On the Ground — Summer 2017


Utility Scale Photovoltaic Power Generation Sites in Albemarle

On May 23, the County Planning Commission approved a zoning text amendment (ZTA) that will allow the construction of Utility Scale Photovoltaic Power Generation Sites in the Rural Area, by a Special Use Permit. It will go to the Board of Supervisors in early June, where final approval is expected. The ZTA is necessary for the County to consider a proposed 148-acre photovoltaic site in eastern Albemarle.

PEC offered only conditional support for the ZTA because we feel the county should develop and adopt stringent guidelines and requirements for utility scale projects. Among the specific issues that must be addressed are protection of agriculture soils, requirement of a comprehensive viewshed analysis to evaluate visibility and a provision to require removal of the facility (if the use is discontinued).


Zoning, Planning and Conservation Updates

The County is in a lengthy process of updating its Wireless Communications Facilities (WCF) ordinance to comply with FCC regulations. Proposed text amendments go to the Board in June for public hearing to replace the current 100-foot maximum with very different ‘classes’ of facilities and associated requirements based on height and type, including permitted or special use designations, up to 199-feet maximum.

Also, the Comprehensive Plan Committee of the Planning Commission is working on updates to the Water Resources and Historic Resources Plans.

The Conservation Easement Authority has recently recommended the purchase of 9 Dwelling Unit Rights for three properties totaling 392 acres.


Waterloo Bridge Update and Brandy Station Battlefield

Waterloo bridge.
The Waterloo Bridge has been closed for three years. VDOT held a public hearing in May about its potential restoration. Photo by Julie Bolthouse

The first public hearing for Waterloo Bridge was held on May 17, with nearly 100 people in attendance. The purpose of the meeting was to gauge public interest in rehabilitation of the structure. Although there were differing views about specific plans, the overarching sentiment was that Waterloo Bridge needs to be saved for future generations. PEC has been involved in a number of planned historic bridge replacements — four of which are metal truss bridges. In each case, we have strived to find the best preservation outcome possible. In both our research and specific involvement with these types of structures, we have found that conversion to pedestrian or park use is only successful when the structure is rehabilitated fully, a new owner is found and the park is heavily used. In this situation, we believe the most viable option for saving the structure is rehabilitation as a vehicular structure due to limited funds for rehabilitation as a pedestrian structure, no interest from the localities in taking ownership and its rural location. For more information, visit pecva.org/waterloobridge.

In other news, the Civil War Trust closed on a 70-acre conservation easement, one of the first of the year, that will protect a portion of the Brandy Station Battle eld.


Blackthorne Inn and Walker Drive Proposals

The proposal for Blackthorne Inn still has not officially gone before the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors, but it continues to attract more opposition. The property is located on agricultural zoned land along Rt. 50 between Upperville and Paris. The scale of the proposed additions and renovations remains excessively large with a new 19,000-square-foot event building, a 30 percent increase to the current restaurant, 20 new cabins for a total of 38 private units, 3 new support structures (3,000 sq ft), and a new spa with gym, as part of the proposal. The applicants are also requesting a total of 108 events per year (34 large events with up to 250 guests, 30 small events averaging 140 guests, and 44 corporate/social events between 25-75 guests). For more info about PEC’s concerns visit pecva.org/fauquier.

Another proposal we have been following is for mixed use and residential along Walker Drive, which will likely be voted on by the Warrenton Town Council in June or July. The site is the largest remaining undeveloped commercial/industrial parcel in the Town of Warrenton, but the only firm part of the proposal is for multi-family residential. It represents an extraordinary opportunity for this Town Council to enhance the gateway from Rt. 29 and Meetze Road and encourage context sensitive and appropriately scaled development along Walker Drive. PEC continues to have serious concerns about the economic viability of this project and the lack of guarantees of proposed amenities and a detailed master plan.


Mountain Heritage Event A Success

In April, we hosted a successful Mountain Heritage open house at the Cecil Mission in Greene County. Over 100 people attended the celebration and participated in tours of the historic church and the surrounding area. Members of local families shared family photos of and discussed their memories of life in the mountains of Greene County. The event was sponsored by the Greene County Economic Development and Tourism office. Music was provided by “Pickin’ Daisies” and the well-known local autoharp player Judy Pagter.


How and where should Loudoun grow?

The Board of Supervisors has many decisions to make about the County’s future growth over the next year, including how to integrate transportation infrastructure and demand management measures to reduce traffic impacts going forward. The Board will also decide on Town Center ordinance changes, the Silver Line Comprehensive Plan Amendment and the Comprehensive Plan update. In June, the County has 5 public input meetings scheduled on the proposed Comprehensive Plan’s vision, goals and objectives and more. Additional input on changes to accommodate growth may also be solicited, though specifics are not yet available. Online input opportunities will be available after June 15 at envision-loudoun.org.


Robinson River Flows Free

There are several culvert removal projects lined up by PEC and partners, and the first one was implemented on the Robinson River in April. The project removed an old culvert that acted as a dam and impeded movement of brook trout and other aquatic species of conservation significance. The culvert removal reconnected over 5 miles of aquatic habitat. The project included grading the riverbed and installing in-stream stone structures to restore the riverbed to a more natural course.


Tree Planting Along the Rapidan

The Headwater Stream Initiative, a collaborative between Friends of the Rappahannock and PEC, was introduced to Orange County in early May. Orange County High School students taking ecology and biology classes, planted 100 native trees and shrubs along the Rapidan River. The students’ planting efforts established a 50-foot riverside buffer, which will shade the river, help maintain cool water and protect the bank from erosion. After planting, Beth Seale, owner of the Rapidan Kayak Company, led students on a paddle down the Rapidan River, where they enjoyed a beautiful spring afternoon learning more about the ecology of the river.


Got Buffers?

This spring kicked-o with a busy season of tree- planting for the Headwater Stream Initiative in Rappahannock County. Friends of Rappahannock and PEC worked together with Virginia Department of Forestry to design and plant 2.75 acres of stream- side private property in Rappahannock County. Four riparian restoration project sites were completed with plantings of native trees and shrubs. Thanks to 76 volunteers from local schools — The Summit Academy, Mountain Laurel Montessori and Mary Washington University, as well as local community groups RappFLOW and Trout Unlimited — the effort to protect headwater streams’ water quality with healthy riparian buffers has been a great success.

This article was featured in our Summer 2017 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View. You can read more of the articles on our website or view a PDF of the issue.