As a Republican, I had high hopes for the GOP board that took office in January 2004. I wanted to see an emphasis on building roads, reversing the forcible down-zoning of farmers and ending the use of tax dollars to purchase the development rights of the rich. I also wanted to see lower taxes and less spending. - Kenneth Reid (emphasis mine, - P13)That letter prompted this response.
Mr. Reid decries forcible down-zoning of farmers. But policies in Loudoun favor the subdivision and sale for development of large tracts, with all the immense fiscal and quality-of-life issues such growth brings.It is the question of watershed that is quite interesting. The value of preserving farmland and purchasing developoment rights is more than just reducing the increases in demands for roads, schools and other facilities, it is also measured in the retention of our water quality and our contribution to the sustainability of our entire region.
If the county truly cares about farmers, it should give them the option of saving their prime agricultural land by buying their development potential. This is a true market-based approach that enables farmers to maintain their lifestyles, invest in their farms and futures, and pass a real legacy to their children. If one took the time to do the research, one would see that Loudoun’s short-lived purchase of development rights program did not subsidize “rich” landowners, as Mr. Reid asserts.
Most important, land that would one day have become yet another suburb will not be adding schoolchildren, cars and a myriad of additional costly service demands. Pollution levels are lessened, and we all move closer to the stated regional goal of protecting the massive Chesapeake Bay watershed. - Martin Bromser-Kloeden (emphasis mine -P13)
Bacon's Rebellion has reported on the fact that Virginia is 116,511 acres behind in its watershed protection responsibilities. One method for actively adding protected space may be to subsidize (with state-issued bonds, perhaps?) the purchase of development rights in areas that directly impact the Chesapeake. This, in combination with efforts at the Federal level, could make a sizable impact on the water quality in the Potomac and the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Mr. Bromser-Kloeden's letter notes the fact that the purchase of development rights is not (or should not be) a political issue. Twenty-two Virginia counties operate programs that purchase development rights, including the counties such as Fauquier, Clarke and Frederick, where Republicans are the majority on the Board of Supervisors. The state even provides a model development rights purchasing program, developed in 2005. The 2005 plan has this goal: "By 2007, the Commonwealth shall make at least $1M available annually to each locality with a PDR program consistent with the State guidelines to be used as matching funds for easement purchases." It is unclear whether this has actually happened, but it should be a priority in the next Assembly.
PDR (Purchase Development Rights) programs are another example of the virtuous cycle of well-designed government programs, in which a relatively modest investment today nets large gains later. In this case, preserving open space and farmland means reduced demands on local infrastructure and improvement of water quality flowing into our most important resources - the Potomac and Chesapeake. A small investment today can help us avoid paying for a clean-up and rehabilitation tomorrow.
[update] Another option the Board of Supervisors should consider for managing the impact of growth on our water? Require that developers use permeable concrete and asphalt in all future parking lots and any parking lot re-paving projects in the coming years. This would allow rainwater to filter into the soil underneath parking lots, recharging the water table and reducing the impact of droughts. Chicago is already doing this, if a city like Chicago can do it, why not Loudoun?