President’s Letter – Winter 2018

Dear Friends,

When PEC was created in 1972, the underlying motivation for many of the founders was to help the communities where they lived and the landscape they loved respond to massive forces of change. Thank you for continuing that work; we are proud to work with you and on your behalf.

Many of the initial PEC members were part of the forces of change in the region, as leaders in government, industry, education and philanthropy. They represented some of the most engaged, educated and powerful individuals and families not only in Virginia, but in the nation. They were not afraid of the world rapidly changing or afraid of the specific challenges that change represented. They were resilient, creative and adaptive. And most importantly, they believed they could have a role in shaping the outcome.

Specifically, they understood the powerful force of the expansion of the Federal government in the post-WWII/Cold War era into Fairfax, Loudoun and beyond. They predicted that unplanned, sprawling development could transform the Piedmont region. They proposed that civic, business and political leaders in the region could work together to develop long-term land use, transportation and economic development plans to prepare for potential change, adopt proactive strategies for more sustainable outcomes, and make positive investments in those strategies to start driving change. They hoped to lay the foundations for a multi-generation effort that would preserve the rural way of life, natural resources, history and beauty, along with making the communities of the region better.

Twenty-five years ago, this founding generation and the second generation of PEC members were confronted by the Disney’s America proposal and the possibility of entertainment-based tourism and sprawl overwhelming the region. Again, the threat of change galvanized a redoubled effort to plan and invest in something better. Over the twenty five years since Disney, families and communities have conserved an additional 300,000 acres of land, encouraged better rural highway design to reduce impact on conservation values, renewed investment in historic towns and historic districts, encouraged a shift to smart growth at the regional scale, fostered new ideas of local, sustainable agriculture, and made substantial innovations in native wildlife habitat and water quality. The air and water is demonstrably cleaner; we have better defined our cultural landscapes; and we have shifted the emphasis of growth to transit-oriented, walkable communities.

But once again, we are entering a period of great change in the world, at every level, that requires us to redouble our efforts to preserve and protect the Piedmont. Globally, we are confronted by the impacts of climate change and the increasing dislocation and migration it engenders. Nationally, we are not only struggling with those same issues, but also the overwhelming cost of supporting the infrastructure for a nation of 370 million scattered across fifty states. In Virginia, the demographic changes of the last decade will shift the balance of population and, ultimately, political power, to urban and suburban areas, mostly in Northern Virginia. Locally, we are revisiting comprehensive plans, land use policies, etc., with some counties that used to be majority rural residents but are now predominantly urban and suburban dwellers, especially in Loudoun but also in Fauquier and Albemarle.

PEC’s role remains, as it was in 1972, to engage, educate and empower citizens and community leaders to evaluate change, develop the proactive strategies and encourage positive investments. We are entering the third generation of supporters, landowners and leadership at PEC. Your involvement and support is crucial to meet the current challenges and continue to improve and sustain the Piedmont.

Chris Miller, PEC

This letter was featured in our Winter 2018 member newsletter, The Piedmont View.