the County’s natural and historic resources from development, as well as limit the public’s ability to provide input as development is proposed in the community.

The proposed amendments to the County’s Facilities Standards Manual are a problem because they would weaken the tree conservation and archeology reports that were previously required before developers break ground. The amendments would also eliminate the requirement to submit a preliminary report on the soil. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the approval of these amendments, and the Board is taking public comments on the issue until October 3rd, 2012. Please email or talk with your Supervisor about these changes.

The Board’s proposed revisions to the County’s Zoning Ordinance are also cause for concern. These revisions would significantly reduce the public’s ability to provide meaningful input into the land development process. They change the requirement for public notice from 21 days to 5 days, and developers would only have to give one notice rather than two. Also, many land uses that were previously considered special exceptions (meaning the public could be involved in the decision-making process) would be changed to by-right uses—effectively eliminating any public input. The Planning Commission will be holding a public hearing on these proposals on October 24, 2012.

These are very important opportunities for Loudoun residents to voice their objections to these detrimental changes. Please visit our website, www.pecva.org/loudoun, for more information.


Countywide History Project

PEC, in coordination with Madison County Public Schools and the Madison Historical Society, is launching a yearlong study of life in Madison County 150 years ago, and into how the Civil War impacted its landscape and its people.

All Madison County public school students (K-12) will investigate the different aspects of life in 1863—who lived in Madison County? What were their lives like? How did Madison residents interact with the armies? Frank Walker and Harold Woodward, two local historians, have offered their expertise to the school students during the school year, and both will speak in a lecture series at the High School in 2013.

The culmination of the year’s study will be a festival in 2013—commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Jack’s Shop on September 22nd. This great event will feature students’ projects and videos, battlefield tours, living history encampments, period music, food, crafts demonstrations and much more. Learning the history of the places we call home can help us better value our land, our country, and the long way we’ve come from the divisive bitterness of the Civil War era. PEC will keep you updated as events arise.


Comprehensive Plan Updates Threaten Agricultural Lands

Orange County is currently updating its Comprehensive Plan and discussing new changes to the County’s subdivision ordinance. The changes being considered include a proposed future land use map that would reclassify large segments of Orange’s agricultural lands from “Agricultural” to “Neighborhood Residential” and “Village.” This new classification would allow for greater residential density and new commercial development in some of Orange County’s rural areas. When viewed with proposed changes to the subdivision ordinance, these new classifications would vastly increase the number of new lots and allow them to be created immediately.

The Orange County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will be holding public hearings on this issue—dates and times TBA. Check PEC’s Orange County’s webpage www.pecva.org/orange for updates on these important hearings. We will inform you as more information is made available.


Important New Easements and 2nd Annual County Butterfly Count

The Jordan River—one of three rivers in Rappahannock designated as a Scenic River— will now enjoy greater protection thanks to two recently recorded easements. These easements, generously donated by Karen & Jay Allen and Larry & Sandra Vierling, protect over 4,000 feet of the Jordan River, as well as add to an already impressive block of over 2,900 acres of protected land just north of Flint Hill. Karen Allen and Larry Vierling are siblings, and their recent easements continue their family’s legacy of land conservation. This addition of over 150 acres of land in easement adds to additional acres previously protected by members of the Vierling family.

In other news, the Old Rag Master Naturalists recently held their 2nd annual Butterfly count in Rappahannock. This citizen-led, volunteer science initiative helps provide a baseline from which to judge historic trends in butterfly populations. The data also helps landowners gauge the effectiveness of their habitat improvement projects in increasing the number and diversity of butterfly species on their properties.

This article was featured in our Fall 2012 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View