That Insidious Piedmont Environmental Council

As the P.R. war heats up in Loudoun County over the future of the Dulles South district, the Piedmont Environmental Council has been a leading voice opposing the granting of greater density. According to the Loudoun Times-Mirror, Supervisor Steve Snow, R-Dulles, considers the PEC a malign influence:

“[PEC members] are insidious. They are everywhere,” said [Snow] at the Oct. 3 Board of Supervisors meeting. “They are trying to take over local and state government to try and get their will done for environmental extremism, and I think we have to fight against it.”

Newspapers ads, paid for by the pro-growth group the Right Growth Policy Institute, detail a complex chain of influence that reaches from the PEC all the way up to the governor’s office in Richmond. Characterizing the PEC as the “hunt-country elite,” the ads claim the organization is using its influence to “stop economic development, job growth and private investment in new infrastructure.”

It is true that the PEC has worked its way into the inner sanctum of power in Richmond for the first time ever. As the Times-Mirror recounts:

Scott Kasprowicz, a former PEC board member who donated more than $140,000 to the Kaine for Governor campaign, was named Deputy Secretary of Transportation. More recently, Peter Schwartz, who was vice-chair of the PEC and gave more than
$31,500 to Kaine, is a new appointment to the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The CTB, which Kasprowicz serves on as well, directs state funding to individual road projects throughout the state.

The PEC also funds Bacon’s Rebellion’s Road to Ruin project, so I may be hopelessly “conflicted” when I say this, but… The charges are hystericallly overblown.

First, the “influence” of the PEC in the Governor’s Office is more than offset by the heft of Business As Usual interests such as developers, home builders, construction firms, engineernig firms and all the rest. As an indicator of who is winning the tug of war, the Governor abandoned his commitment to allow localities to restrict rezonings that would negatively impact the local transportation network — the top legislative priority of the PEC and other conservationists. Instead, Kaine committed his political capital to raising taxes for transportation. Just what the PEC and other conservationists have been longing for: New arterials and bypasses to open up the countryside to development. Yeah, right.

Second, and more germane, the PEC is asking the tough questions that few others willing to ask: What are the fiscal and transportation impacts of growth? Does it make sense for growth in the metropolitan Washington area to push ever outward — even when it leaves vast tracts of vacant and underutilized land closer to the metropolitan core? Is it not possible to devise human settlement patterns that are more efficient than the scattered, disconnected, low-density development that has characterized most growth for the past 50 years? These are reasonable questions.

If asking those questions makes the PEC environmental extremists, I guess that makes me an environmental extremist…. perhaps the most conservative “environmental extremist” on the planet.

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71 responses to “That Insidious Piedmont Environmental Council”

  1. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    PEC’s questions are, indeed, reasonable. But so are other questions that challenge PEC’s desire to see Fairfax County absorb significant growth through dense development at places such as Tysons Corner.

    Is it reasonable for residents of Fairfax County to suffer a continuous decline in the quality of life because development density will likely be added without the concomitant public facilities to support the growth? If, on the other hand, infrastructure is supplemented in Fairfax County to service, at least some of, the growth, who pays for the added infrastructure?

    Why are we spending at least $4 billion before cost overruns to build the Silver Line when it will not reduce traffic volumes? Would PEC support VDOT conducting a traffic study for Tysons similar to what was done for the development near Dulles Airport in Loudoun County? Who will pay for the inevitable cost overruns for the Silver Line? What’s in this for the average suburbanite living in Fairfax County?

    Why can’t we address some of the sprawl from Washington, D.C. by moving some good-paying jobs to places such as Warrenton and Culpeper? Why can’t we have sustainable mixed-use, urban density communities in those towns? Where does it say that Fairfax County is the only community that should accept density?

  2. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I’m sure the majority of PEC members are well meaning people. That doesn’t mean they understand the full effect of their activities.

    The mere fact that somebody is raising this issue suggests that PEC has over played its hand. Alienating people isn’t a good way to advance your cause, and there are plenty of people who think PEC is elitist. It is too bad that PRC members are being sterotyped as if they were one lump, but sterotypes don’t get that way for no reason.

    When land use advocates as far away as Michigan and California point out that one reason Fauquier has been so successful in land control is that they have a high proportion of wealthy people, what does that say? If you are seen as elitist, then whatever message you have about the greater public benefits is likely to be met with some disbelief, if not outright derision.

    When a public official and PEC supporter tells you to your face that his plan is to replace you with someone wealthy, then what conclusion will you come to? That this organization cares about the little guy? That they are working in your best interests?

    Over in Maryland there was another fire this week. The police have stated that it may be someone’s way of opposing development. Certainly, that is extremist, and no one is saying PEC is behind it, but item #2 in their Blueprint for a better region is “Oppose Projects that Pomote Sprawl”.

    At least PEC has been around long enough that you canunderstand where they are coming from, and what they are against. Figuring out what they are FOR, is a little harder. The only example I can think of is that they are for conservaion easements. But when I asked a PEC speaker when they thought they would have enough easements, from her expression, you would have thought I had slapped her in the face. “Well, I don’t know, but we don’t have nearly enough.”

    OK, but we don’t have enough affordable housing, either. I spoke to my brother last night, and one of the things he mentioned was that aftere decades of large lot restrictions and conservation efforts, his area has simply priced many people out. The home that I grew up in, I couldn’t afford to rent for a single day, now, let alone a vacation or live in. As a result, the area is now offering large lot owners incentives to construct affordable auxiliary homes on their lots.

    I don’t see any such suggestion coming out of PEC.

    I think Snow is wrong. They aren’t trying to take over state and local government: they want conservation land out of government control.

    Their blueprint for a better region says that we can accommodate a million more people by using just forty acres ate each metro stop. There are 83 metro stops.

    First, there is the problem of finding forty acres at each Metro stop. Their own graphic has an overlay that suggests how much stuff would have to be torn down to accomodate this plan. Plus another ten acres for job locations.

    Then there is another “little” problem. 40 acres times 83 stations is 3320 acres. Divided by a million that works out to 0.0033 acres per person: 144 sq ft per person. If you covered the entire location with a five story building, then you could give each average family 1600 sq feet of living space. That is without hallways or streets to give access and light to the interior units.

    I’d say that qualifies as extremist. And it assumes that all of your other needs can be met either within your metro station areas, or at onther area that looks preety much the same at some other metro station. It completely ignores the problem of random destinations and starting places.

    So, suppose that they are as much as 15% successful in this goal. What are you going to do with the other 850,000 people?

    This idea is especially extremist when you compare it to the thousands of acres they are willing to use for nothing. Forever. At someone else’s expense.

    I used to think PEC was a good thing, and I supported their ideas. Now I know better. I can’t give their ideas any more credibility or grant them any more sense of balace than I can the “Right Growth Policy Institute”.

    So far, they have managed to make an enemy out of at least me and Snow. PEC can grow by proseltyzing and converting people to their ideas. I think they will need better ideas that 145 sq ft per person. Or they can grow by being more inclusive and accepting of other peoples ideas, but I don’t see that happening: for PEC it seems to be our way and no highway.

    There is one thing though. I expect them to be arguing strongly for their property rights when it comes to fighting against he proposed new power lines. That should be entertaining to watch. Unfortunately, I can see already where this is headed. They will no doubt propose to re-route it along Route 66. Then I’ll have the highwaqy and the power line in my front yard.

    In the back yard, nothing. Ever. I think I’d say that expanding a little bit of control into eternity qualifies as insidious.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Oh my gawd.. HORRORS.

    we have PEC skulking around tryin to .. get this.. actually influence government on growth an development policy.. and for what.. reason.. dang.. what WAS THEIR REASON.

    Was the reason .. like .. money… you know like all the developers who skulk around trying to influence government so that they can build stuff that makes them big bucks.. and screw the infrastructure impacts?

    My gawd .. where is this country going when allow developers to actually be challenged have compeitition in selling ideas to government officials.

    Its…. well .. its just flat unAmerican it is.

    next issue please…

  4. David Weintraub Avatar
    David Weintraub

    This made me laugh out loud. People who disagree with Steve Snow’s simplistic approach to land use are “insidious” and “everywhere.” What does this mean, other than that his ideas are wildly unpopular?

    How dare people who disagree with him be everywhere.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    The microcosm of this is the Windsor Farms condo debate in Richmond.

    On the other hand, the one I tend to lead with, is the bigger picture of Louden development, which is the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

    Sprawl vs density- does it matter if the Bay dies in the end anyway?

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: TMT view – density as a strategy for land-use

    I’m not sure if TMT is questioning the “theory” (?) of utilizing density in an urbanizing
    area .. or PEC’s belief in and advocacy of it.

    With respect to developers… I’m not sure it matters to them as much as whether or not
    they think there might be a market for a particular type of house .. and of course whether
    or not the elected officials would be supportive of higher-density proposals.

    In the Fredericksburg Area – Density proposals causes the same agnst that troubles TMT but probably no more or less than other kinds of development… other than looking at the number of auto trip a day that will be generated and what those numbers will do to the Level of Service in the immediate area.

    Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania and other adjacent localities though have learned much by watching their northern neighbor jurisdicitions and a popular RANT that has even found it’s way onto bumper stickers is:

    “Don’t Fairfax Fredericskburg”

    In other words.. folks down here don’t look to Fairfax for guidance on how to do growth “Right”.

    Perhaps there IS a message there. 🙂

  7. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I think it is OK for developers to have competition selling their ideas to government. But PEC has made a career out of demonizing developers, why should they be surprised or offended if the same tactics are use by developers to demonize PEC?. If special interests azre OK, then all other special interests are OK, too, right?

    If PEC is going to ask the right questions, then they should really be the right questions, and not half thought out, loaded questions. And they had better have some answer that works out better than the 145 sg ft per person example, and a contingency plan in case that one doesn’t work out 100%.

    There is only so much pollution the Bay can absorb, and only so much waste we can extract from the water. Then we will still have to put it somewhere. Likewise there is only so much pollution and heat from the city that the air can absorb. But, what the heck, we can solve all our problems by putting the next million people on three thousand acres.

    How will we get the goods to them? After we do, where will we put the trash? Where will those goods be produced? What are the evacuation plans? Where will you put that big new power line for the electricty they will need?

    Do we want public benefits to include the sum of all the individual benefits, or just the benefits vetted by the sum of all the special interest groups?

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar

    If people who disagree with Snow are everywhere, then I suppose they must be living in all those houses that were built everywhwere. If everybody is opposed to him, then who is buying all the houses?

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I dunno here..

    I’m getting a whiff of double standard..

    For instance.. PEC has got to be rightgeous and they’ve got to be “right” or else they’re toast.

    Whereas.. the developers and land-speculators don’t have to have a vision and they are not responsible for the impacts of poor planning, inefficient growth and insufficient infrastructure.

    Developers and Land-speculators are allowed to do their thing.. it’s the American Way… while

    PEC.. is evil and corrupt if they even think about the same tactics that developers and land-speculators do…

    tsk tsk tsk.

    Could it be that .. like VDOT studying the impacts of 30K houses… that their message alone is unwanted .. and especially so .. if it get close to the truth of what is going on?

    Consider the Loudoun supervisor who accused VDOT of “nosing” into THEIR business .. like it was the BOS’s business alone and NOT the public business ….

    So .. they beat VDOT over the head for merely saying.. what.. ?? the truth?

    Is that what folks fear about PEC?

    That they might actually say something that reasonates with the public.. rather than developers and developer-friendly BOS ?

    Of course we know that our developer friends and their developer-friendly BOS have NEVER ever said anything to decieive the public so .. clearly if PEC even treads close to that line.. they need to be banned from further dialogue?

    Give me a break.. PLEASE!

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    oh lemme see..

    The PEC is wrong and evil… especially since they are not about money but about ideology.. you know.. .. in their heart .. they are “people haters”.

    Anyone who advocates stuffing people into small places.. and calling it “good” has to be evil…

    and so.. INSTEAD …

    we need to be listening to the developers and land-speculators for REAL solutions… AND especially because what they are about .. IS MONEY and besides .. they’ve been helping us for years with our land-use problems.


    From this.. I deduce:

    Wisdom: Never trust people who are not motivated by money.

    sorry folks.. I got carried away..

  11. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    Yeah, it is somewhat baffling to be lumped in as an environmentalist whacko because I support common sense (i.e. having adequate infrastructure in place prior to development). I never even heard of the PEC before 2005.

    It is similarly confusing to see my fellow Republican’s cheering on government spending and every conceivable tax hike. Things aren’t they way they used to be I suppose.

  12. Ray Hyde Avatar

    If I thought it was about supplying infrastructure, Tobias, I would agree with you. But Marshall has been in desperate need of a new water system for over 20 years. Still no water system.

    And, if we are going to pay for infrasturcture BEFORE development, then WE are going to pay 100% of the upfront costs for the new guys.

    Where is the common sense in that?

    As for a double standard, no. I insist on the same standard. When a developer wanted my land he showed up at the door with gifts and money. PEC just takes what they want and give nothing back. They leave me with the taxes, taxes they admit are more than I owe.

    When you ask PEC how much conservation is enough, no answer. I really would like to see it differently, but I cannot. When it comes to greed, PEC wins hands down.

    At least with developers, they will tell you what their motivation is, and how much they can afford. PEC is absolutely motivated by money, they just won’t admit it.

  13. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    You are all over the place as usual. I’m not sure what the public utilities in Marshall have to do with the Loudoun CPAM’s. And I do not now and never have supported the PEC as an organization.

    Why does it always have to be all or nothing? Either no restrictions on growth or we are all communists… What is wrong with making these CPAM’s or re-zoning applications contingent upon getting the road and improvements in place prior to the build-out? Or staged or phased development with certain requirements being met based measurable objective standards?

    You should be happy about those taxes no? You are pushing to get them raised no? My own VA delegate is a Democrat and he is getting blasted by Republican business interests for voting against raising taxes. What’s up with that?

  14. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I misunderstood you to mean that all infrastructure had to be in place prior to development

    If someone is going in for an upward rezoning, I think he should expect to pay for those additional rights. When major development is occurring the builder should expect to build more than just the homes: he is after all creating a whole new community. In that case I don’t see anything wrong with making agreements about how new roads, etc. will be done, when, and who will pay. In the case of the CPAMS it is a major upward rezoning and new costs will need to be incurred and covered.

    Likewise, if people want zoning reduced, then they should expect to pay the owners for the losses. Neither should they expect favors, new fees, etc. for “allowing” people to exercise already existing rights. Not unless you also want to back charge those new fees to those that previously exercised their rights for free.

    We require new neighborhoods to have sidewalks, which is an additional expense that makes the new homes more expensive. Come tax time, they will pay a higher share of taxes on account. But we don’t (often) require existing neighborhoods to retrofit sidewalks at their own up front expense.

    I don’t see that as being all over the place. Pay for what you get, keep what you have, same rules for everybody, seems fair to me.

    What I understood you to say was that the actual improvements had to be in place beforehand. This argument is usually made, just as was the case in Marshall, when there is no intention to actually make the improvements.

    It is a cynical argument sometimes used as a front to the real issue, which is to prevent or defer growth. Then, there is more time to come up with more restrictions, higher fees, another overlay etc. etc. Since there is no apparent end in sight, and no goal as to when enough is enough, it is this part that is insidious.

    Unlike with the CPAMS people in Marshall have land with building rights. But they cannot use them because the existing water system is in such poor condition. Here, people bought land with the promise and expectation that water would be provided. After thirty years, the end result will be that an entire new system will be built, mostly at the expense of the 1500 or so residences that are now in the pipeline.

    The existing 600 residences meanwhile, had at least bad and expensive water, but they also had all the benefits of delaying growth at no cost to themselves.

    For thirty years, everbody else got zip, nada. But they still had to pay their taxes. Now they are going to pay for their water supply, and a good chunk of everybody else’s, in exchange for the “privilege” of exercising rights they already had. That is bad faith bargaining.

    I don’t have any problem with restricting growth, at all. But, if we are restricting growth on someone else’s land in order that we can enjoy, say, less crowded roadways and fewer schools, then we are really renting that land for our own use and enjoyment. That should be paid for.

    Look at it this way. Suppose we had been smart enough to foresee our present circumstances. Suppose we had decided not to allow more than ten persons per gross acre, and that Reston was as bad as we would allow things to get. Then either the lots would be bigger or there would be tracts of common land. Either way we would have to pay more in order to live there.

    Instead, we allow the land to be sold under certain circumstances or allowances, and half of us act on those allowances. If we then change the allowances downward, well, that is a fraud. We have the right to change the rules, and also the obligation to do so fairly.

    So, you have an area that has 1000 homes and a hundred large lots each with ten building rights. Then you decide, one day, that the original plan was a mistake, and now you are only going to allow 1500 dwellings. How do you do that fairly? Take all 2000 building rights and have a lottery with 1500 winners. If your house is already built, too bad, you have to give it up (with compensation for the structure of course) to one of the winners. Or you can offer to buy his building right and keep your house.

    That is obviously crazy, but it is just as crazy to say to the hundred land owners, hey, your land is suddenly worth half as much as it was yesterday, and ours is worth more. Tough ta ta.

    If we are going to tally up the costs for every perceived effect on our quality of life for additional growth then we should also expect be equally diligent when things go the other way.

    Or, we can just be more tolerant. We can accept the fact that we already exercised and now enjoy our building rights. That they did not, in fact, come with a guarantee that nothing would ever change, that being first means being better or having more rights.

    Having said all that, I agree the CPAMS or the Tyson’s situation are a whole different kettle of fish. Here I admit to being all over the place: you have wholesale disruptions that will cause problems and expenses to those far from the source. You have huge new infrastructure inevestments, specifically designed to serve small areas. Maybe it can be justified and maybe not. Either way, I can’t even imagine that it could be done objectively.

    No. I don’t like more taxes any more than the next person. But, even if every home, every driver, and every Metro user paid his own full allocated costs, there still would be no money available for anything new. I’m not crazy enought to think we can accomodate another million people by alternative means that are free, no cost. I don’t think it is reasonable to think that 100% of costs for those new people is going to be borne by their builders. Particularly since most of us already here have been skating along for years, avoiding costs and deferring maintenance, like the people in Marshall.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, your argument appears to be that anyone claiming to be doing things “for the people” is above criticism.

    Some of the WORST policy recommendations I’ve ever seen are “for the people.”

    Instead of giving folks a pass b/c they claim benign motives, we need to subject them to the same scrutiny that we give everyone else.

    Meaning well (or even claiming to mean well) does not mean that one’s suggestions are necessarily good policy.

  16. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    Quite a reasonable presentation and I think we are much closer than you might think.

    I have been reading your arguments for several months now regarding “building rights” and I can’t say I have resolved this in my own mind. I understand the position but from a legal standpoint are there not grandfathering protections available? Do you have any recommended reading down this line?

    I am not convinced that the end goal of public policy should be fairness. Situations change over the years and by not allowing some “discrimination” based on time bad policy or law could never be amended. Life isn’t fair and particularly when the government is making the laws. I could go through an endless litany of situations that are unfair.

    I agree that all efforts should be made to make any changes as nearly acceptable to all parties as possible but to restrict any change unless and until 100% total fairness is achieved; well nothing would ever be done.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    I had the pleasure of dealing with PEC when I was working on a campaign (in Loudoun County) a few years ago.

    A few things jumped out at me….

    1) They refuse to compromise on many of their positions. Specifically, the Western Bypass…the best way to preserve the Historic Highway (rt. 15) is to build the bypass….they don’t see it that way.

    2) They have a “do it or else” mentality when it comes to dealing with politicians and getting their way.

    3) PEC, for the most part, is the “hunt-country elite.” Ask them and they will tell you that they want to preserve and protect a “way of life.”

    TMT makes very valid arguments in his firt post about Fairfax County being the scapegoat for regional growth….as does Ray in regards to PEC alienating people.

    For more info, check out this link to learn more about PEC,

  18. Ray Hyde Avatar

    If you want to see someone who is really hot about PEC see the posts numbered 46, 48, and 50 from Sally Mann at

    She ends up with this:

    “This is a quote from The Middleburg Mystique, a book by Vicky Moon, page 188. “The PEC officially notes that for several years it had been ‘working with other individuals and organizations as part of a much larger effort to protect the viewsheds, reduce traffic, and place more land in voluntary conservation easements.’ Among those involved has been the Ohrstrom Family. Now the second generation of this family is committeed to preserving the intergrity of the land. Their support is financial as well as philosophical, and their convictions are powerful. Chris Ohrstrom says the most meaningful way to safeguard the character of this territory is open space preservation. ‘That can be accomplished a number of ways’ he says in an email. ‘Adequate zoning, which will always be under fire. Scenic easements (browbeat your friends to do so.) And third, demographics tending toward extremely wealthy people who can afford large unused areas of land and nonperforming assets are helpful, though newly rich people tend to build vulgar and large houses.’ ”

    In large part we are fighting about demographics in this county.”

    I think PEC is trying to do the right things. But, I find the arguments they make unconvincing, and the plans they make unhelpful.

    They justify their uncompromising position(s) by saying that once it is gone, it is gone forever. That may be, but who gives them the right to decide what should be saved, forever? Maybe some time in the future our grandchildren decide they have other priorities than foxhunting.

    Maybe Ohrstrom is on to something when he say “adequate” zoning will always be under fire, but he hasn’t recognized what it is. So we have to ask, adequate for whom?

  19. Ray Hyde Avatar

    If you go to

    then take a look at slides 24 and 25. I think this is outright hysterically funny.

    44-46 are pretty humorous,

    90 and 91 would have you believe that you can quadruple local development and street traffic will stay the same. It is a purefantasy.

    Then, if you look at their numerous examples of good development you see that everyone of them consists of apartment type dwellings. Apparently it hasn’t occured to them that not everyone wants to, or can, exist that way.
    they do show one house located only a few blocks from Metro, what they don’t say is how much it costs.

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    Criticisms are justified. I don’t sign on to everything they advocate either.

    .. but as a voice… in the marketplace of ideas – they deserve no less no more than other voices .. and folks can judge them for themselves.

    re: “do gooders” with “people” motives (vs money).

    Yes.. agree – some of the “worst” outcomes are motivated to “help” people especially those related to “helping” them with “values” but that’s another story.

    but yes.. motives not based on money can and do end up horrible.. but money motives work pretty good that way also.

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: building infrastructure first

    Who said it needed to be built First?

    How about having it built at some point before the development is complete and the developer has moved on to other projects?

    Where are the CIPs and funding plans to bring the infrastructure online?

    I think most folks realize that it would be a huge financial burden to build ALL infrastucture FIRST

    What they’re asking is not to bring it on first – but to insure that it does get done at some point.

    That’s a far cry from wanting it done first.

  22. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I agree. The CPAM situation in dulles is a lot different from me building a single auxiliary home.

    But I think there is some cynicism in all of this, just as the Globe article described. We ask, where is the plan, when we know that no plan will be acceptable. No taxes are acceptable. No cost/benefit study is acceptable. Only our own value judgements are acceptable. Winner take all.

    Besides, how do you explain what has happened in Marshall for the last thirty years? Development was prevented because the water supply was bad and inadequate. The water supply situation was deliberately prevented from being fixed because it would result in development.

    There was no REAL reason the water supply could not have been fixed, earlier and cheaper. The proof is that they finally have a plan to fix it. And it will mostly be paid for by developers.

    I’m sure they would have gladly paid sooner, and pocketed their profits sooner. I’m sure their customers would have gladly bought sooner and gained their appreciation sooner.

    And, if they had, I’m sure they would now be members of PEC advocating against further development.

  23. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “no plan will be acceptable. No taxes are acceptable. No cost/benefit study is acceptable. Only our own value judgements are acceptable. Winner take all.”

    No True Ray.

    Just do the plan. If you’re gonna build 30K homes – put the plan on paper.

    This is what is wrong with our current Comp Plan Process.

    Localities will designate huge swaths of land for development then then don’t follow up with an infrastructure plan to serve that development.

    Get the plan down – get the CIP and funding plans down – on paper.

    This is EXACTLY the way that water/sewer DOES work in most localities.

    I’ll comment on Marshall in my next post – so as to keep this post short(er).


  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Besides, how do you explain what has happened in Marshall for the last thirty years? Development was prevented because the water supply was bad and inadequate. The water supply situation was deliberately prevented from being fixed because it would result in development.”

    This is back to where a local jurisdiction CHOOSES to designate an area for future growth … OR .. .NOT.

    And this is where we get into discussions of WHO does influence decisions about WHERE to put new/expanded water/sewer and the designated land-use – because if water/sewer is expanded then ultimately what this means is more development that needs infrastructure.

    You seem to believe that it’s wrong for a locality to CHOOSE to not set in motion .. actions .. that will ultimately end up with a need to build supporting infrastrucutre… that .. in essence… Marshall cannot be allowed to say NO to development and subsequent infrastructure demands – which it knows… because of the way the law in Virginia is written – that the costs of that infrastructure do not have to be paid for by the developers nor the buyers of their development.

    When we have laws and procedures in Virginia that REQUIRE localities to do the CPAM in their Comp Plans – then we’ll see clearly the infrastructure demands incurred by designating land for development and we’ll see CIPs for the infrastructure and we’ll see funding plans for them.

    And what we’ll see – is that funding plans will consists of Bonds that have to be paid back and that unless other arrangements are made such as CDAs, or HOAs, that the bonds will have to be serviced via tax increases.

    Then .. we can put a number on the infrastructure consequences of development – and have a reasonable discussion of WHO will pay – and again – I strongly favor a model very similiar to the water/sewer model – where each person pays an availability fee for the capital facilities addition to periodic operational fees.

    If this were done Ray – many of the forces aligned against development would subside because the opposition comes from people not against growth per se but against growth that results in crowded roads and schools, etc.

    In other words.. growth without infrastructure plans.

    What you’re seeing with PEC is going to SPREAD if something intelligent is NOT done about infrastructure.

  25. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Win-Lose on development is the Virginia Way! Granted some counties, e.g., Prince William, Loudoun, Stafford, Arlington, Spotsylvania, have taken some steps to balance interests between who wins an who loses. Fauquier appears to have sold its soul to a few who can afford to live on big tracts, while Fairfax continues to provide taxpayer subsidies to any developer who will grease the palms of the BoS.

    Sorry, Mr. Bacon, but this state could use a helluva lot of improvement on the fairness side. The events of the last few years have decreased the likelihood that I’ll want to retire here.

    PEC is no worse than a lot of other groups. The road-building crowd is not very good at compromise either. Tomorrow night I’m going to a meeting where I’ll hear from a local businessman, who is knowingly or unknowingly carry water for West Group, et al., in an attempt to persuade the community to pay more for a tunnel through Tysons to enrich a few at the expense of many. I have a few tough questions to ask, so the speaker may well spill a bit of water.

    Adoption of APFOs and fair, cost-based impact fees that could not be twisted by elected officials seeking to enrich their war chests would go a long way to creating balance. If infrastructure issues, including the financial aspects, were addressed before new development began, we’d go a long way to ending the hostility. We’d see fewer things being built, but more fairness in the process. The Fauquiers and Fairfaxes would be harder pressed to continue their ways.

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “If infrastructure issues, including the financial aspects, were addressed before new development began, we’d go a long way to ending the hostility.”

    This IS .. .THE issue.

    Most folks simply do not care if 500,000, one million, ten million people live in this Region.

    They are not against Population Growth nor are they fundamentally opposed to the right of property owners to develop their land.

    What they DO care about is the quality and service of schools, roads, and other infrastructure that assures a quality of life that makes this a place where people want to live, work and play.

    What Facquier proves to everyone is that if you are wealthy enough that you could use that wealth and power to serve your own self-interests – regardless of how that might impact others.

    Now think twice about the above statement – … Now apply that same statement to others… outside of Facquier

    Ray has a problem with the way powerful folk dictate life in Facquier. Others, outside of Facquier have the same problem but in the opposite way. People whose motivation is wealth and money – can – in concert with elected officials of like minds – can and do routinely approve development that does not pay it’s own way.

    Facquier found a way to defeat this … in their county … and Ray thinks it unfair.

    Other’s outside of Facquier think the status-quo development process in Va is just as unfair.

    and it is.

    The Transportation “Crisis” is a smokescreen plain and simple – for the development industry.

    All the pro-road folks need to do – is put a number on the costs. Tell us how much the gas tax will have to go up to pay for all of those projects that must be built or we’ll be gridlocked forever.

    Is it 25 cents a gallon? Is it 50 cents a gallon? We KNOW what the backlog is – it’s 100 Billion. Now, give us a number on what it will take to build that 100 billion worth of projects.

    This is a very simple calculation folks. Why are we NOT being provided with that info – up front?

  27. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Yes, but Marshall was a designated service district, where growth was supposed to occur. And, just as you said “Localities will designate huge swaths of land for development then then don’t follow up with an infrastructure plan to serve that development.”

    It is fundamentally dishonest. They didn’t want the growth, even where it was designated to occur. It isn’t about infrastructure, or costs. In Marshall, the costs would have been small thirty years ago and they could hae been spread out over thirty years. Because of the delays the costs will be higher and the impacts more sudden, dramatic, and more highly disliked.

    It didn’t have to be this way.

    I disagree with you. I believe that many people do not want growth, ever, whether the growth costs them money or not. The comp plan process itself is part and parcel of this desire. It is a 20 year plan designed to keep large areas out of play, never mind the cost or circumstances of those that live there. One of the BOS goals is to find a way to make the comprehensive plan even less amendable.

    The reason peple don’t want growth is that people DO care about the quality and service of schools, roads, and other infrastructure that assures a quality of life that makes this a place where people want to live, work and play. They know that more density tends to degrade those qualities. So what does PEC do? Promote more density.

    I think the Globe statement hit the nail on the head: the reason we have the situation we do is because it is self serving. I don’t think that any road plan or any road funding plan will be aceptable, precisely because of the take no hostages, no compormise, attitudes of the anti-road forces. Just look at the dozens of roads that have been in the plans for decades.

    The roads, infrastructure, and costs arguments are a smokescreen of false, overblown and mistated arguments to cover up the fact that none of us since Davy Crockett have ever wanted to see the smoke from our neighbors cabin.

    These are arguments like you stated, new development doesn’t pay its own way. So what? Old development doesn’t pay its own way either, apparently. The official Fauquier argument is that every home would need to be valued at $710,000 in order to pay its own way. The average home (at that time) was only $260,000. If that is true, then obviously our tax structure is far out of kilter, but I don’t hear anyone arguing that we need to raise taxes, or fix that problem. Instead they use it cynically as an argument against growth.

    We are selfish. Why not admit it?

    If people are not fundamentally opposed to growth, then why are there more than 13,000 jurisdictions across the country with some kind of growth control ordinances. Where is there an APFO that requires that facilities be provided when a certain demand level is met? Where are the exceptions for growth where no facilities are provided anyway?

    I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. The $710,000 argument is obviously wrong, because at the end of the year all the bills do get paid. The sources of the funds may be deliberately out of kilter, if so, then we need to fix that, and THEN we can, maybe, get a handle on who is actually being charged unfairly.

    I don’t believe that farms pay 3X what they cost, and I don’t believe that I’m saving the county $28,000 a year for every home I don’t build (which is exactly one). I think those are outright lies and distortions.

    But, given that they are the official line (and commonly repeated inother areas) I’m willing to take them at face value and ask the question.

    If you really want to save the farms, then why tax them at 3X? If I am really saving you from spending $28,000 a year, isn’t that a valuable service in addition to the 3X I pay? Shouldn’t there be some modest payment to me for saving you that much money, particularly since it is against my will?

    I have watched this too long in too many places. It has nothing, or very little to do with infrastructure or the costs thereof. Someday, some developer is going to call the bluff. They will say OK, we will provide anything you want, fix all the roads, build a new sewer plant, new schools, fire station, power plant, and transmission lines. We’ll provide offsetting easements and build or replace wetlands in other places, whatever it takes to get unrestricted building rights for this property. And the answer will still be NO.

    It isn’t infrastructure, it has to do with greed and power, never mind what is right, ethical, or fair.

  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – if you took a poll of people in the NoVa area and asked them how many people actuall live here… they couldn’t tell you.

    But ask them if there is too many people and most will say yes.

    Ask them WHY they think it is too many and it won’t have anything to do with a specific population.. but everything to do with cars, traffic, congested, crowded schools

    People do not care how many people actually live here.

    They DO care about the living conditions.

    If you allow development to proceed without insuring that adequate infrastructure is brought online – then people will rise up in arms against the most obvious culprit – growth.

    Look at Loudoun. It’s not about the 30K houses… it’s about the IMPACT of the 30K houses.

    It’s about the cost of the infrastructure that will serve those homes and who will pay for it and/or what will happen if that infrastructure is not built but the houses are.

  29. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I don’t hear anybody in Loudoun proposing to raise taxes in order that Loudoun can buy the property and avoid the IMPACT of the growth.

    What they want to do is expropriate the property, one way or another, so that they can enjoy the benefits of no growth without having to pay the price they would have had to pay for larger lots.

    It is stealing, Larry, stealing.

  30. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I just got the latest copy of the Chesapeake Bay Journal. The lead story is about the value of the Bay Area forest lands and their value.

    The article notes that the Bay forest provide goods for a $22 billion dollar forest products industry, and $24 billion in “ecological services”, ” -for free.”

    It is not free.

    Anyway, the sidebar lists 16 measures to “save” the Bays forests. Some of them are meaningless fluff, like the first one “Protect the Bays exceptional forest resources – on a landscape scale – after identifying, conserving, and restoring forests that have high environmental, economic, and social values.”

    I defy anyone to tell me what that means and what it might cost. If it is an exceptional forest resource, with all those values, why does it need to be restored? Maybe I just have a warped sense of humour, but this kind of thing just makes me laugh.

    But then I got down to number 7: “Recognize the public benefits of private forest by compensating landowners with funding and other incentives to sustainably manage their forests to benefit the Bay watershed.”

    At last, someone is listening.

    But then down in #11, they threaten to take it all away: “Maximize watershed benefits by ensuring that forest buffer more than 70% of riparian areas in a watershed through a combination of incentives and regulation.”

    What’s a riparian area? Is it a hundred feet from a dry streambed or four hundred feet? What is the incentive, and what is the regulation? Is it different if you are a hundred miles upstream? ]

    PEC does not have a lock on insidious.

    But, at least there is some hope, if you can wasde through the doublespeak or newspeak. #4 “Protect large tracts of forest land by enhancing the viability of the forest products industry.” Does that mean my eight HP sawmill will no longer be illegal? How do you protect large tracts by making it more profitable to cut it down?

    However, at least they are identifying and paying lip service to ideas that I can conceptually support. #14 “Bring ecological services into the marketplace by establishing forest mitigation and trading systems and a registry to facilitate these transactions.”

    Why stop at forest transactions? Why not all green infrastructure provision?

    How do such markets exist, and where does the value come from? Well, essentially they exist because of regulations, and the market is a way to buy your way out from under.

    The mere fact that someone besides me is suggesting this indicates that what I have been saying all along is true. The public benefits of regulation need to be paid for in permanent cash flows to those that are regulated.

    If I am a power plant and I incur costs from emissions regulation, I add those costs to my fees. I get a permanent cash flow from those who benefit from cleaner air, as long as they buy my product.

    But, if I am regulated into providing open space, then I have nothing to sell, and no cash flow with which to support my “plant.”

  31. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    The current zoning in the transition area of Loudoun County would allow approximately 4608 new housing units. The CPAM’s under debate would increase density to allow 33,821 new housing units. This is in an area which everyone concedes has inadequate roads, public services and is already in traffic gridlock.

    I don’t think many people would agree that it is stealing to not allow a 700% increase in density.

    I get a permanent cash flow from those who benefit from cleaner air

    i.e. I have to pay you not to pollute. Do you have a fundamental right to pollute? To harm and injure other people?

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    I enjoy Ray’s commentary as I am a native Fauquier sort who grew up on a working farm (actually we were here a century and a half before the current iron and steele descendents who now make decisions) and we now see that farm’s development limited. An effective immediate devaluation has occurred–and we are not the wealthy here–although most of the electorate who live on less than 5 acres would think so.

    What has happened in Fauquier does raise fundamental questions of fairness versus preservation. Both are valuable; when does one person’s property rights and assets lose to the public park mandate? The dividing line is not clear; meanwhile the county has happily zoned lots of expensive McMansions around Warreton which are extremely ugly. (Risse lives in one of the new subdivisions.)

    Land use fairness in regard to property rights is one question in this blog; that of environmental viability is another. It is not clear whether agriculture, celebrated in Fauquier and protected in its land use policies, pollutes more than homeowners, but there is the distinct possibility.

    The two questions are logically separate, but the political debate too often conjoins them. This hurts the potential for solid answer on any side.

  33. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Thank you.

    Ashby Glen is a Virginia Century Farm, certifed by the state as having been in business continually since 1836.

    At that time, the farm was subdivided from even larger family holdings that date back to the original land grants. We still own a surveying instrument built by Goldsmith Chambliss for Thomas Ashby in the 1700’s, and according to family history, used by the GW surveying parties at that time.

    I think you could fairly say that subdivision is one thing that has kept the farm in business: certainly agriculture hasn’t.

    I have old photos of the farm showing farm activities, and laborers, many of them. I have the old ledgers showing farm income and expenses, and a table where a dozen could sit, and the old implements and tools they used.

    I am the last of the Mohican’s, surrounded by ghosts from the Blue Ridge and Piedmont. Studying their lives and comparing them to what is happening today, it is little wonder how we arrived where we are.

    Strangely enough, and apropos to this Blog, part of the farms continued existence owes itself to the fact that my wifes father was once proprietor of what is now the oldest continuously operating Ford dealership in the nation. Who would have thought that cars could save a farm.

    I could, by right, turn this place into a number of McMansions. (Maybe I could sell one to Ed.) So far I have resisted that because I think it is suboptimal, it would mean the sudden end of the farm, and it is not what I want to do.

    However, it is all that I am ALLOWED to do. It would not surprise me in the least to see those few remaining “rights” be further restricted as time goes on. In fact, but for land use rules previously imposed, the farm would be larger than it is today.

    If, instead, I build one modest house every ten or twenty years, half the farm will still be here a hundred years from now. By then, agriculture might have changed enough that it would actually make money.

    Hope springs eternal, for farmers, even newbies, like myself.

    My supervisor has told me, that he would prefer the 50-acre lot McMansions. Apparently that is the case, as you have described.

    It makes me want to vomit, even though I could make a fortune; even buy another, larger farm elsewhere. With enough capital left over to operate it, at least until the money runs out.

    Several of my neighbors, acquaintances, and customers, have bought their 50-acre lots by selling a one acre lot in Fairfax. I don’t begrudge them, not even a little bit.

    What the county has yet to understand, is that it is one thing to celebrate our agricultural heritage, and it is another to support it.

    I will say this: the county played a hand in getting a local slaughterhouse opened. This was an important event, and I hope the business makes a go of it. They may have to offer Halal meats to do it, but as far as I’m concerned,that’s OK.

    The county could do a lot more. But, of course , those that want ot preserve open space, agricultural heritage, and environmental sanity, would have to help support it.

    In my travels, I see farms that are operated in a way that is offensive to me. Yet the county has two full time employees whose task is to ensure that developers have the proper runoff controls in place.

  34. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Tobias, we’ve been around on this before. I agree with you: when someone askes for a zoning increase, particularly of this magnitude, then they should expect to pay. We don’t disagree on this.

    Likewise, when a zoning decrease is mandated, then the county should expect to pay.

    Now, what about someone who neither wants an increase or decrease, but decides to build, “by -right”. Should he have to provide proffers for increased infrastructure, too? Or is it reasonable for him, as a long time resident to expect to be able to cash in on payments previously made? In other words, should taxes cover only maintenance of services, or should we expect that SOME level of growth is built in, just as we budget for an new car, not just maintenance on the old one?

    What should that level be?

    No, the power plants do not have a fundamental right to pollute, but not polluting is a cost to them, and if we expect to have electricity we WILL pay them enough to cover those costs, and we will pay them on a continuing basis so long as we have electricity and laws against pollution. Clean air is not free. You absolutely pay the power plant not to pollute. You get a benefit, and you pay for it.

    OK, so next you have an ordinance that prevents me from polluting the farm with houses. Only you are not buying anything from me, there is no electricity in producing nothing. I get no cash flow to provide what it takes to prevent that (house) pollution. You get the benefit, and I get nothing but the expense. Pretty soon I go out of the farm business, just as the electric company would without payments.

    But if you think it is free, think again. Your house or your rent is much more expensive as a result, even though I get nothing out of it.

    In economics, it is called a Pigouvian externality. It is where your actions cause an external cost to someone who is not a perty to your decision.

    In this case, Fauquier BOS says I can’t build. This is repeated multiple times in many juridictions.

    Eventually that causes an increase in prices outside of Fauquier, and a backlog in demand that has to be met by huge developments like the Loudoun CPAM.

    Go pick up a textbook on environmental economics. What you will find is that a clean environment is not free, in fact, it is a benefit only the wealthy can afford. That is why my supervisor wants someone wealthy to buy the farm, and it is why that result will increase your cost of living.

    Don’t get confused and pick up a book on ecological economics. Environmental economics tells you what it costs in cash to have a clean environment. Ecological economics telss you what happens if you don’t have the cash.

  35. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Then, if you haven’t had enough on zoning law, see what Rick Sincere has to say about how zoning laws and other regulations can be used to disfavor certain individuals and groups for reasons unrelated to merit.

  36. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I acknowledge that “rightness” of Ray’s expectations that each and every owner of land be treated equitably and fairly and I further agree that inconsistent policies that result in inequitable treatment can and do result in further changes that end up being dysfunctional.

    But I do question the nature of what is a “right” and what is “fair”.

    Property owners do not have an inherent “Right” to a rezone nor access to water/sewer or a variety of other things that could conceivably enhance the value of their property no more than owners of stocks/bonds should expect any and all actions whether government or market – to enhance the value of their holdings and as we all know – actions can not only increase – but decrease the value of your holdings.

    Investment in anything… is not an endeavor guaranteed to produce success.

    Here’s a question. What about the “rights” of those that did not get water/sewer or higher density designations? Weren’t they treated, according to Ray’s concepts, “unfairly”? Didn’t they receive something others did not?

    That tells me that folks do not have inherent “rights” along these lines and that govt instead holds those rights.

    For instance, the government can approve a drug – which might provide a bonanza to existing stock holders.

    But the government can then decide to ban a previously-approved drug and using Ray’s logic – at that point his “rights” have been taken away because the government has taken an action that results in a loss to him.

    I think there is no doubt that the government has the right to designate and re-designate land-uses according to their determination of the needs of the community.

    Even in Virginia where landowners “rights” are strong.. am I wrong about the government’s “right” with respect to designation of land-uses – rezones,upzones AND downzones?

    I know the government can take all or part of your land… with the only justification being “public need”. That can’t be fair either – right?

    The government can also tell you that you cannot do things on your property that result in harm to the general public ; in other words – your “right” to pollute is limited AND.. can be further restricted if it is determined that such harm on a cumulative and aggregate basis is sufficient to warrant such restrictions – e.g. Chesapeake Bay Act.

    That’s not fair either especially if the land you own has more affected land than others with the same amount of gross acerage.

    So.. “fairness” and “rights” … I know what Ray is asserting and I agree that “life is not fair” on a lot of levels including owners of land (and stock) but I’m not quite sure that what Ray is asserting … is more than what ought to be “fair”… as opposed to a irrevokable “right”. I would think.. by now.. there would have been PLENTY of opportunties for landowners to fully pursue these issues legally in Virginia.

  37. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    “we’ve been around on this before. I agree with you: when someone askes for a zoning increase, particularly of this magnitude, then they should expect to pay.”

    Ray, my problem is that Gerry Connolly and his colleagues generally disagree with this principle and, as a result, the existing residents of Fairfax County pay doubling — first, by suffering with inadequate facilities; and second, by paying higher taxes. I just received a copy of Fairfax County’s new target proffer for schools. While it’s higher than the previous target, it does not include any costs for land. FCPS will never need to acquire another parcel of land for schools and, if it ever did, the land would be free!

    On the other hand, my school board representative tells me that, despite a flat overall enrollment, there’s plenty of growth in the western and southern sections of the county. She’s right. But all of these new schools will be built on free land, according to Fairfax County.

    We live on different planets.

  38. Ray Hyde Avatar

    That’s right, TMT. Fairfax is exporting the costs for housing, and they are exporting the costs for open space and watershed presevation they need, as well.

    What’s that we keep saying here about paying for what you get? Even if Fairfax gets no growth, and that cost is shifted to Loudoun, it is a benefit to Fairfax that ought to be paid for.

    See my post on reverse auctions as a method of payment.

  39. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I’m not talking about a right to rezone. I’m talking about previously existing and previously documented “by-right” development that subsequently disappeared. And it only disappeared for those that held large tracts. The county made written promises that they reneged on. As far as I’m concerned, the abrogated a contract. It is wrong, and it is discriminatory. This activity may be supported by the majority, but it still isn’t right.

    The stocks Argument does not apply. there is an obvious difference from doing something that increases the cost of doing business and eliminating the right to do business. The government may and does take action that affects my stocks but, so far, they have not come and actually taken the stocks: said you don’t have them anymore.

    If the government raises the cost of pollution control for Dominion power, Dominion is still in business and the cost is passed on back to the consumers who benefit from cleaner air. That may also reduce Dominions profit margin, and thus the value of my stock. But I still have the stock, I still have elctricity, and I have cleaner air, which I pay for.

  40. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – you still have the land .. just as you still have the stock.

    The stock you continue to own even if it is rendered worthless by market conditions or government action.

    No one has taken that stock away from you.

    It’s the same deal with land. You own it. You have title to it. The VALUE of it might well be affected by market conditions and/or government actions.

    but at the end of the day – they haven’t “taken” your land anymore than they have “taken” your stock which may well be worthless because of something the government did that made it worthless.

    I agree – this is not fair.

    Life is not fair.

    The market nor the government can or should guarantee to you that every outcome is going to be fair or equitable.

    I’m not arguing that it is okay to take actions to inhibit your ability to use your land .. or sell it…

    I’m only pointing out that this is not a dead-on black and white issue that is so clear cut that 90% of folks agree.

    Ten years ago I could subdivide my 5 acre lot. 5 years ago – they passed a rule that said I can no longer do that.

    Am I happy about that? Of course not.
    Did they take away my rights?

    Well.. it looks like they did .. and it looks like to me that they had the legal right to do so.

    That’s sort of like raising your taxes and you don’t get anything more for it… right?

    What I DO think is that the infrastructure/quality of life issue is so important to so many people that they are willing to agree to restrictions on land as a response.

    This is a bullet that landowners concerned about their rights – cannot dodge.

    Either get in the game… to deal with the fundamental forces that motivate land restrictions… or stand on the sidelines …. and watch it happen.

  41. tobias jodter Avatar
    tobias jodter

    Ray – I love the story about your farm. I fully understand where you are coming from. I spent the first 21 years of my life on a 110-acre 60-Holstein dairy farm. My ancestors immigrated from Switzerland in 1742 and I am the first generation that is not a farmer. My father broke off small lots 4 times before he retired and sold the farm – once for the money, twice for family members and the last time for his retirement house. And yes, I do think he should have been allowed to do so…

    I guess Fauquier and Fairfax/Loudoun are completely different worlds and I read your comments about Fauquier and think you are applying it to Fairfax/Loudoun.

    It would seem that part of the problem is a lack of a regional planning authority. Take the comments of Supervisor Snow last week: [Snow] also said he’s not concerned with the thoughts of neighboring jurisdictions, which he said are failing to address the needs of their constituents. “I don’t care about the citizens of Fairfax…”

  42. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    TJ – It does not bother me that Supervisor Snow does not care about my best interests as a resident of Fairfax County. What bothers me is that Gerry Connolly and his colleagues don’t care about my best interests as a resident of Fairfax County.

    I suspect that they don’t see it that way. Rather, at worst, they would admit, under severe pressure that Senator McCain wouldn’t like that, they put the interests of campaign contributors above the average citizen in Fairfax County. Why else would they ignore infrastructure issues most of the time; engage in sweetheart deals with landowners, when they actually look at public facilities; and then castigate the General Assembly?

  43. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    Well, it does bother me because I work in Loudoun County and live only a few miles from the border.

    The Fairfax BOS seems to think that the sole purpose of their existance is to facilitate development. Or as I have said elsewhere – to increase revenues.

  44. Ray Hyde Avatar

    We are not talking about the land, Larry, we are talking about previously promised building rights, which are valuable property in and of themselves, with or without the land. We know they are valuable because they can (now) be bought and sold, or given away as gifts.

    In this case the actual stock has been taken away: whether or not the building rights or the stock have any value is moot, because I no longer have them.

    It is your analogy, Larry, get with the program. This analogy doesn’t fit, and you can’t make it fit.

    You still have your five acres, but you don’t have the building right, or the subdivision right. Both of those were previously part of the bundle of sticks that represented your property. They were part of what you paid for, and if the County was doing its job, which is protecting people and property, they would have recorded and circumscibed those rights along with the deed that circumscribed the boundary lines of the physical property.

    As a guess, I’d say that reduced your net worth by $50k to 100k, whether you ever had any intention to use it or not. If you had borrowed money against the land based on its potential, the bank might call in your note.

    No doubt that the county did that legally, and no doubt they had the support of many other people who are more concerned about their quality of life than they are about your property.

    If you think that makes what they did right or ethical, then I just feel sorry for you. Since your property is worth less, I hope you got your assessment lowered and pay less taxes.

    I suspect that, someday, people will find out that what they have done affects their rights and their well-being, too. Then we will find out what the fundamental forces really are.

    Even if the county had done its job properly, and recorded all of your property at the time of sale, people could still enact rules for more land restriction, but they would have trade part of the unearned increase in value of their property for the decrease in value of your property.

    You can buy debentures, which are bonds. These give you the right to collect benefits (interest) from the company now, and include the right to convert them to stock later. If you bought a debenture, that right to future conversion would be recorded. Now suppose the stock price soars. The other stockholders are aware that conversions amount to issuing more stock, which dilutes their holdings, so they petition the government to pass a bill that makes debentures illegal, no more conversions are allowed.

    Well, when you bought the debenture you paid a premium, over and above what you could have bought the bond for. Just as when you bought your property, you could have bought a house on ten acres that was not subdividable, and paid less for it than you did for your house with ten acres and a potential conversion.

    Your argument is that what the other stockholders did was legal and therefor it was OK. And after all, you stll have the bond portion of your debenture.

    Nonsense. No competent legislature on the planet would allow such a thing to happen, because it is wrong. There is your stock analogy.

    Suppose you bought a car with air conditioning. Then the anti-car zealots decide, “Here is how we will get a public benefit by having more people take Metro: we will confiscate all the air conditioners and let them swelter in the sun. They won’t be able to complain, because they still have their cars, right?”

    And just because a vote was taken, you would be OK with that?

    Probably, the air conditioner was not recorded with the car’s title, so if it suddenly disappeared one day, you would have no proof you ever paid for it. Same deal with your subdivision rght. The zealots would make a chimeral argument: the law says we have to pay for property if we take it for public use. Since we are not using the air conditioners, we don’t have to pay for them.

    Well, the public isn’t using your land or your car, either, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have to pay for the damage.

    I’m not a stockbroker, or a land lawyer, or a diamond cutter but this is pretty clear cut to me. If it is not clear cut to everybody else, it will be when they find out that THEIR diamond in the rough was just declared to be a lump of coal.

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m the same anonymous who posted earlier; in reading the subsequent postings, I have to add that Fauquier’s zoning is, in my opinion, not fair in that it doesn’t seem to be consistently applied to all applicants. Until recently, the zoning code was riddled with contradictions to support Ray’s supervisor’s beliefs that inconsistency in zoning application would support an overall legal strategy focused on decisions based on unique circumstances.

    I.e., consistency is to be found in inconsistency….

    So some get lots; others don’t.

    Navigating the planning office then becomes something of a mephisto waltz, a designed one.

    This troubles me more than the zoning restrictions. Even if government zoning decisions may be unfair, the application of those decisions shouldn’t be inconsistent.

    Perhaps other counties are the same.

    But, Ray, cheer up! Remember, King John (an ancester of mine!) was forced to sign the Magna Carta! Who knows what will happen to feudal Fauquier…

    We just may not be alive to see it.

  46. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think what all of this boils down to

    In closing – here is an example of what I am talking about.

    “Probably, the air conditioner was not recorded with the car’s title, so if it suddenly disappeared one day, you would have no proof you ever paid for it.”

    No .. but if it was determined that the gas in the air conditioner was harmful to the public interest – they could FORCE you to switch to a different gas – AT YOUR COST.

    Guess what? This is EXACTLY what has happened.

    A few years ago, I took my 89 Ford Van in to “recharge” the AC – something I thought would cost $50 bucks or so.

    I was informed that it would cost a couple of hundred dollars because it would need a “government-required” refit for a more “environmentally friendly” gas.

    Were my “rights” violated or taken away? Was it my fault that I owned a car that no longer met the rules?
    Should I be financially responsible for the new rules?

    You argument: “this is not fair to me”

    My argument: “the public’s right to fairness supersedes yours and mine”.

    Under your argument – the government had no right to make me incur the cost associated with a change.

    Under my argument – they do.

    If the public believes that land is allowed to be developed without sufficient infrastructure – they will support laws, regs, rules, etc – no matter how arbitrary or unfair – to not allow development they feel that in doing so – their quality of life will be adversely affected.

    To them – this is the fairness issue – not your individual circumstance.

    I’m not arguing the right or wrong of this.

    I’m asserting the realities.

    There’s a LOT I don’t think is fair or “right” and I feel that it directly affects MY pocketbook.

    I do NOT like paying higher gas taxes to help people move 100 miles away and drive everyday at rush hour.

    To me – this is a fairness issue also.

  47. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I don’t know which is worse, the fact that your government stole from you, or the fact that they brainwashed you into thinking it is OK.

    Nobody is claiming that real safety issues shoudn’t be addressed. But it is also true that safety and environmental issues are sometimes trumped up for some other actual purpose or agenda.

    In your air conditioner example, everyone who chooses to have an air conditioner faces the same problem. Whether it is an existing one or a new one. If it was analogous to the land use situation, we would just prohibit new air conditioners and allow the old ones to still use the cheaper freon.

    You can chase your circular arguments around all you like, and pick on the little nits and take the arguments out of context to suit your notions. If your mind is made up, I’ll never confuse you with facts. It is hard to bargain with someone who refuses to negotiate.

    But in the end, mob rule is wrong, even if you call it democracy. Stealing is wrong, even if you only steal a little bit. Discrimination is wrong, and the government has an obligation to protect the minorities. Government’s first job is to protect people and property, if we don’t have that, then we don’t need government or the rule of law: we can steal what we want without the expense of supporting governemtn to do it for us.

    Government is going to be around for a long time, and they can afford to take the long view of things. It is their job to smooth out the bumps in popular prejudices through the rule of law. But, as anonymous points out, this may take such a long time we won’t be alive to enjoy our rights. In that case they have been borrowed for such a long time they are worth just as little as if they had been stolen outright.

    There is the story of the classified bobmbsite, and the quick release button on socket wrenches. The inventors sued for thirty years and collected a fortune just before they died. Then there is Ken Lay, who stole many fotunes, and got off scott free because he died.

    There is a difference between fair and unfair, and right and wrong. That is where I refuse to negotiate. I will never agree that what the counties did to you and I is right. But I might be willing to negotiate a situation that is a little less unfair.

  48. tobias jodter Avatar
    tobias jodter

    Folks who hold these absolutist positions regarding property rights would go a much longer way in convincing me you really believe them if:

    a) they didn’t also support government outright seizure of private property through eminent domain.

    b) they didn’t also support bigger government in the form of higher and higher taxes (which I myself view as a form of organized theft).

  49. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Well, nobody likes their property taken, even if they are paid for it. But eminent domain has a long history, even predating the constitution. At least with eminent domain you can see that the property is for public use (school, road, jail) and ostensibly you get paid something near a fair price for it.

    The new eminent domain, where the only public use is to turn it over to another private entitiy who will pay higher taxes is very recent. In turn, it is an outgrowth of the more insidious kinds of eminent domain in which the property is taken, yet not taken, and not paid for. These laws themselves are recent, and an outgrowth or extension of zoning which only started in 1912.

    So, I’m not sure from your question which eminent domain and which zealots you refer to.

    I think part of my argument has to do with yanking the rug out.

    Anyone who buys property knows (because the laws are ancient)that there is a small likliehood that it will suddenly be needed for some unforseen government construction, in which case you will be paid at least something for the property, even if you don’t think the amount is fair. So at some level there is a risk that you take. The constitution requires that the risk be minimal.

    There have been cases where true eminet domain was used vciously or worked unfairly, but it isn’t suppposed to be that way.

    But most people don’t understand that their property can suddenly become worthless if some woodpecker moves in.

    Surely God would expect those made in His image to do everything in their power not to wipe out any of his other images. And even if you are not religious, endangered gene pools are a critical resource that should be in everyone’s interest to protect.

    But that means everyone, not just the poor slob that owns the land.

    By extension, any regulation that creates a newly required public benefit, ought to be shared by the public, and not foisted on the landowner who happens to be last in line.

    Today I had a conversation with a man whose house was 40 feet from the street. Then the street was widened so he was 20 feet back, which was the regulation for set backs. No problem so far.

    Then the setback was increased to 40 feet.

    He wanted to put an addition on his house such that the addition would be flush with the front of his house. But now, 20 feet of that addition would violate the new setback. Or,he could re-design the addition so the front of his house had a jog, or an el in it, which would have been strange looking.

    He was able to get a variance for that 20 feet of construction, and rightly so, since the rest of his house was there anyway.

    All of the houses on that street previously had a 40 ft setback, when the requirement was only 20. That was a good thing, because after the public benefit of widening the road, they still met the ordinance.

    What was the purpose of setting the new ordinance to 40 ft, after government actions had reduced the previous de facto setback? What did the public gain from this?

    Widening that road was an obvious and major public benefit. The previous road was a narrow winding track, pretty, but congested and dangerous. But it wasn’t a benefit to those that had the foresight to put their house back from the road.

    Some day, some car traveling on that new high speed road will exit the road and smash into a house. The new ordinace for larger setbacks means that over the years, as those houses are eventually replaced they will have to meet the new ordinance.

    Effectively this means that those landowners will (someday) have less to work with. But it is a small matter (partly because the lots are large) and far in the future. Even I wouldn’t claim they needed to be compensated for that.

    But, suppose that way down at the end of the row, where the road curves, there is a lot that is a little shallower than the rest, and it hasn’t been built on. The raod widening and new regulation could mean that he can’t build and his land is worthless. His land has been entirely and immediately expropriated for a public safety reason that benefits everyone except him.

    Now what do you do?

  50. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    Well, look at it from my perspective. You have an a few innocent bystanders with small properties (that are important to them) and all of a sudden hundreds or thousands of acres adjacent are being purchased by developers. And part of their development plans include right of ways, roads, intersections, etc… on your property.

    And then the developers who are screaming so loudly about private property rights put proffers in their rezoning applications to pay for eminent domain proceedings if they can’t get you to cooperate. And the planning commission and board of supervisors (who are all pontificating about the sanctity of property rights) all vote in favor of such rezoning applications.

    It’s blatant hypocrisy and it happens all the time. I’ve seen it in the proffers and have observed instances where small landowners are harassed and intimidated by developers and boards of supervisors. At the very time at which they are preaching private property rights. Makes me suspicious of their sincerity.

    Regarding the example you have given: Maybe someone who buys a narrow lot next to road should have anticipated such contingencies. You had no sympathy for people that buy properties near airports complaining about increased air traffic and runway expansion. Maybe these folks shouldn’t have bought property near a road…

  51. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I agree with you Tobias. The CPAM situation in Loudoun, where developers are asking for thousands of ne lots is different from what I describe.

    But what if the CPAM went away, and you till had to contend with several thousand by-right developments? How would new infrastucture for thm be paid for?

    What about those in Western Loudoun who are being downzoned as a quid pro quo for the CPAM?

    As for the guy with the small lot, how could he have possibly known? What really happened was that the new road was realigned, from behind his house to the front. Besides, the reason the road was widenedn was because of a number of large developments far down the street. Those people get a new road and he gets squat. They didn’t actually take any of his property, just increased the setbacks. So his neighbor two doors down gets an easement to build his addition because he is grandfathered with the existing structure, and the other guy gets nothing, just because of timing?

    I know a guy in Clifton who wanted to develop, but he couldn’t because there was no sewer available. Later the county took his property and paid him the going rate in order to build a sewage plant. Then, his former neighbors got to develop and at muchhigher rates. Who got the benefit and who paid for it?

    By your own argument, maybe someone who buys a small lot in an area of large open spaces shold expect that they will someday be developed. You are getting close to understanding the issue I’m arguing when you talk about those with small properties that mean everything to them.

    No one is going to take your building right away, because you are living in it. No one is going to ask you to pay taxes at a different rate from the general population. No one is going to say that you must give up 85% of your lot for open space. Why should it be any different for someone with a smll lot who has not built yet, and gets trapped by circumstances or timing? Why should it be any different for those who happen to own large lots which are now suddenly coveted by others?

    Besides, I don’t think the airport anology applies. Here you have homeowners, either new or existing. Either way they knew the airport was there. If the airport is expanding operations, and not land, well I feel sorry for them, but they really have no right to complain. They should have known the runway was capable of more flights, and expected them. They cannot expect the airport to operate fewer flights for their benefit.

    If a runway expansion takes their property then they will be compensated. But what if the airport puts in another parallel runway and doubles operations? What would a reasonable expectation have been if you bought 50 years ago? Two years ago?
    Now it gets fuzzy, and I have no answer. Surely they have the right to complain, but they may not be able to prevail, which is Larry’s argument to me. If the decision is made by legally elected representatives, tough tacos.

    It’s the same for those with small lots in open areas. They should have known and expected the by-right development, and they have no right to complain. But with the CPAM the developers are putting in a parallel runway. So, how can you argue that a landowner who gets downzoned by legal means has no right to complain or refress, but the neighbor of a landowner who gets upzoned by legal means does?

    How can you say that the landowner should have expected that wide road or downzoning, and then say that the early adopters in open spaces should not have expected further change?

    The only way you can expect protection is with stronger and more clearly stated property rights, not fewer and more politically motivated ones.]

    What if they build Metro instead of a road, with the same result? How could the oner have expected that?

  52. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I would like to be on your side on these things, but here is the way I see it. If you want to bargain for something then you must be willing to compromise. If there is no compromise involved, then it is stealing. Maybe stealing is in fact justified in some cases, but you better have an iron clad argument, and I don’t see that.

    What I see is one sided, self serving, and circular arguments, that could just as well support your opponent’s position. If you are going to stake out the moral high ground for the supposed public good, then you had better make sure you have title to it, that it was purchased fairly, and that the boundaries are well defined and marked.

    you are just another squatter.

  53. tobias jodter Avatar
    tobias jodter

    Ya know, part of my arguments are more of a “devil’s advocate”. And I am patterning them after yours (as Limbaugh would say to illustrate absurdity by being absurd). If you think they are one-side, self-serving and circular it is because you may recognize them as I am patterning them after yours…

    You have dodged the essence of my point (again). You are OK with property being forcibly taken by the government. In my view, it makes all the pontification about property rights pointless. It’s all only a matter of the terms under which it happens…

  54. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    By Right Development – I don’t have the data to support this, but IMO, few developers/landowners in Fairfax seem interested in building by right. Witness the 20 plus proposed amendments to the Tysons Corner CP.

    If pressed, I’d say that the cost of land and construction is so high that they fear losing money by building to what is currently permitted. This would seem to put more power in the hands of the BoS to obtain greater contributions for infrastructure (if it were so inclined). For bigger projects, the BoS could simply call the landowner/developer’s bluff on proffers. “Oh, don’t pay it, build to right.” IMO, more would fold than build at this point.

  55. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Tobias: OK you got me.

    Let me try one more time, see if this is self serving.

    I feel the same way about spending my money and effort to suppport other peeople’s environmental wishes as I dow about spending my money to support other people’s development wishes. I think they are both wrong.

    TMT: You are probably correct about by-rights. None of what I have said about property rights applies to the case of someone asking for additional development. Clearly in that case the board(s) are free to say yes or no, whether they will or not is another matter.

  56. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “There is a difference between fair and unfair, and right and wrong. That is where I refuse to negotiate.”

    the problem is.. that these are subjective concepts and while I tend to think – like you – that I inherently “know” when something is fair or unfair – I get suprised .. by POLLS … and I’m betting that you do also.

    And what that proves is that not everyone thinks like you – and more importantly – your idea of fair and right.. is … well.. it’s your idea and the only way your idea gets to be more widespread depends entirely on how many others will agree with you.

    The point is… like the old AA adage: God let me change the things I can and not try to change things I cannot and to have the wisdom to know which is which”.

    I am NOT an advocate of restricting landowners for no good reason – but that leaves a huge BUT… for me.. that has to do with the fact that unless you live as a hermit on your property and never leave it or never do anything with your property – sooner or later – you’ll do something that affects others interests

    the criteria for affecting others interests is not YOUR idea – it’s those who interests who decide … and if enough of them agree then they can and will take actions that affect you.

    Whether or not these actions are “fair” or right or wrong – is decided by those whose individual subjective views.. match each other.

    One can go on .. continuing to believe that they are right and others are wrong ..but it won’t result in change that is beneficial (or not harmful) to you .. UNLESS you understand the WHY behind why folks support things that you feel harm your interests.

    If you understand the WHY – you can then dialogue and have the opportunity to convince enough of the others.. that bad stuff IS happening to you that needs a remedy.

    But if you sit back and hold your position – no matter what – then you’ll not get much satisfaction and the only recourse then is to hope that some day the modern-day equivalent of an unelected KING will see your side of the issue and dictate change no matter how voters feel.

    From my point of view… just being realistic in such scenarios is as important or more important than one’s own view of right or wrong.

    You’ll never get 100% of what you want. The question is, can you pick things that COULD change.. and swallow the ones that are not likely to change?

  57. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    a) they didn’t also support government outright seizure of private property through eminent domain.

    b) they didn’t also support bigger government in the form of higher and higher taxes (which I myself view as a form of organized theft).

    I have thoughts on b.. but I’ll restrict comments to a for this post.

    If you as an individual support the governments “right” to take property then from that point on – you’re only arguing about the deck chairs and why YOU think they should be organized in a more “fair” way.

    Someone who is a “Property Rights” advocate that is also OPPOSED to government seizure of private property has a self-consistent argument in my view.

    But once.. you cross the line .. on the seizure issue.. you’re agreeing with the concept.

    How is that for Absolutist .. right is right and wrong is wrong thinking?

  58. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Folks who hold these absolutist positions regarding property rights would go a much longer way in convincing me you really believe them if:”

    a) (I’ve already addressed in previous post)

    b) they didn’t also support bigger government in the form of higher and higher taxes (which I myself view as a form of organized theft).”

    I guess I could ask .. if the gas tax itself is considered “organized theft” … perhaps along with “property taxes”.

    I’m trying to calibrate if ALL taxes are considered organized theft or just “some” of them.

  59. tobias jodter Avatar
    tobias jodter

    I have been pushing the issue of eminant domain because I see so many people that claim to be advocates of private property rights on the other side of the issue when it is convenient for them.

    See for example:

    It would be a losing proposition to argue my views on taxation… but if I had to chose an answer it would be ALL.

  60. Ray Hyde Avatar

    On other people’s interests and property rights.

    I once attended a public hearing. The topic of discussion was a fine old large stone home, now located in a horsey area. A couple had put an option on the home, conditional on being able to use it as a bed and breakfast, with the occasiona weeding party, limited in number.

    Not surprisingly, the neighborhood turnd out in droves at the hearing to defeat this idea. Person after person went to the microphone and allowed as how the raod was too narrow, too dangersous, locals knew enough to look out for horses, the road was dangerous, too many curves, too narrow, no shoulders, etc etc.

    After about a half hour of this I took the microphone and said this thing wasn;t anywhere near me, so didn’t care one way or another about the decision. But I made two observations: no one has made any other suggestions as to what to do with the property, and if the road is that bad, then it needs to be fixed, yea or nay.

    The next half our consisted of all those same people taking the microphone to say they didn’t want the road fixed, it was quaint, rustic, countrified.

    No one said, maybe we should worktogether to fix the roas so it is better for all. No one even said you need to fix the road yourself so it is better for all. All they wanted was for nothing to change.

    Needless to say, the B&B was turned down. The prospective owners were shocked, because they had openly offered to work with the community to resolve their issues. And it isn’t like the activities there would be in anyone’s face.

    So the end result was that the neighbors got what they want, at no cost other than an evening that the meeting. They got that based on false claims of inadequate infrasture, when they didn’t want the place themselves, and they offered not a single alternative to NO.

    The buyers invested time and oney in the plan and spoke to neighbors before the meeting to check things out. They got nothing for their considerable efforts.

    The sellers, instead of getting fair price in a stand up arms length face to face transaction will now get to bend over and take waht somebody gives them. The place is not suitable for a home in this day and age, unless you have a number of servants. For the people who can afford that, well, this place has the wrong address.

    I’ve seen this enough times that I do not believe it has anything to do with infrastructure. Nor do I believe that any form of payment of proffers or compromise will be acceptable: whatever anyone manages to get will become the instant floor for the next round, and the preferred answer is still NO.

    As far as eminent domain goes, I think there are three kinds. The one we usually think of has a long legal and social history, it is well understood, and it involves payment for what is taken. The other two are relatively recent developments, designed primarily for the purpose of stealing.

    As I said before, if you take one of my bundle of sticks, then that is stealing. The argument that it is only stealing part, or that you still have something left is begging the question. I don’t see any way that any position that comes anywhere near making excuses for stealing is defensible. Not when there are other methods to achieve the same, and I maintain, better, results.

    A bargain is when both sides come away fromthe table satisfied. The mere fact that there is a property rights movement suggsts that one side is not satisfied. The mere fact that people are seriously saying that we need 76 million acres of conservation land suggest that the other side is not likely to be satisfied, either.

    As things now stand, my personal end of the bargain is less than nothing, month after month. As long as that continues, I will not be satisfied.

    There are other methods available to reach compromise than the ones we are using. The refusal to even consider that there might be a basis for evaluating them says to me that some would prefer to steal from a position of superior strength, than to bargain fairly from a position of equality.

    As I see it, the landowners and the developers are willing to negotiate, but the authorities and others are not willing, or willing only with demands that are preposterous and economically impossible.

    Maybe an absolutist positon isn’t the best thing, but at least it is clear and it beats playing both sides of the fence. Even environmentalists are beginning to understand that their intersts are best protected with strong property rights, as in the new power line controversy. Or like the woman in Maine said after she kicked out all the hikers and fishermen: “It’s my property, I can do what I want.”

  61. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Maybe an absolutist positon isn’t the best thing, but at least it is clear and it beats playing both sides of the fence.”

    Putting a lot of traffic on an inadquate road IS a problem AND it is the owners responsibility because it does affects other – who also happen to be “property owners” – by the way.

    Why is it the responsibility of the other property owners to either pay to fix that road and if they choose to not pay that it is their responsibility to suggest alternative uses?

    Why is it not the responsibility of the person who wants to do something that will put more traffic on the road?

    You’ve given an example which is at the crux of the bigger policy issue.

    You seem to believe that those impacted by your proposal must approve it and pay for it through taxes or they must help you come up with other uses of the property.


    You bought it. You own it. You can do pretty much what you want with it as long as it does not affect others and that seems to me to me a very fair and equitable proposition.

    If you want to do something that will affect others – change the level of service of infrastructure and/or use their taxes (in your terms – “stealing”) to upgrade the infrastructure then they have their own “rights” also that cannot be ignored.

    It appears that your idea of “rights” does not coincide with others ideas of “rights”. You might have a problem there and it might explain why things “seem” unfair… to all sides.

  62. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “You seem to believe that those impacted by your proposal must approve it and pay for it through taxes or they must help you come up with other uses of the property.”

    I have never said or suggested any such thing.

    You must not have read the example. That isn’t what I said at all. In fact, the point was to show that nobody even suggested that the new owners pay for a new road. There would have been no possible suggestion that could have changed the community’s mind.

    Their perception of the impacts had nothing to do with the road. Even if a new road was built for their benefit and someone else’s cost, they still would have rejected it.

    It is not about infrastructure.

    But suppose the people had been willing to go along. You are making the assumption that the road improvement exactly matches the amount needed to handle the new load. But what if the required improvements actually result in a much better road for everybody, with horse trails along the side? Wouldn’t they be obligated to pay for part of what they get over and above what the new facility requires?

    One thing is clear. The the parties involved in the transaction both got hurt. Everybody else got what they wanted at no cost. The two parties involved in the transaction might have made concession to the others, but no concession whatsoever would have been deemd suffcient. What you have is people who won’t bargain involved in the transaction. That is not a free market.

    If the community wants to control the property, they are free to buy it, if they are not willing to do that then they might at least make some suggestions.

    I don’t know the facts, but I’d be willing to bet that many of those complaining were livng on propertythat was once part of the large manor.

    Suppose you went to the grocery store, and the checkout lines were ordered according to who moved into the neighborhood most recently. If you had been living there for twenty years, you might find that you could never get to the front of the line.

    “You bought it. You own it. You can do pretty much what you want with it as long as it does not affect others and that seems to me to me a very fair and equitable proposition.”

    Except the problem is that everyone else gets to define what impacts them, and it has come to the point where the default position is anything other than nothing.

    Furthermore, when the manor was built, and probably even when it was last purchased, there may have been no restriction on B&B. So what he bought no longer exists at the request of the new neighbors, who paid nothing for this new benefit.

    The real point of the ilustration was that it is not about the infrastructure, even if that is used as a screen.

    Look at the Salamander case. She is going to buy the entire town a whole new treatment plant, and a much better one in order to get the capacity she needs.

    Clearly we can’t expect everyone else to pay for her capacity, but shouldnt they pay atleast for their own upgrade? If she had not built, they would eventually have had to upgrade anyway. Why resort to blackmail? It’s unseemly.

  63. Ray Hyde Avatar

    You bought it, you own it, justlike the lady in maine said “I can do whatefver i want with it” She turned it into a wildlife reserve and kicked out all the poeple that had fishing leases on 20,000 acres. She even kicked out the bird watchers. It had a significant effect on the local economy and all the community was up in arms.

    What rights do they have? What she did with her property affected others.

    One of the things you cando is sellyour property. Surely ou wouldn’t say that is not the case.
    But suppose every buyer who ever looks at that place wants to use it for a B&B. That no buyer ever wants it as a residence. How long would that go on before the owner is allowed to sell?

  64. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here is the answer to your question:

    Why does the person have to get permission to do the Bed and Breakfast in the first place?

    Don’t launch into a rant about the storm troopers from the govmint…

    Just explain the rationale behind the reason why one cannot operate a B&B without permission and then you will have the answer.

    Anyone who buys property and comptemplates using it for a different use that it is currently used AND the comptemplated use requires approval – it is the responsibility of the buyer to, as they would with any comptemplated investment, perform due diligence before they commit themselves financially.

    The community does not owe any landowner – any more or any less than the rest of the landowners are entitled to also.

    If a majority of landowners think the government is too restrictive – they can vote in folks to make changes.

    But as stated above – there IS a REASON why you have to obtain permission to begin with and once you know the why behind that – you know that a landowner is NOT automatically entitled to that land use just because they own the land.

    And landowners.. can sell anytime they please and do but again.. no one owes the landowner the price that they want – it’s purely a private business transaction.

  65. Anonymous Avatar

    Whoa….large acreage landowners like Ray are increasingly rare and don’t have, unless very wealthy, the same political mass as those who own 2 acre lots; the latter outnumber the former.

    Does that mean Ray should forefeit what the 2 acre lot owner wouldn’t typically give up on his lot (but of course the issue doesn’t exist because the 2 acres lots are extant on a 10 acre sliding scale zoning code which allows 10 lots per 100 acres but only on small parcels that are clustered along the roadfront… and the 2 acre guys LOVE the free park behind them)…

    I once had a conversation with a former speaker of the house; he asked me a simple question: “how important was the protection of people’s rights?”

    It would appear that large acreage landowners without deep pockets are not allowed economic viability of their acreage and because of political impopularity, won’t be.

    So John Doe on the 2 acre lot tells the 100 acre guy that he really just can’t do that extra lot. Meanwhile John Doe puts up a tacky swimming pool, parks old cars, puts a bright light outside to keep himself safe which impacts the night sky, and his kids trepass the neighbor’s 100 acre property with bb guns shooting at the livestock….

    Or who want to go hunting because it’s cool and they don’t know a darn thing about safety.

    That’s okay. That’s protecting the 2 acre parcel owner’s rights.

    When someone asks me how much land I own, I consider it tantamount to asking how much money I have in the bank. It’s a tacky question.

    Ray is right. Impactive zoning is a taking. If a taking is considered to be necessary for the public good, then pay the people whose land rights you are taking!

  66. Anonymous Avatar

    I believe in property rights. But to many folks don’t understand that with property rights comes responsibility. Too many are interested in monetary gain and not interested in impacts of what they do or don’t do.

    What someone wants to do with their property has regulation for public and environmental protection with the intention of the well-being of all concerned.

    MOst of those persons in elected positions are unaware of the science involved. If they were science savvy then the PEC wouldn’t have to hand out red flags for health, the environment, or safety.

  67. Anonymous Avatar

    Point out a double standard and get blasted.
    What is wrong with some people?

    What’s fair for the goose (the development wing) is certainly fair for the gander……

    Get past the disliking that part and move on to meaningful facts that reflect why the developer’s vision is better for the county.
    Truth of the matter is, there are no convincing arguments of that, which is exactly why 3/4 of Loudoun County wants five jerks pulled from the BOS right now. Wait and see. I promise you.

  68. sally mann Avatar
    sally mann

    PEC has most certainly won in Loudoun County.

    As of this summer, they have already gotten more than 50,000 acres of land under conservation easement, and it may be double that by the end of 2006—all of those Supervisors who have been “forced” to delay action on the downzoning are very happy that word has gotten out how to ease your property and get a lucrative state tax credit and federal deduction (described at for your edevelopment rights–and people have been “convinced” to ease their land now—permanently taking the zoning pressure off—since after the downzoning, there will be no development rights left (but still zoning pressure) and no incentive to ease. The numbers of lots in western Loudoun to support the downzoning do not include the acreage taken out by conservation easements, which are private and not enforced by the county…the county has not gone thru the land records to see what each easement has done…

    So the numbers for the build out in Loudoun have been artificially exagerrated by PEC influence to support a downzoning that is really not necessary any more–because all the large lots have been eased (85 % of the lots in western loudoun are smaller than 20 acres, and you cannot subdivide unless you have a lot at leasst 20 acres under the downxoning–so the rights to all the tacky A-3 infill on the smaller lots, is just taken away.)

    Further, PEC has won in that it has susccessfully fought off any improvement of Route 50 or 15–they acknowledge that hthey have to hire a PR specialist ot go door to door in eastern Loudoun, with exaggerated build out numbers, to scare people with simple sound bites…to get their way…

    No infrastructure is the first battle in preserving the lifestyles of wealthy western landowners… once the infrstructure is in place then developement can be facilitated… Look at what happened when Route 7 was widened….commuters could now come from West Virginia easily to destinations east…

    For all the eased land, now the use of that land has been shaped by PEC–they have told an owner what he has to do to get his easement (preserve this viewshed, limit farm builldings to xx square feet, a scertain setback…etc) and private entities, the grantees of the easements, will tell landowners what they can do with their land…and inequity is built in…

    Land next to me that was in an easement supposedly to protect Goose Creek, was clear cut, and VOF was going to enforce the easement, until something happened (someone got to them) and then they did an inexplicable about face, and determined that the easement landguage was written to get a tax break and all the pages of resstrictive alndguage could not be enforced, that “constituents” had “complained” that their easements wese not “farm friendly” enough…turns out a man wants to put in a thoroughbred horse breeding facility, and cleared for more pasture. PEC had studied this particular subshed of Goose Creek and had concluded that Horse manure and erosion from pasture were the two largest pollutants of the creek, and that the forest cover was the best way to protect the creek. They looked the other way when a new owner clear cut approximately 5 percent of the foresst cover in the subshed….the equine community is not used to be told they cannot do as they please…

    Now a very intensive agri BUSINESS (not traditional agriculture) use is proposed for the property, with tens of thousands of commercial buildings, roads, etc..—when a passive use was supposed to be protected…

    PEC has won big in western Loudoun for control of the land and to help the people that support them…. I am not sure that they care so much about conservation and traffic as they care about preserving their own ancestral homes (being paid with easement money to live on their land) and paying no tax–because the way all the tax laws are written, they pay virtually no real estate tax on eased land….

  69. Anonymous Avatar

    Better late…

    The Piedmont Enviornmental Council are modern day natzis and this is the holocaust of farmers and farm land in this country at the hand of greedy land grabbing PEC extremists.

    Yes folks – it is true – PEC is out of control and it is time to expose PEC for what it really is and now is the time…

    If PEC has nothing to hide — they need to have FULL Transparency to Americans since it is our tax dollars to the tune of millions and millions of dollars feeding PEC's rabid environmentalists choking the American farmer!

    I realize Bacon's Rebellion is funded by PEC – hey no surprise – PEC pays for it's own spin and marketing to make sure the public doesn't dig too deep and uncover all the dead bodies PEC has left behind. Oh wait…PEC also pays lobbyists, politicians, county officials and neighbors too… and harasses the farming community.

    WAKE UP FOLKS — very soon the evil behind the smoke and mirrors will be exposed and Americans will be angered that their tax dollars, hope and faith have been manipulated and betrayed by PEC.

    Unfortanetly, the American farmer is suffering the most because farming is unsustainable becuse of rigid conservation easements. If PEC continues, all of our food will be coming from Asia and foreign countries laced with chemicals, etc. all thanks to PEC.

    BEWARE of CONSERVATION EASEMENTS my friends. You don't need a conservation easement on your land and especially not from PEC. PEC stands for PIGS EATING the COMMUNITY. Don't be a fool.

  70. Anonymous Avatar

    Supervisor Snow is 100% correct! Not only are they insidious, but add unethical, greedy and killing American farmers to the list…
    Supvervisor Snow thank you an your efforts! Thank you for having tried to save us from PEC's crazy rabid environmentalists that are killing American farmers.

  71. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    For the record, Bacon's Rebellion has not been funded by the PEC for several years. However, we do remain on good terms (as far as I know).

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