One of the special attributes of Virginia is the beauty of the countryside, especially in the northern piedmont. The rolling hills and curving country roads… the vineyards and manicured horse farms… the charming hamlets with quaint, historical downtowns. It’s an extraordinary asset for all of us city and suburban dwellers who enjoy the occasional weekend getaway.

A huge question is: How do we preserve that bucolic landscape from leapfrogging suburbanization (scattered, disconnected, low density development) emanating from Virginia’s New Urban Regions? More to the point, how do we preserve it without turning the region into a cultural museum — in other words, while also preserving economic opportunity for the people who live there?

The most fully developed economic development strategy for Virginia’s countryside is the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, which pursues several interlocking themes: heritage tourism, sustainable agriculture, landscape preservation and Main Street revitalization. The author and driving force of this strategy is Cate Magennis Wyatt, Secretary of Commerce during the Wilder administration, who lives in an old Quaker village, Waterford, in Loudoun County. What’s most remarkable about the initiative is not the individual ideas, bits and pieces of which have been implemented elsewhere, but the comprehensiveness of the vision and the energy with which it has been embraced by literally dozens of local governments and civic organizations between Monticello and Gettysburg, Pa.

I describe the economic development thinking behind the Journey Through Hallowed Ground in today’s column, “Honoring Hallowed Ground.” Many other swaths of Virginia countryside could learn from the experience of Virginia’s northern piedmont.

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17 responses to “Saving the Countryside”

  1. Groveton Avatar


    I read with interest your article entitled Honoring Hallowed Ground. In that article you describe efforts by Cate Magennis Wyatt to preseve western Loudoun County. At one point in the article, you say, “she had a hand in shaping development projects in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in the 1980s.”.

    Oh yes – she had a hand in that all right. The following article from the Washington Post (equally gushing) should be read:

    After working as an intern in the Carter White House she began a career as a Northern Virginia developer. One of her developments was the Landstowne community in Leesburg. Apparently she got so rich in the Northern Virginia development (destruction?) business that she held a milennium party at the Grand Pyramid of Cheops. She was also Secretary of Commerce in the Wilder administration.

    Now, Ms. Wyatt wants to encourage “sustainable agriculture” and “bed and breakfast development”.

    Let’s think a minute about this.

    1. While the details of her resume are only loosely disclosed (a hallmark of this kind of “politico – multimillionaire”) we know that she has combined the kissing cousins of politics and development. Given the obvious and nefarious connection between developers and politicians in Virginia – this should immediately raise a red flag.

    2. We know that some aspect of Landsdowne was part of her “developer’s portfolio” or “handiwork of personal greed”. Landsdowne is, in my opinion, the textbook example of horrible development planning and execution. Situated well into Loudoun County along Rt 7 Landsdowne is a large development of homes, a conference center, some disconnected shopping, etc. Everybody knew that it was too far from employment centers in Tyson’s Corner, Reston and Washington, DC but it was allowed anyway. And guess what happened? Neither Rt 7 nor Rt 193 could handle the additional traffic that was created as the residents of Landsdowne and elsewhere came streaming out of their cul-de-sacs and onto Rt 7 every morning to get to work. Meanwhile, the local politicians we apparantly “looking the other way”. Perhaps they were looking toward Ms. Wyatt’s “Hallowed Ground”. Or maybe they were looking toward her campaign contributions. It would be interesting to see whether she made campaign contributions to local politicians while she was “developing” eastern Loudoun County.

    3. The “development” of Landsdowne can be called “development” only under the broadest definition of that term. The area went from being a rather pristine combination of forest and farm to looking like a scene from Apocolypse Now. Parts of the area were leveled as if the Air Force first dropped daisy cutter bombs then dropped napalm on what was left. The farmers sold (presumably at a profit), Ms. Wyatt (or Magennis) developed (presumably at a profit) and people bought the homes in the then-distant, disconnected, poorly planned development. Those people flooded a road that was at capacity Rt7 putting it well over capacity and then flooded Rt 193 putting it over capacity.

    4. Having befouled Eastern Loudoun for her own profit Ms. Wyatt is now rich enough to move to Western Loudoun where she hopes to protect herself from people like her. As she says in the WaPO article, “Wyatt had to move 47 miles outside Washington to find the idyll she wanted; she is frank enough to say that if she were still commuting to the District, she would not choose to live this far away.

    But “I’ve been lucky enough to have a choice and to be able to work from here,” she says. And here she stays, in a village where no one lives in a development and doors are unlocked and kids roam around on their own.”.

    Yes, lucky indeed. Much more lucky than those people sitting in in snarled congestion right now along Rt 7. And, speaking of Rt 7, it’s a bit of hallowed ground itself. It’s the road that Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia took to Gettysburg. I guess ground gets a more or less hallowed depending on whether Ms. Wyatt is destroying it or trying to surround herself with it.

    5. As the WaPo article also says, “Since moving full time to Waterford, where she originally bought her brick-and-stone 1795 house as a weekend retreat, Wyatt has become a determined advocate for preserving the village and Loudoun’s remaining rural portions against the tidal force of sprawl.”.

    Sprawl is now bad. Now that Ms. Wyatt has filled her own pockets from that very sprawl.

    She like beds and breakfasts, she likes “sustainable agriculture” (although she admist she doesn’t really know what that means. In other words, she like rich people like herself buying up the land and preventing the people who have lived there all their lives from getting good jobs. Rich people like Ms. Wyatt move in Western Loudoun, buy farms, turn them into beds and breakfasts hoping to lure other rich people (like Ms. Wyatt) to stay at their inns. The poeple who live in these rural communities get jobs as janitors, waitresses and gardeners at the beds and breakfasts. What a perfect world – the rich and their serfs.

    Any real development plan should include non-minimum wage jobs. Any real development plan should include using the educational assets of the area to create mid and high technology employment as well as precision manufacturing. Any real development plan should offer the avergae person living in an area the opportunity to improve themselves by improving their earnings. It shoud not create a new form or indentured servititude whereby the farmers sell their farms to bed and breakfast owners (for far, far less than they could have gotten from a developer) and then work on their former farm waiting tables.

    This seems like limosine liberalism at its absolute worst.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton, Thanks for linking to the Marc Fisher column — I had not seen it.

    I must say, you have put the worst possible spin on Cate’s career. You are making a number of suppositions that may not be warranted. First of all, Cate worked in the employ of institutional clients when she developed Landsdowne. I’m sure she was compensated well, but she did not own the project. It is misleading to say that she developed the project “for her own profit,” or that she “filled her pockets from sprawl.”

    As for Cate “befouling” eastern Loudoun, you are making more suppositions. The Landsdowne area may be an abomination. But you don’t know (and, I admit, I don’t know) at what stage of the project she came in and at what stage she left. You don’t know what kind of hand she was dealt when she took the project over, and you don’t know what decisions were made after she left. (I do vaguely recall her saying that she was not happy with some of the development decisions made after she left that departed from the original vision for the project, but I cannot recall specifics.)

    As for the Wyatts being rich, I have absolutely no idea how much they are worth, but if they do qualify as “rich,” I can assure you that they live remarkably modestly. Their house in Waterford is very nice, but not it’s a lot smaller and less expensive than thousands of McMansions that dot the NoVa landscape.

    Finally, let me address the substantive comments you made about the Journey Through Hallowed Ground’s vision for economic development. I think you raise legitimate issues. If heritage tourism, B&Bs, small town boutiques and organic farms were the *only* economic underpinning for the region, I agree with you, it would be a narrow economic base that offered limited economic opportunity for the poor and working class.

    But Cate is not pushing JHG to the exclusion of the kinds of economic development that you mentioned. The beauty of the JHG initiative is that it promotes economic development and conservation simultaneously, and it does so by respecting the rights of property owners. Cate does not propose back-door confiscations of property value through government restrictions on what people can do with their land. She wants to create economic conditions that enable property owners to say “no” to developers trying to buy their land, and she proposes conserving land through transactions between willing buyers and willing sellers.

    In my mind, “limousine liberals” are those who use the power of government to engineer society according to their preferences, while insulating themselves from the consequences. Such a description does not apply to Cate or JHG in any way.

  3. Groveton Avatar



    If it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck ….

    Your own words in your comments are inconsistent.

    In paragraph one you say “…she did not own the project.”. In paragraph two you say, “You don’t know what kind of hand she was dealt when she took the project over, …”. The WaPo article cites “…her years as a real estate developer in Loudoun County”. That’s years – not months.

    You then go on with the “As for the Wyatts being rich, …”. According to the article I cited in the Washington Post:

    ” She was a regular in the social columns. Her friends were senators and governors. She served as Virginia’s secretary of commerce. She helped develop the Lansdowne community in Leesburg. When she planned a millennium party, she did it big time — at the Great Pyramid of Cheops.”.

    A millennium party at the Great Pyramid of Cheops? I think it’s fair to assume that the Wyatt’s are well past “hoping to make ends meet”.

    As for their house in Waterford – also from the WaPo article:

    “Since moving full time to Waterford, where she originally bought her brick-and-stone 1795 house as a weekend retreat,…”.

    She moved into her “weekend retreat”. I have to assume that she owned (at least) two homes – one was her weekday home and the other was her weekend retreat home. I’d be careful making comparisons about Northern Virginia McMansions and frugality here.

    Regarding your point that “Cate is not pushing JHG to the exclusion of the kinds of economic development that you mentioned.”:

    Here’s another WaPo (also generally gushing) article for your consideration –

    From that article –

    “Local boosters say the heritage area designation will increase the chances of preserving the region’s rural feel, draw new tourism to the area and help its numerous historic sites market themselves more effectively.

    But the effort has also drawn opposition from vocal property rights advocates such as J. Peyton Knight, executive director of the American Policy Center in Warrenton, who has testified against national heritage areas in the past. “These designations choke off entire areas from the necessary housing development and community development they need to sustain themselves,” he said.”.

    “…choke off entire areas…”?

    Maybe there are two sides to this story. Maybe this is not as “warm and fuzzy” as it seems you and Ms. Wyatt think.

    From your own article, “In a related initiative, Wyatt is seeking federal designation of U.S. 15 as a National Scenic Byway.”.

    Here’s one thing I read about scenic byways:

    “If a route is designated, it not only gains an expected boost in tourism, but it also becomes eligible for federal funds for improvements such as interpretive centers, overlooks, and rest areas.”.

    So, we have some federal fund potentially involved. Is there anything else? For example, if a road was designated a scenic byway would that designation change the process by which the road could be expanded? If, in the future, a jurisdiaction decided that it wantes to expand Rt 15 would its designation as a National Scenic Byway make that decision harder?

    “In my mind ‘limousine liberals’ are those who use the power of government to engineer society according to their preferences, while insulating themselves from the consequences”.


    What’s that sound I hear coming from the direction of Waterford? It sounds like quacking.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton, If you can spell out exactly how JHG would diminish property rights, I would be very interested in knowing. I have heard a lot of vague generalities, but I’ve seen absolutely nothing specific. No one has yet pointed to any specific language in the proposed legislation that would harm property rights. If someone can point to potential harm, then I am willing to change my opinion about the project.

  5. Groveton Avatar

    Here’s an overview:

    Of all the comments in this article, I believe this is the most illuminating:

    “In an effort to downplay concerns from property rights advocates, a spokesperson for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) Partnership (the umbrella group that is spearheading the Heritage Area effort) claims, “A National Heritage Area … does not interfere with the local authority at all.” Such a statement signifies either extreme ignorance of the legislation or outright dishonesty. In reality, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act is specifically designed to interfere with local authorities.

    The “management entity” would have the authority to disburse federal monies to “States and their political subdivisions” to promote land use policies that are favored by the entity (including land acquisition) in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. However, taxpayers would not vote on the entity’s leadership or have a say in its direction. In addition, eligibility for membership in the board of directors of the “management entity” would be limited to members of the partnership just prior to the legislation’s enactment.

    The special interests couldn’t ask for much more than what Representative Wolf is providing them: a congressionally ordained, members-only club funded by taxpayers for the express purpose of making taxpayers live under the club’s rules.”.

    Sounds like another unelected and unaccountable regional transportation authority.

    From the same site, here is another article that bears reading:

    Here’s a pretty good description of the flim flam going on as the local governments promise only a recognition of historical significane but those “recognitions” are misrepresented as strong committments to the feds.

    Here are some key quotes from that article:

    “The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors rejected a resolution in support of the Journey Through Hallowed initiative.

    “One of the big reasons I’m opposed to the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Heritage Area is the inability to get the true facts about the project from the people who are promoting it,” said Jim Clem, a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. “While this project may be well intended, it’s my opinion that it’s just another means of stopping development in this area.”

    Rejected by Loudoun County BOS?

    “…just another menas of stopping development in this area”. From a member of the Loudoun BOS.

    And, remember my point about Rt 15 being designated a scenic byway –

    “Route 15 is a busy State Highway that needs safety improvements,” continued Clem, who chairs the Loudoun County Board’s Public Safety Committee. “It’s my opinion that the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Project will cause delays or stoppage of these critical highway improvements. While I am a strong supporter of preserving our history, people’s rights need to be preserved also.”

    This is pretty good as well.

    Here’s the crux:

    “This is a transparent effort by ‘not in my back yard’ elitists to milk millions of dollars from the nation’s taxpayers to mandate gentrification of their rural landscape. These bluebloods want their pretty views and bucolic fields preserved in perpetuity at the expense of property rights, small landowners and farmers, and taxpayers,” said Robert J. Smith, a senior fellow at the National Center.”.

    All in all, this is the easiest definition to understand:

    AGAIN: National Heritage Areas are a federal land use scheme. Federal money (pork) is administered through the National Park Service to anti-property rights groups who are directed to preserve just about anything and everything within the Heritage Area. In other words, the Park Service “partners” with local greens to take away YOUR property rights. To read more about the dangers of National Heritage Areas, go to:

  6. Groveton Avatar

    Here’s another good article from a few years ago. The themes are the same:

    1. Ask localgovernments to pass seemingly innocuous resolutions regarding the historical significance of the land.

    2. Collect the seemingly innocuous resolutions and take them to the feds to ask for a national heritage area designation. The localities who passed the supposedly innocent resolutions never imagined that the resolutions would become, in aggregate, the basis for the national heritage area request.

    3. Get federal funding to be used by the foundation members to buy property in an effort to “preserve” the countryside.

    4. Do not notify the actual homeowners in the heritage area that the designation of national heritage area is being sought.

    5. Create an unelected partnership between the heritage area sponsors and the US Park Service to oversee the land.

    Here’s the way it really works …

  7. Groveton Avatar

    And … in the interest of balanced disclosure, here is the official National Heritage Area site:

    From that site, this summary of National Heritage Areas:

    “National Heritage Area is a locally-managed designation that focuses heritage-centered interpretation, conservation and development projects over a complex matrix of public and private land. National Heritage Area initiatives are coordinated by a local entity in partnership with varied stakeholders that work collaboratively on projects that meet the area’s stated management plan goals. In addition, while a National Heritage Area designation is permanent, the NPS relationship with and commitments to a NHA vary over time.”.

    This is typical of the kind of wording used. Pretty much jibberish with “stakeholders”, “entities” and other non-specific terms. This could be an example of lazy language or it could be an effort to hide the truth behind innocent sounding terms.

    However, one word is quite clear – permanent.

    There is already a National Heritage Are in Virginia. This is its site:

    It is worth noting that this area is called both a National Heritage Area and a National HIstorical District.

    Here is what I consider an important quote from the site:

    ” In addition, the Battlefields Foundation has helped our partners raise $550,000 from local governments and $3.5 million from the state to match federal funds in the effort to help preserve battlefields such as Cedar Creek and First and Second Kernstown. The Battlefields Foundation has also leveraged considerable investments from partnering organizations. For every dollar from the Foundation, its partners have contributed eight dollars to preserve and interpret Civil War resources in the National Historic District.”.

    If I’ve sone my math right – that $500K from local governments, $3.5M from the state, a “match” of $4M from the Feds for a total of $8M in government fees and anothe $8 in private donations for every $1 from the government for a grand total of $72M. This seems impossible. Maybe somebody can check my calculation and show me where I am wrong.

    However, if I am right, that’s an awful lot of land to be purchased by an unelected group of individuals using a lot of governemnt seed money to put formerly private property into a permanent “set aside”.

    I can see why some people think that even those land owners who don’t want to sell would feel that their property rights were being adversely affected by purchases and set asides on that scale.

    Also on this site is an ominous sounding section entitled, “protection tools”. The setails of this topic are “Coming Soon”.

    Finally, there seems to be no question that the people who own land with a designated National Heritage Area are NOT informed that their land is being placed within one of these areas. There is no attempt to contact them individually although land ownership records are quite accessible. The landowners could certainly find out “through the grapevine” or by reading articles in the newspaper but there is no systematic notification.

    I will follow up with a post trying to tie together all of this information.

    However, suffice it to say, it makes me very nervous to see governments and (what seem to be) wealthy individuals buying large tracts of land and then setting that land aside on a permanent basis. My very informal research also seems to show that much of the momentum for these efforts is driven by (seemingly wealthy) people who have moved into a rural area and see this as a way to enforce their vision for what that area should become – without discussion or deabate involving the long time citizens of that area.

    Finally, the concept of willing sellers is, in my opinion, something of a ruse. If I buy you neighbor’s property and turn it into a garbage dump I have purchased the land from a willing seller. However, I have also devalued your property. If I buy a lot of land around you and forbid any development of that land forever as well as using a National Heritage Area designation to prevent road expansion, etc. I have potentially devalued your property.

    I reiterate my theory that this is a limousine liberal scheme whereby people from outside a rural area come in and establish permanent control over the land in an effort to force their vision of the future on the long term residents of that area.

  8. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    The following information was prepared by the office of Rep. Frank Wolf, the NoVa congressman who is sponsoring the National Heritage Area bill for Journey Through Hallowed Ground:

    Section 5(f) Prohibition on the acquisition of real property:
    The management entity may not use federal funds under this act to acquire real property or interests in real property (easements). Additionally, states and local governments cannot use federal funds under this act to acquire interest in real property by condemnation.

    Section 10 Private Property Protections
    (1) Nothing in this Act abridges the rights of any property owner, including their right to chose not to participate in the management plan or have any connection in any way with the Heritage Area or its programs.

    (2) Nothing in this Act modifies public access to private property.

    (3) Nothing in this Act alters regulatory authority of federal, state or local governments, including road safety and transportation improvement projects.

    (4) Nothing in this Act changes the liability of any private property owner.

  9. Respectful Avatar

    It was quite disheartening to read the remarks posted by Groveton because of the personal attacks and misinformation presented. All one has to do is look on the website to realize that this group is far from a “members-only” club, but is an open partnership comprised of citizens,elected officials, educators, small business owners, tourism officials, historians, etc. – all of whom are working in good faith and partnership to raise awareness and participate in a national program that will help them celebrate their shared American heritage and unique community spirit.

    The National Center for Public Policy Research, quoted extensively by Groveton, has worked very hard to defeat each of the 37 National Heritage Area bills. All have passed. They talk of government takeovers, land grabs,pork barrel politics, property rights abuses, and prefer personal attacks over substantive debate, but the doomsday scenerio they predict has not come true in 20 years the NHA’s have been in existance.

    The GAO published a report (GAO-04-5931) that states clearly ” the national property rights groups we contacted were unable to provide us with any examples of a heritage area directly affecting – positively or negatively – property rights.”

    The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership supports heritage tourism and education initiatives. The funding from the National Hertiage Area program, matched dollar for dollar by local entities, would support these efforts only.

    This is a grass roots effort and The Richmond Times editorial from last fall said,” The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership represents America at its best.” I think the anger and personal attacks represented earlier in this blog represent America at its worst. Haven’t we seen enough of this?

  10. Groveton Avatar


    If Bill Clinton showed up on national television tomorrow morning announcing that he had just founded the Monogamy in Marriage Instititute I think there would be good reason to ask about his apparent change in attitude.

    When anyone who spent years in the Northern Virginia development business looks for public endorsement for efforts against “suburban sprawl” I think it’s fair to wonder about his or her apparent change in attitude.

    I don’t know where you live but I live a “stone’s throw” from Rt 7 near the Fairfax – Loudoun border. It is a road that is congested beyond belief by the runaway devlopment between Sterling and Leesburg. Runaway development that includes the large Landsdowne project.

    The large scale development of the area from Sterling to Leesburg in Eastern Loudoun County was GUARANTEED to overwhelm Rt 7. This was not an “unintended consequence”, it was known in advance by those developers who overbuilt the area and those politicans who failed to stop them. However, the developers’ greed was paramount and people sit for hours stuck in traffic. That, Respectful, is America at its worst.

    I assume that anybody sitting in that traffic while anyone involved in that ill-considered development talks about needing to curtail suburban sprawl would take it personally and would be angry.

    It is time scrutinize the developers and politicians and hold them accountable for the problems they have created. This scrutiny is especially warranted when anyone with years of involvement in the creation of suburban sprawl proposes their next land use program.

    If that hurts your feelings or theirs – I really don’t care.

  11. Groveton Avatar


    Thank you for quoting the applicable parts of the National Heritage Area bill for Journey Through Hallowed Ground. It is good to hear that federal funds are off-limits with respect to acquiring land.

    Given the sections of the proposed bill that you quoted, I wonder what rights would be granted the “management entity” with respect to the land that entity acquires.

    However, I also wonder about the long term consequences of these plans – with or without the use of federal funds.

    I guess these concerns hinge on the question of property rights – although probably not in the way most people think of those rights.

    Here’s an example:

    1. If I personally buy 1,000 acres of land I have the right to do what I want with the land within applicable zoning and development laws. One right I could exercise is the right to do nothing – just own the land and leave it completely undeveloped.

    2. I would have to pay real estate taxes on the land I owned although the local government might lower those taxes if I agreed to leave the land undeveloped. This decision regarding real estate taxes would be a local decision made by locally elected officials based on local conditions. These same local officials could change the tax law if they felt it was in the best interests of the locality.

    3. When I die the land would be in my estate. My heirs would have to pay inheritance tax and would also have to continue to pay real estate taxes. Even if I wanted the land to stay forever undeveloped that decision would pass to my descendents after I am gone from this world. They would have to balance between development and conservation. They would make their decisions based on the situation at the time – not based on what I thought would be right while I was still alive.

    When “management entities” buy 1,000 acres (with taxpayers’ money or their own):

    1. Do they pay the same real estate taxes with a National Heritage Area designation as I would pay as an individual without such a designation? If not, shouldn’t the local governments (vs. the federal government) have the right to decide whether to grant a National Heritage Area designation that the “management entity” can use to buy land?

    2. Does the National Heritage Area designation ever expire? Personal property rights convery through a person’s estate but, as I mentioned, inheritance taxes make the perpetual ownership of land a challenging proposition. If the local government decides that National Heritage Area designation is no longer in the best interests of the local citizens, is there anything they can do to change it (short of lobbying the federal government to amend or repeal the law that created that National Heritage Area)?

    3. If individual personal property rights are important shouldn’t the people who own land in an area to be designated a National Heritage Area have the right to vote to accept or reject that designation? Isn’t it their property that is being designated?

    At the end of the day, the “management entity” is not an individual. It is a corporate-type structure established by certain individuals and the federal government with the goal of restricting land from certain uses. Unlike the National Parks it is not owned by the government and unlike an individual it does not die and pass ownership (after whatever inheritances taxes) to its heirs. Isn’t this quite a bit different from me buying land myself and decising not to develop that land?

  12. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Groveton has obviously worked hard (and well) at putting the worst possible spin on this. I think it is a fair and singlehanded effort to propose a different view from that espoused, heavily promoted, and actively organized by “Journey Through Hallowed Ground”

    His comments also have a familiar ring: newcomers trying to slam the door behind them, ot the case of the Fauquier Supervisor who fought rural development for years, then retired to a farmette estate – in another county.

    Unfortunately statements such as “…are coordinated by a local entity in partnership with varied stakeholders that work collaboratively on projects that meet the area’s stated management plan goals” frequently boil down to “you knuckle under our goals because we define what it is that is collaborative and what is obstuctionist. Besides, we have the time and money to attend all the daytime “collaboration” meetings.

    It’s a free market, more or less. If there are things they really don’t like, then they can raise the money and go preserve whatever they think is important. But, hasving done that, we can expect them to begin thinking like the owner of Salamander: “Well, after spending $9 million on a property, you expect to be able to do something with it.”

    I have no doubt that there can be a collection of conservation minded economic development plans that make some sense. But, at the end of the day, they are conservation minded precisely because they are preventeing some other development plan that proba bly makes more sense.

    Groveton commented on all the homes built in Lansdowne, and the money that was made on them. What he didn’t say was that, despite all the problems, the new Lansdown owners have also made money. so have most of the people in Loudoun. Play it any way you like, and villainize who you like, the facts are these: Loudoun pursued development and Fauquier didn’t. Loudoun pays higher taxes, has more debt, and a larger budget than Fauquier. But, Loudoun residents earn more money and own more property than Fauquier residents, on a per capita basis. They have more money to pay the taxes with,and more money left over after they do.

    Fauquier has the Fauquier lifestyle. This boils down to a question of how much you are willing to give up in order to be able to live with less. What does conservation “cost” in other words.

    Regardless of what the collection of economic benefits JTHG dreams up, at the end of the day, someone is going to look back and ask whether this artificially created economy is as good as what would have developed on its own. They are going to ask if the created economy pllus the created lifestyle is a fair trade considering the value forgone.

    Groveton is right to raise the issues, whether we agree with him or not.

  13. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “No one has yet pointed to any specific language in the proposed legislation that would harm property rights.”

    It is true, there is no specific language that restricts property rights, unless you avail yourself of federal funds and grants.

    That isn’t the end of the story though. A reporter in the Fauquier Democrat addressed this acouple of weeks ago. (Chumley?, I don;t have the reference handy.)

    She pointed out that, although rare, the situation has developed whereeby local governments have used the excuse of having designated areas to (later, afters ome respectful waiting period) toss in some egregious new regulations. Consider Nantucket a case in point. You have to consult and achieve the approval of the architectural review board to put up a clothesline in the back yard, as if the colonials had dryers.

  14. Groveton Avatar

    Ray Hyde makes a good point about the balance between conservation and economic prosperity. Loudoun County is viewed as the “richest county” in America – economically speaking.

    The contrast between Fauquier and Loudoun is fascinating. Two counties which have pursued very different approaches. I am not sure which approach is the better approach or even if there is a better approach. However, I am sure of this:

    1. This should be a local decision – not a decision made (or influenced) by a combination of certain individuals and the federal government.

    2. The local government should have the right to change the approach as conditions dictate.

    3. No locality should base its lifestyle choice on the need to be subsidized by other localities – whether that’s an education subsidy from urbanizing localities to other localities or a road building subsidy from the rural counties to the urbanizing counties. Net, net – the lifestyle you choose needs to be funded (in its entirety) by you.

    Finally, I’ll open a can of worms on this topic – wealth distribution in America. There has been much written about the changing distribution of wealth among Americans. I’ll summarize by saying these writings basically contend that the percentage of total wealth held by the richest Americans is a large percentage and growing fast. Historically, societies which have allowed wealth inequities to build to extreme levels have faired poorly. Are we headed in that same direction? If so, does the Faquier approach or the Loudoun approach make for more equitable income distribution over time? What effect does permanently sequestering land under a National Heritage Area have on the distribution of wealth, if any?

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Let me throw in what I feel are a couple of key issues ….

    First, it don’t matter how “voluntary” or “advisory”, in nature a designation is because it ultimately it will be used as a defense to unpopular attempts to develop some kinds of property.

    We’ve all seen this happen ….and for what it is worth – I’ve usually been associated with those who want to preserve…

    But I think if we are to advance such efforts – we have to have an honest discussion and both sides acknowledge the things that prevent us from going forward.

    For instance, there ARE landowners who not only refuse to have their properties designated as historic but even fight the process of documenting the determination that their property is even “eligible”.

    On the other side of the coin, what do we do when a parcel of land is truly a significant battlefield or similiar and is privately owned and is slated to be developed in such a way as to essentially destroy the historic value?

    This is no denying that this has happened – over and over – as major significant historic properties have been lost to development.

    I think there is a little word – “significant” that is at the root of some of this.

    Just as it makes little sense to establish conservation easements on land that is privately owned and has no special significant natural, historic, or cultural atributes, my opinion is that designating huge swaths of land of which much of it may not be significant in any special way…

    .. ultimately no matter how well intentioned – generates controvery and opposition and, in the end, instead of uniting the public to support preservations – risks making the split wider.

    It’s a judgement call on the part of those who support preservation but they do bear some responsibilitiy for the consequences if controversy expands.

    I understand and support the need to engender a wider and deeper public support of history and preservation values and I very much understand the frustration of those who value historic land watching helplessly as a significant parcel is lost to development… it’s heartbreaking

    but I think unless and until, people, the general public – AND landowners agree on what is a proper criteria for “significance”, the debate will continue.

    and just to make clear.. I have no sympathy at all for any landowner that owns a significant historic parcel and believes he/she has the right to destroy it because they own the land….and I would support emminent domain in such cases – but this is a last resort approach – that results from a failure to reconcile in the first place.

  16. Groveton Avatar

    I think the local government should buy and own lans that has substantial historical significance. If private individuals want to give the government money to buy the land – fine. However, thr land is owned by the local government and managed by elected officials. It is not bought by a “federal – private and run by a “management entity”.

    If conditions change and the land designation needs to change – then the elected officials can take the land out of conservation easement and put it into development. If the local citizens don’t like what the local officials are doing, they can elect new officials.

  17. kathleen Avatar

    Why is it that “passion” has such an awful effect upon spelling and grammar? And, one must note, also upon logic. “Groveton,” while clearly most emotional about his/her defense of “property rights” and ad hominem — or in this case, more correctly, ad feminem — attacks with regard to the attribution of intent and motive, seems to find it more convenient to damn the actions of others than to offer practical solutions to the problem of preserving the lifestyle of people who are not “rich” but are tied closely to the land and its history and traditions. Those of us who honor our past and simply want to be let alone may find an historical designation helpful when it comes to attempting protection of our homes and lives; the fact that this protection might make “widening a road” or even developing old farmland in the future is simply not a concern
    NOW. Continuing to pay property taxes on one’s modest but elderly home is a concern, as is being able to live and be let alone by all the fake ruralists.

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