Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Journey Through Hallowed Ground" Halted in its Tracks in Loudoun

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has refused to endorse "The Journey Through Hallowed Ground," an initiative to designate the U.S. 15 corridor between Charlottesville to Gettysburg, Pa., as a national scenic byway and national heritage area.

The Journey doesn't require the board's approval to proceed with the application, but the County's support would have strengthened its case. Most other communities along the route have endorsed the proposal.

The Journey initiative has gotten embroiled in the volatile politics of growth in Loudoun, reports the Loudoun Times-Mirror: "Fears that federal designations would limit the board's ability to widen or make safer heavily trafficked U.S. 15 fueled the resolution's failure."

U.S. 15 truly is one of Virginia's -- and the nation's -- most scenic byways. It's a sad commentary that sprawling, leap-frogging growth from Metropolitan Washington is threatening this historic and cultural treasure located an hour's drive from the urban core. It's not as if there were a shortage of land in metro Washington. There's only an unwillingness of local governments to approve in-fill development and re-development at higher densities and in configurations that would be readily supported in the marketplace.

There have been limited moves to approve higher densities in recent years. They just appear to be too little and too late to save U.S. 15.


At 10:30 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I drove up route 15 on my way to New England at Thanksgiving, not my usual route up 340. It was a huge mistake. It took 2 hours to get out of Virginia compared to seven hours for the rest of the trip. Route 15 needs help desperately, and it doesn't have to ruin the scenery.

Fairfax County has a land use plan inplace that pinpoints exactly the areas and the densities they think they want and can handle. Putting more people there is going to require enormous investments in infrastructure that can be provided more cheaply elsewhere.

We are going to need room for two million more people: two entire counties the size and density of Fairfax. The idea that more than a fraction of them can or will be jammed into Fairfax strikes me as a lack of imagination and a failure to confront reality.

Don't get me wrong. If Fairfax want to change the designation on my 1.5 acre property in Fairfax, I'd be the first to sign up for a dozen townhomes. That's not going to happen because I'm too close to a "flood plain" even though I'm thirty feet above it. It is also not going to happen because I'm surrounded by neighbors who think like TMT: no more development. They also like their near-country environment: they even voted down sidewalks. A lot of that land you talk about is already spoken for.

Not everyone wants to live in townhomes and condos, and almost no one wants them next door. My niece just sent me an email :WE SOLD OUR CONDO AND BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!".

When the Journey was announced it was stated that they would attempt to buy properties they thought should be preserved. I'm afraid that the attempt to create such a large scenic and heritage area shows that this is another increment in the steady push to gradually make land use more and more restrictive in some places while encouraging more development in others.

This is going to result in enormous transfers of wealth from one location to another, primarily for reasons of taste that are pretty much arbitrary, and until someone comes up with a plan to distribute the wealth equitably, I don't see how this can work. I'm not surprised that Loudoun residents lit up the phones.


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