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In a fast-growing county [Loudoun], sprawl teaches hard lessons
Christian Science Monitor ^ | January 23, 2006 | Coral Davenport

Posted on 01/23/2006 8:15:38 PM PST by Lorianne

Virginia's Loudoun County is 'a little test tube' for coping with hypergrowth on the far fringes of many American cities. ___ LEESBURG, VA. – A decade ago Virginia's Loudoun County, tucked 25 miles from Washington, D.C., at the West Virginia border, was best known for its pastoral horse country and gracious farms. Today it's the poster child for development run amok.

Just ask Juan Bocher, whose commute to his job just outside Washington has gone from 30 minutes to nearly 90. "It's gone from bad to worse, and there's no end in sight," he says.

Or Nancy Meissner, who lives in what remains of rural Loudoun County, where McMansion-style subdivisions are being built with septic tanks because there are no water lines. "This awful sludge is bubbling out of the ground," she says. "And these are the new septic systems that are already failing!"

The growing pains of Loudoun, the nation's fastest-growing county in the past five years, not only has residents up in arms, but have also drawn the attention of land-use experts across the United States. That's because exurbs - suburbs at the fringes of metropolitan areas - are growing faster than any other kind of community, according to census data. While high-speed growth has transformed suburbia for decades, what is new - and worrying - is that it's now occurring in areas without the infrastructure or experience to deal with it, these experts say.

"How Loudoun deals with its growth can teach the rest of the country a great deal," says James DeFrancia, a trustee of the Urban Land Institute. "It's become a little test tube."

The hypergrowth has political ramifications, too. Last fall, traditional Republican strongholds like Loudoun County and other Virginia exurbs voted for Tim Kaine, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who won on a platform of controlled growth and traffic management.

"It is unusual that Kaine won in all of the traditionally Republican exurbs," says Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "The obvious lesson for politicians is to pay attention to how much development people can tolerate. It's limited."

Loudoun County's growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. Spurred by the Washington area's boom in high-tech and government jobs, along with the search for affordable housing in Washington's sizzling real estate market, its population has tripled in 15 years. In the past five years alone, it surged 46 percent, from 169,599 to 247,293. In 2004, its growth accounted for one-quarter of the population increase throughout the Washington metro area - itself one of the fastest- growing parts of the US.

The effects of such rapid development have been intense. At rush hour, rural Loudoun's scenic two-lane byways crawl with traffic that moves more slowly than the new six-lane access road to the east. Air quality has worsened as smog levels have shot up. As thousands of new houses go up each year ahead of water and sewer lines, residents face water shortages and newly polluted streams. If current growth continues, the county estimates it will need 125 grammar schools in the next 15 years.

Land-use experts say what's happening in Loudoun today will challenge communities on the outer fringes of cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Seattle over the next 20 years.

"Loudoun is the poster-child example of what can happen when a community is developing too fast," says Laura Olson of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. "It can't keep up with schools, services, roads, recreation - and especially water and septic needs."

Land-use experts say there's only one solution: heavy regulation. "The trouble with managing smart growth is that it requires almost complete governmental control," says Anthony Downs, a land-use analyst at the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Downs and others call for regulated "smart-growth" zoning, with dense, mixed-use developments alternating with swaths of open land. They also stress the need for regional planning, which they say is lacking in many metropolitan areas facing exurban sprawl.

Until recently, such tight zoning regulations would have been unthinkable in a place where landowners cherish their autonomy and fight down-zoning.

But lately, "the outcry to do something about the growth has been a lot louder" than the outcry for property rights, says Jim Burton, who sits on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. "The great American dream is turning into the great American nightmare."

After years of political battles, Loudoun officials last spring drew up a zoning plan with input from experts like Downs, which would have limited development in rural parts of the county and encouraged denser, mixed-use, mixed-income growth in the developed parts. The Supreme Court of Virginia threw out the plan, on a technicality, and county planners hope the plan will be approved this year after a rewrite.

Meanwhile, development is "nearly a free-for-all," says county planner Julie Pastor, as builders rush to start projects before regulations are in place.

That's where other communities on the fast-growth path should watch and learn, says Mr. DeFrancia. "The lesson to be learned is to put in a master plan and rigidly adhere to it."


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; Politics/Elections; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: housing; landuse; loudoun; loudouncounty; propertyrights; transportation; zoning

1 posted on 01/23/2006 8:15:40 PM PST by Lorianne
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To: Lorianne

It's nightmarish. Here in MA, all the small towns I grew up around are choked with traffic. It's all new people, nobody knows each other, and town politics have turned absurd and vicious.

I hate it.


2 posted on 01/23/2006 8:20:47 PM PST by SteveMcKing
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To: Lorianne
Nobody put a gun to these people's heads. They chose to live that way!
3 posted on 01/23/2006 8:21:41 PM PST by glorgau
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To: Lorianne

I was shocked when Kaine carried Loudon.


4 posted on 01/23/2006 8:22:26 PM PST by Dan from Michigan ("What does a guy have to do to get fired around here?" - Darryl Rogers, former Lions Coach)
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To: glorgau
Nobody put a gun to these people's heads. They chose to live that way!

Those with families going back generations didn't choose this, and some of them do, in fact, find guns to their heads with all of the crime problems that didn't exist before urban influence appeared out of nowhere.

5 posted on 01/23/2006 8:26:18 PM PST by SteveMcKing
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To: glorgau

They didn't choose to live this way. They'd move to Loudoun County and then find that all the countryside surrounding them was suddenly developed, with thousands upon thousands of new homes. They voted out of office the local officials who permitted this development and elected officals who favored slow growth. But proponents of slow growth who represented the views of the people were overridden by state legislators in Richmond. Developers make very generous campaign contributions of state legislators, of course, and those legislators vote as they are told to.

And of course there are many here on FR who say that landowners (read: developers) should be permitted to develop land in any way they like, no matter how miserable it makes everybody.


6 posted on 01/23/2006 8:46:52 PM PST by Capriole (I don't have any problems that can't be solved by more chocolate or more ammunition.)
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To: Lorianne
Land-use experts say there's only one solution: heavy regulation. "The trouble with managing smart growth is that it requires almost complete governmental control," says Anthony Downs, a land-use analyst at the Brookings Institution.

There is the key quote, right there. There is a CRISIS! It's BUSH'S FAULT! Oh the HUMANITY!

7 posted on 01/23/2006 8:47:26 PM PST by ikka
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To: Capriole
And of course there are many here on FR who say that landowners (read: developers) should be permitted to develop land in any way they like, no matter how miserable it makes everybody.

Both with issues like development planning, and also a lot of social issues, a lot of people on FR want complete and utter freedom for themselves, but want what everyone else does completely controlled.

Government planning and zoning is typically routinely attacked, right up until somebody has something they don't like built next to their house.

8 posted on 01/23/2006 8:50:13 PM PST by Strategerist
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To: SteveMcKing

If you want an example of development run amok, take a look at Southeastern PA. Greedy developers and politicians just expanding the tax base, and to hell with the unintended(or intended) consequences.


9 posted on 01/23/2006 8:51:12 PM PST by SC33
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To: Lorianne

The insistence by employers on the daily physical presence of employees in offices far from their homes has a lot to do with it. Of course, with the passing of Sarbanes-Oxley and the attendant risk of jail for CFO's who allow the wrong information to make its way off-site, telecommuting has been strangled in the cradle.


10 posted on 01/23/2006 8:51:31 PM PST by Mr. Jeeves ("When the government is invasive, the people are wanting." -- Tao Te Ching)
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To: Lorianne

I remember in the 50's driving through a red light intersection of 2 two-lane roads on my way to grandma's house in Leesburg. That was back when Tysons Corner was really a corner! Two lanes all the way from Falls Church to Leesburg. /nostalgia


11 posted on 01/23/2006 8:53:19 PM PST by WideGlide (That light at the end of the tunnel might be a muzzle flash.)
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To: Lorianne

Government sold everybody out with ridiculous rates of illegal and legal immigration. Now it's a free for all. In the end it's the peoples fault for not demanding more of their politicians.


12 posted on 01/23/2006 8:53:25 PM PST by Vision ("You guys are literally the cream of the crop of political analysis")
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To: glorgau

They did not choose to live that way. Greedy developers and politicians forced that way of life on them.


13 posted on 01/23/2006 9:00:53 PM PST by SC33
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To: SC33

They did choose to live that way, by default. They must have been disengaged from their local political process...how many of the people now complaining attended any of the hearings at the P&Z meetings or lobbied for land development regulation changes? By and large development is a local process and does respond to the electorate.


14 posted on 01/23/2006 9:16:16 PM PST by ThePoliticalDookie
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To: Strategerist

The logical difficulties the ultra-free-enterprise Freepers do not address begin with these:

First, no investor is entitled to have legislation, and the American taxpayer, protect his investment. Yet this is what landowners often do. Owning land with the expectation that it can be developed constitutes making an investment. And when landowners demand that government change rural zoning to accommodate their desire to make a profit, they are asking the people to guarantee that their investment in land was a profitable one.

Second, as this article spells out, when landowners make this profit everyone else suffers for it. Property taxes skyrocket to pay for the new roads, schools, police and fire protection, water, garbage removal and disposal, etc. etc. etc. Children can't get educated in the local schools anymore. Crime, noise, pollution, and crowding increase. People can't even be with their families because they're spending half their lives trapped in traffic. Don't tell me that developers have the right to impose this misery on everybody else.

Of coursse we are told that if we don't like the current situation we are free to move. This is true. But the only places that don't have problems like this soon would if we all left and moved there! Besides, we would all be spending six hours every day in our cars, commuting from rural areas and creating even more traffic nightmares.

Thank God some places like Rappahannock County have learned from the mistakes of Loudoun and don't permit much in the way of development. I've heard that Rappahannock doesn't even have a McDonald's in it. Wish I could figure out a way to earn a living there.


15 posted on 01/23/2006 9:17:47 PM PST by Capriole (I don't have any problems that can't be solved by more chocolate or more ammunition.)
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To: SteveMcKing

I do not mean to undermine your distress, as I too hate populated areas, but you have free will. If it is not your property, then you haven't the right to dictate who builds on it or moves into your town/city. You do have the right to move, however, since you are now the one who is not happy with the new make-up of your community.

Why do those who already reside in a community so often feel that they have the right to determine the growth of that community? If townspeople want to leave "green space" then they can vote to raise their own taxes to purchase lots. The community dictating what happens with other people's property is Marxism and is essentially a partial taking of that property (inverse condemnation.


16 posted on 01/23/2006 9:18:27 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: SteveMcKing

"Those with families going back generations didn't choose this, and some of them do, in fact, find guns to their heads with all of the crime problems that didn't exist before urban influence appeared out of nowhere."

Generational inheritance or nostalgia doesn't give you the right to dictate who purchases property. You can, however, vote and enforce laws....or move.


17 posted on 01/23/2006 9:20:52 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: ThePoliticalDookie
They did choose to live that way, by default. They must have been disengaged from their local political process...how many of the people now complaining attended any of the hearings at the P&Z meetings or lobbied for land development regulation changes? By and large development is a local process and does respond to the electorate.

No. They did lobby and fight. They showed up at planning commission hearings and screamed. But their desires were overridden by state legislators in Richmond who are owned by developers. In Virginia recent Virginia Supreme Court decisions confirmed that Richmond's power supercedes that of local government on such issues.

I am sorry to say that many of the pro-growth legislators are Republicans, and some people voted for them only because they could not endure the detestable Democratic candidates who might have put more of a brake on development. It's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation.

18 posted on 01/23/2006 9:21:26 PM PST by Capriole (I don't have any problems that can't be solved by more chocolate or more ammunition.)
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To: Lorianne

"Juan Bocher, whose commute to his job just outside Washington has gone from 30 minutes to nearly 90."
Ok Juan is just stupid. Get a job closer to home and it will cut down on all that traffic. Loudoun is still nice, despite what some complainering weiners say.


19 posted on 01/23/2006 9:23:08 PM PST by CJ Wolf
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To: Capriole

"And of course there are many here on FR who say that landowners (read: developers) should be permitted to develop land in any way they like, no matter how miserable it makes everybody"

Clearly it doesn't make the "thousands" and thousands who are flocking to the area miserable. Developers are landowners and are in the business of making profit. It is called the free market and anyone who wishes to participate in it if can do so they are ambitious enough.

Also, this country is vast enough to live in a rural setting for those who feel cramped. I, for one, have chosen to do this, and when my area becomes too developed for my taste, I'll up and go.


20 posted on 01/23/2006 9:26:35 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: WideGlide

Should have sold all your liquid assets and bought farmland in Fairfax Cty.


21 posted on 01/23/2006 9:27:23 PM PST by maro
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To: Time4Atlas2Shrug

You would probably not advance the same argument about Marxism if a developer bought the land next door to you and then had the laws changed so that he could put in a sewage treatment plant, a landfill, a used-tire dump, or some other stinking atrocity that ruined your quality of life and compelled you to move. You might then say that such a thing should not be allowed and that the developer's right to make a profit stopped at the end of your property line. Yet this is essentially what is happening in Loudoun County. Developers are asking that sections of land zoned for agriculture be rezoned for residential or commercial development. They're asking that laws be changed so that they can make a profit at everyone else's expense. Their profit also requires local citizens to come up with far more money in property taxes to pay for the new roads and schools the developer's project will require.


22 posted on 01/23/2006 9:29:02 PM PST by Capriole (I don't have any problems that can't be solved by more chocolate or more ammunition.)
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To: Time4Atlas2Shrug
You can, however, vote and enforce laws....or move.

I stay here for spite and act really mean. That's my right!

23 posted on 01/23/2006 9:31:52 PM PST by SteveMcKing
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To: Time4Atlas2Shrug
Clearly it doesn't make the "thousands" and thousands who are flocking to the area miserable.

They don't find out until after they've moved out there and have been there awhile.

Developers are landowners and are in the business of making profit. It is called the free market and anyone who wishes to participate in it if can do so they are ambitious enough.

BMW is in the business of making a profit, too. They have a product to sell, and I can choose to buy it or not, as I please. But developers force their profits on all of us. The rest of us have to come up with the property taxes that are required to pay for all the additional services, the schools, the water-treatment plants, the police and fire protection, the government administration, the libraries, and of course the new roads the new developments require. We have to live with it all while they live in Palm Springs or Palm Beach.

Also, this country is vast enough to live in a rural setting for those who feel cramped. I, for one, have chosen to do this, and when my area becomes too developed for my taste, I'll up and go.

Very convenient for you. Pray, how do you make a living?

24 posted on 01/23/2006 9:35:22 PM PST by Capriole (I don't have any problems that can't be solved by more chocolate or more ammunition.)
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To: Capriole

"First, no investor is entitled to have legislation, and the American taxpayer, protect his investment. Yet this is what landowners often do. Owning land with the expectation that it can be developed constitutes making an investment. And when landowners demand that government change rural zoning to accommodate their desire to make a profit, they are asking the people to guarantee that their investment in land was a profitable one."

So how do you feel about a community scrambling to enact zoning that will effect property that it is believed might be developed? Is that not a partial taking? Is that not a local government accomodating the desire of the community so that their property values remain intact? Isn't that why zoning exists, at least in part? Good ole profit motives, huh? You know, government protecting the investment of some, but destroying that of others they deem to have less than honorable motives (obscene profits).


25 posted on 01/23/2006 9:37:40 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: Capriole

"You would probably not advance the same argument about Marxism if a developer bought the land next door to you and then had the laws changed so that he could put in a sewage treatment plant, a landfill, a used-tire dump, or some other stinking atrocity that ruined your quality of life and compelled you to move. You might then say that such a thing should not be allowed and that the developer's right to make a profit stopped at the end of your property line."

Actually, I would advance the same argument - I am intellectually consistent. I would MOVE. In fact, some pain in the butt neighbors bought the house next door and they are loud and obnoxious so we are selling in two years when we complete our projects. Simple.

Those jerks next door bother me more than the development down the street.

So no, I wouldn't say it should stop at the end of my property line. After all, at the end of my property line begins someone else's. :)


26 posted on 01/23/2006 9:44:10 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: Time4Atlas2Shrug

Assuming you are a Rand fan...

Do Objectivists believe that no monetary transaction can ever be immoral in itself, so long as the cash value equals the return? Specifically, I mean this in reference to "selling out"- such as one's values and heritage.

I suppose the question also applies to anything from spying and treason to civil liability claims for things like murder and manslaughter. If the price is right, then there is no right to complain?


27 posted on 01/23/2006 9:45:25 PM PST by SteveMcKing
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To: CJ Wolf
Juan is just stupid. Get a job closer to home and it will cut down on all that traffic. Loudoun is still nice, despite what some complainering weiners say.

If there is nothing but housing developments and strip malls between you and your job, you may not be able to get a job closer to home. A lot of people are in this situation.

28 posted on 01/23/2006 9:47:51 PM PST by Capriole (I don't have any problems that can't be solved by more chocolate or more ammunition.)
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To: Capriole

Juan is still stupid, so are a lot of those people in that situation. I don't feel for him or them. If he wanted to be with his horses he should get a job closer to home, now he spends 2 hours and 20 minutes in the car a day? I live in Loudoun and see these stupid people move out here and expect to commute to DC. They aren't thinking and despite what he says it never took 30 minutes to get there, not in the last 25 years at least.


29 posted on 01/23/2006 9:53:33 PM PST by CJ Wolf
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To: Capriole

"They don't find out until after they've moved out there and have been there awhile"

They cannot determine that there is a large population until they are there for a while? If ten thousand move to a neighborhood, has the nine thousanth been duped?

"BMW is in the business of making a profit, too. They have a product to sell, and I can choose to buy it or not, as I please. But developers force their profits on all of us. The rest of us have to come up with the property taxes that are required to pay for all the additional services, the schools, the water-treatment plants, the police and fire protection, the government administration, the libraries, and of course the new roads the new developments require. We have to live with it all while they live in Palm Springs or Palm Beach."

I thought that the politicians did this to increase the tax base? The way tax rates are calculated, increased population usually equals lower tax rates for a community. The increases in "services" rarely equals the boost in revenues.

Again, profits are not forced on you - you can leave.

"Very convenient for you. Pray, how do you make a living?"

Self-employment. Another act of free will.



30 posted on 01/23/2006 9:54:03 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: Time4Atlas2Shrug
...government protecting the investment of some, but destroying that of others they deem to have less than honorable motives (obscene profits).

Government is not, in this case, destroying the investment of the developers. The developers are perfectly free to sell the property they bought. They can either build houses on it at the existing zoning or sell it as they bought it, as farmland. They aren't entitled to make unbelievable amounts of money on their real estate purchase any more than I am guaranteed by law to make money on my more modest one. No one is even saying they can't build on the land they bought. They just can't build endless thousands of houses whose occupants will swamp local infrastructure.

Did you read the bit in the article about how the new immigrants to the county will require 125 new schools? At millions of dollars per school? The developers sure-God aren't going to pay for that. The taxpayers have to shell out for it. Do the developers have the right to demand the rest of us do that? I dispute that. Taxes are already bad enough, thanks. There's no reason the taxpayers of Virginia should fork over money to further enrich a development corporation.

You're not from around here, are you? Come visit us sometime. Spend a few hours parked in motionless traffic on Route 7 or I-66 every morning and afternoon for a week. You may come to feel differently.

Good night.

31 posted on 01/23/2006 9:59:48 PM PST by Capriole (I don't have any problems that can't be solved by more chocolate or more ammunition.)
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To: SteveMcKing

Huh?

Well I'll do my best to decipher what I believe to be the meaning of your statement and respond to it.

No monetary transaction is immoral in itself. A transaction is a contract, and if you are willing to engage in an action that puts a pricetag on your values and another is willing to accept that price, then you have engaged in self sabotage.

But I have no idea what you are getting at.


32 posted on 01/23/2006 10:01:30 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: Capriole

"Government is not, in this case, destroying the investment of the developers. The developers are perfectly free to sell the property they bought. They can either build houses on it at the existing zoning or sell it as they bought it, as farmland. They aren't entitled to make unbelievable amounts of money on their real estate purchase any more than I am guaranteed by law to make money on my more modest one. No one is even saying they can't build on the land they bought. They just can't build endless thousands of houses whose occupants will swamp local infrastructure."

You are clearly of the socialist mindset. You actually stated that they are not "entitled" to make "unbelievable" profits. Do you understand that farmland is no longer a wise investment in the year 2006 (we are not an agrarian culture as the Soviets were in the early 1900's) and that if it must be sold as such, then the property has been devalued by the community, yet they happily enact zoning laws to esure that their own property values remain intact.

Also, infrastructure should not be burdened by development since there are such enormous increases in tax revenues, unless the funds are not appropriated toward updating said infrastructure. Unfortunately, what often happens is that the local governments squander the money on various school "programs" and other unnecessary projects and then cry about the burdened infrastructure and propose tax increases. That is not the fault of developers, but of the voters.

Understand that the tax base increases proportionally to the services that are required. If there is not enough money coming in from the tax payers for additional services, then they do not "require" such services.

And here is a newsflash for you - developers pay taxes for as long as they own the property. Please get it through your head that you aren't forking over anything that pays for development property. In fact, if your home is modest - the developer's property taxes, which are probably much higher than those on your property, are likely contributing more to your community than you are.
So you should say thank you if you choose to stay.

"You're not from around here, are you? Come visit us sometime. Spend a few hours parked in motionless traffic on Route 7 or I-66 every morning and afternoon for a week. You may come to feel differently."

No thanks, I like it rural. That is why I choose to live in a rural community. When it no longer is one, I'll choose another. :)



33 posted on 01/23/2006 10:30:57 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: ThePoliticalDookie
They did choose to live that way, by default.

Yup, by not making a decision, one indeed makes a decision.

34 posted on 01/23/2006 10:39:48 PM PST by glorgau
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To: Time4Atlas2Shrug

I thought that the politicians did this to increase the tax base? The way tax rates are calculated, increased population usually equals lower tax rates for a community. The increases in "services" rarely equals the boost in revenues.


?


Could you point me towards one example of this?

(yes this is a trick question)


35 posted on 01/24/2006 4:51:33 AM PST by THEUPMAN
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To: Time4Atlas2Shrug
You actually stated that they are not "entitled" to make "unbelievable" profits. Do you understand that farmland is no longer a wise investment in the year 2006 (we are not an agrarian culture as the Soviets were in the early 1900's) and that if it must be sold as such, then the property has been devalued by the community, yet they happily enact zoning laws to esure that their own property values remain intact.

Yes, I understand that farmland isn't a good investment. All investments are a gamble and investors cannot require that laws--zoning laws or others--be changed to guarantee them a profit. And no, the property has not been devalued by the community. The property has maintained its former value as the agricultural land it is. The developer who buys land in anticipation of building houses on it, or the farmer who plans to clean up on selling the family farm, cannot be guaranteed his profit any more than I can require that the government and taxpayers guarantee my profit on a stock purchase I make.

Also, infrastructure should not be burdened by development since there are such enormous increases in tax revenues, unless the funds are not appropriated toward updating said infrastructure. Unfortunately, what often happens is that the local governments squander the money on various school "programs" and other unnecessary projects and then cry about the burdened infrastructure and propose tax increases. That is not the fault of developers, but of the voters.

Actually this is not true. Statistics show clearly that townhouse developments, for instance, generate far more costs to a community than their owners can possibly pay in taxes. And because the cost of housing here is so high and land is getting scarce, much of the new development is in townhouse rather than single-family development. Naturally it's pretty difficult to tell a homeowner that he has to fork over an additional thousand dollars a month in property taxes in addition to his mortgage, to pay for the new schools.

Building schools, police stations, fire stations, water treatment plants, and schools cannot be said to be squandering the money. Roads, of course, are beyond the purse of any local community, and roads are paid for by state and federal government, a process that takes far longer than the speed of putting up a stick house. In any case there is not a great deal of open space left around here for road construction without condemning and taking private residences, which is a government taking nobody wants to see either.

Understand that the tax base increases proportionally to the services that are required. If there is not enough money coming in from the tax payers for additional services, then they do not "require" such services.

Fine. Tell that to the people whose houses burn down, who are the victims of crime, because they don't "require" such services according to you.

And here is a newsflash for you - developers pay taxes for as long as they own the property. Please get it through your head that you aren't forking over anything that pays for development property. In fact, if your home is modest - the developer's property taxes, which are probably much higher than those on your property, are likely contributing more to your community than you are. So you should say thank you if you choose to stay.

Land that is zoned agricultural is taxed at a far, far lower rate than residential land. Near me, 153 acres of farmland generates about half the taxes of my little lot. No, I do not thank developers.

No thanks, I like it rural. That is why I choose to live in a rural community. When it no longer is one, I'll choose another. :)

Well, how very nice for you. I too am leaving suburbia for the country this spring. But you must see that there is something inherently selfish about this attitude for both of us: the attitude is, "I'm going to be just fine, but the millions who are facing overcrowded roads and schools, crime, gang activity, lack of water, and sewage on their lawns are just out of luck." Those people have to live and work somewhere. They can't all pack up and leave and go out to the country; they need jobs and schools. We need to think about them and do some more intelligent planning. The entire DC metropolitan area is not all that different, and the crime, crowding, and traffic problems are prevalent in every county here. We can't all move away and live in the middle of nowhere. How do you expect four million people to buy food and heating gas in the middle of nowhere?

As I say, unless you live here you cannot understand what exactly it is you are commenting on. In general it may be best to refrain from offering advice about issues in parts of the US one is not familiar with.

36 posted on 01/24/2006 5:16:33 AM PST by Capriole (I don't have any problems that can't be solved by more chocolate or more ammunition.)
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To: Lorianne; BCR #226
I am a resident of Loudoun and have been for a long time. A few comments:

A decade ago Virginia's Loudoun County, tucked 25 miles from Washington, D.C., at the West Virginia border, was best known for its pastoral horse country and gracious farms. Today it's the poster child for development run amok.

"Run amok"? Hardly. Fast, yes, but as the author notes below, that's primarily due to the booming economy. If development had run truly amok then Loudoun would have a housing surplus and the values of existing homes would not have increased 25-30% per year for the last several years. Anyone who had taken Econ 101 would understand that.

Just ask Juan Bocher, whose commute to his job just outside Washington has gone from 30 minutes to nearly 90. "It's gone from bad to worse, and there's no end in sight," he says.

So find a job closer to home. I did. Instead of going from Sterling to DC every day I go from Sterling to Chantilly. It takes 20 minutes each way even at the height of rushhour, I pay no tolls (I HATE THE TOLL ROAD), and I don't have to deal with HOV restrictions. I also took a pay cut when I changed jobs, but my net income went up because my commuting costs decreased. There are plenty of big-name companies paying big salaries in Chantilly, Herndon, Reston, Fairfax, etc. In fact, many are moving out of DC to Fairfax and Loudoun Counties because commercial rental rates are lower, and to be closer to where their workforces live.

Or Nancy Meissner, who lives in what remains of rural Loudoun County, where McMansion-style subdivisions are being built with septic tanks because there are no water lines. "This awful sludge is bubbling out of the ground," she says. "And these are the new septic systems that are already failing!"

With regular maintenance a septic system will last for decades. If they are failing then the builder didn't install them properly or the owners failed to get regular pump-outs.

The hypergrowth has political ramifications, too. Last fall, traditional Republican strongholds like Loudoun County and other Virginia exurbs voted for Tim Kaine, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who won on a platform of controlled growth and traffic management.

"It is unusual that Kaine won in all of the traditionally Republican exurbs," says Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "The obvious lesson for politicians is to pay attention to how much development people can tolerate. It's limited."

It also doesn't help that the Loudoun County Republican Committee leadership was AWOL last year. Between Potts siphoning off votes in the western half of the county, and the District Chairs in the east having to be talked into staying on b/c their morale was in the toilet due to internal problems, there was very little done at the grassroots level to get out the vote.

Also, President Bush carried Loudoun by six points in 2004. The Republicans lost the Governor's race by six points in 2005. A Party doesn't lose 12 points worth of voter support in 12 months due to growth. There were many other factors in play, most of them internal to the Party.

Loudoun County's growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. Spurred by the Washington area's boom in high-tech and government jobs, along with the search for affordable housing in Washington's sizzling real estate market, its population has tripled in 15 years.

Translation: booming economies = growth. The only way to stop the growth is to slow down the local economy, which isn't going to happen. There are reports now that the Federal government is going to add 80,000 additional jobs to the region in the next few years. Those people - and the people who will move in to provide services to them - will all have to live somewhere. If they don't move into Loudoun, they'll go to Clark and Fauquier Counties and travel through Loudoun on their way to and from work.

But lately, "the outcry to do something about the growth has been a lot louder" than the outcry for property rights, says Jim Burton, who sits on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. "The great American dream is turning into the great American nightmare."

Jim Burton represents Middleburg. Think "hunt country" and very old money. This area is in no danger from rampant development because the folks who live there can afford to maintain their large estates. More power to them. I wish I could afford one!

After years of political battles, Loudoun officials last spring drew up a zoning plan with input from experts like Downs, which would have limited development in rural parts of the county and encouraged denser, mixed-use, mixed-income growth in the developed parts. The Supreme Court of Virginia threw out the plan, on a technicality, and county planners hope the plan will be approved this year after a rewrite.

Meanwhile, development is "nearly a free-for-all," says county planner Julie Pastor, as builders rush to start projects before regulations are in place.

That's where other communities on the fast-growth path should watch and learn, says Mr. DeFrancia. "The lesson to be learned is to put in a master plan and rigidly adhere to it."

Under the current "master plan" developers can and do build communities "by right", which means no proffers to the county for such trivialities as parks, libraries, school sites, and road improvements to handle the subsequent increases in population. It's because of the proposed re-write - and the zoning in the proposed plan - that the landowners and developers are rushing to platte their properties now. They don't have to break ground for years once the platte is approved, and when the time comes to break ground in five, ten, or twenty years Loudoun County officials won't be able to stop them.

Totally unmentioned is the fact that the farmers who are selling up and moving out are doing so because they're aging, farming is hard work and their children aren't interested in pursuing it, and it doesn't pay the bills. These people don't have IRA's and 401k plans, and they can't afford to keep farming at a loss year after year. The equity in their land is their retirement plan, and right now only the developers can afford to purchase the land.

37 posted on 01/24/2006 6:09:43 AM PST by gieriscm
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To: gieriscm; Lorianne

I've lived here in Loudoun almost all of my life. I remember when Route 7 was a single lane in each direction. I used to hunt deer where Ashburn Farms is now. Yes, the growth has been tremendous but not out of control. It's just not what many people here want.

On the issue of Loudoun going to Kaine... well, I was in the thick of that and I'll just say that Loudoun went to Kaine because Kilgore picked some very poor people to work his campaign. I posted an email on FR that was sent out by Mr. Ken Hutcheson to one of the core support groups for the Republicans. It was one of the most offensive pieces of email I've ever seen from any political entity.

Also, as was mentioned, the LCRC leadership was a serious issue. Some with irrational personal hatreds withheld sending vital information out in a timely manner (and still do... I'm waiting now to see when a communication goes out that was requested over the weekend). All of this contributed to not only Kaine winning but to losing Delegate Dick Black.

Anyway, I digress. Loudoun has always been home to me but as of late, I find myself tiring of the political BS and the back stabbing. Loudoun has been and will remain a conservative area for a long time. The key is to not piss your base off and to make sure that the voters come out to the polls.

As for the traffic, It'll never get better. Loudoun is a high job area and is strategically located for businesses and travel. No matter what road improvements go in, it'll just keep getting worse.

My advise is if you don't like it, don't move here or just move out. That is what I'm doing.

Mike


38 posted on 01/24/2006 12:01:23 PM PST by BCR #226
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To: THEUPMAN

Sure. In my community the tax rate decreased due to population increases (larger tax base). Our town calculated costs and created a budget and adjusted tax rates accordingly.

Now if only the federal government could do that...

My point is that there is an objective dollar figure required to run a town/city (determined at budget hearings). If that cost exceeds the revenues collected from the taxpayers then one of two things must happen: Either the tax rate must be increased or the services must be cut. If towns stick to the necessities then low tax rates are possible. When entitlements kick in, so do increases.

How can the costs of a town without any NEW services being provided (meaning keeping the existing structure, providing the same services to more people) cost any more when the new residents are paying the same tax rate? All should remain equal.


39 posted on 01/24/2006 12:19:59 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: Capriole
Please explain something since I have mentioned it many times only to receive the same unrelated inane response: Why do you support zoning laws to protect existing owners' investment but not the investment of a developer? All zoning laws were created at one time. Once they are created they cannot be changed? Or is it actually that they can only be created to benefit existing homeowners, but to hell with the landowners? And if you understand that farmland is not a good investment then why did you suggest the current land should be sold as such and why should you or any other person be able to determine how a tract of land is used that you do not own or pay taxes for?

"Actually this is not true. Statistics show clearly that townhouse developments, for instance, generate far more costs to a community than their owners can possibly pay in taxes. And because the cost of housing here is so high and land is getting scarce, much of the new development is in townhouse rather than single-family development. Naturally it's pretty difficult to tell a homeowner that he has to fork over an additional thousand dollars a month in property taxes in addition to his mortgage, to pay for the new schools."

This is nonsensical. There is an increased tax base so why would a new school required to accommodates the new children cost more than the proportional cost of the existing schools to the number of current children? Why can the town even afford the school they have? Pretend that the new residents are forming their own separate town. The taxes would necessarily support the infrastructure that must be created. When it is all integrated, what changes? If no NEW services are created and only additional people added to the existing services, where is the extra cost?

Also please cite your statistics and include details. I would love to see if there are fluffy new services that are being included.

Also, around these parts roads are indeed paid for locally, with the exception of state owned byways. You clearly have enormous government waste in your neck of the woods. And I never suggested the infrastructure you listed was among the projects that drain the funding. Conversely, it is programs that most often involve government schools, fancy libraries, parks, and a number of so-called beautification projects.

"Fine. Tell that to the people whose houses burn down, who are the victims of crime, because they don't "require" such services according to you."

What? Homeowner's insurance. Charity. Law enforcement. I believe that the first one is required with a mortgage. Charity is always an option, and law enforcement is how we regulate criminal activity. Should taxpayers be responsible for all victims of everything or just those you deem deserving of such services. Let's let the private sector do what it does best. Government is rarely the most effective option and is often the most costly.

"Land that is zoned agricultural is taxed at a far, far lower rate than residential land. Near me, 153 acres of farmland generates about half the taxes of my little lot. No, I do not thank developers."

In one breath you defend zoning, and in the other you complain about it. Which is it? So the development would generate far greater revenues on that 153 acres than it does in its current state, correct? Why did you suggest in an earlier post that developers shouldn't be able to change zoning from farmland and should have to sell it as it is? Again, stop enacting endless zoning and property restrictions and everyone will pay the same tax rate. Again, a voting problem.



"Well, how very nice for you. I too am leaving suburbia for the country this spring. But you must see that there is something inherently selfish about this attitude for both of us: the attitude is, "I'm going to be just fine, but the millions who are facing overcrowded roads and schools, crime, gang activity, lack of water, and sewage on their lawns are just out of luck." Those people have to live and work somewhere. They can't all pack up and leave and go out to the country; they need jobs and schools. We need to think about them and do some more intelligent planning. The entire DC metropolitan area is not all that different, and the crime, crowding, and traffic problems are prevalent in every county here. We can't all move away and live in the middle of nowhere. How do you expect four million people to buy food and heating gas in the middle of nowhere?"

Why CAN'T they move too? There ARE schools in the country, you know. And most people who live in the country work as well. And isn't everyone responsible for their own livelihood? I'm so sick of the attitude that some have that others are responsible for their wellbeing. Suck it up and move on. There is a world of opportunity if one chooses to embrace it. Remove the posterior from the chair and do something about the bad situation one has chosen.

Also, do you think if four million people moved to the middle of nowhere, that no one would have the wherewithal to create the economic support system to accommodate an increase in the population? Do you think everyone would just say "Oh no, what do I do" or do you think a certain percentage of our population possesses an entrepreneurial spirit that would help sustain a community?

"As I say, unless you live here you cannot understand what exactly it is you are commenting on. In general it may be best to refrain from offering advice about issues in parts of the US one is not familiar with."

That is foolishness. I can read. Additionally, I have lived in sh**holes in urban settings, I have lived in suburbia and every extreme you can imagine, so do not presume what I do and do not know. I also attend town meetings, read budgets, and participate in town government. I know there is waste.
Perhaps you shouldn't comment on anything unless you have experienced it, right? How about political issues? Should you comment on the validity of welfare if you haven't been on it? Should you refrain from saying that our water should be clean unless you have experienced contamination in your water? Your premise is ridiculous. Private property rights are important and are universal.
Clearly I do not need to live where you are to see that you and many others support the infringement on private property rights while attempting to protect your own interests. Developers purchase property that you or anyone else could have bought had you created the financial self-sufficiency to do so. So you attempt to divide and conquer politically because you are less successful. Envy is uglier than greed. Try putting as much effort into creating your own happiness as you do into spewing hatred for "the rich". After all, you are on Free Republic.
40 posted on 01/24/2006 1:20:03 PM PST by Time4Atlas2Shrug (Use them bootstraps, cowboy.)
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To: Time4Atlas2Shrug
Please explain something since I have mentioned it many times only to receive the same unrelated inane response: Why do you support zoning laws to protect existing owners' investment but not the investment of a developer?

Because you’re creating a straw man. I don’t hold my beliefs because I am trying to protect existing homeowners’ property values, which are probably going to vary in accordance with broader economic trends. I simply do not believe that an individual or corporation has the right to damage the lives of thousands or millions of other people around him, whether because it is convenient for him to do so or for profit or for any other motivation.

Here’s an example. Suppose a company buys land with the idea of building a factory on it. It’s not presently zoned for manufacturing use, but they figure that with enough pressure on state and local officials and enough offers of jobs to local residents they can get the zoning changed. But if the factory is going to thickly pollutes the air and water of a large area with filthy, reeking discharges, it won’t get approval for construction. Its owners may argue that they have a right to use their land as they like; they may say that they have the right to operate in order to produce a profit; they may say they’ll lose their investment in the land they may say that property rights are fundamental and that prohibiting them from making money on their land is a government taking. The bottom line is, they cannot damage the health and enjoyment of everyone in the area for their own, and they should have thought of that before they bought land that was not yet approved for their proposed use. If they receive the approvals, build a factory, and it pollutes, they’ll be made to clean it up or close the factory.

The situation with land development in northern Virginia is comparable. The wells of existing homes are going dry because there isn’t enough water for all the houses being built there. Sewage won’t perc anymore and seeps across lawns. Residents spend thousands of hours a year stuck in the second-most miserable traffic in the US. Schools are overcrowded, and the pace of school construction can’t keep up with the pace of home construction. Taxes go up. The quality of life is ruined for everybody. After the new houses are built and the developer has moved on it’s too late to stop him, so people who already live there and see the consequences of too-rapid development are trying to slow it down now. They don’t want things to deteriorate even more.

And if you understand that farmland is not a good investment then why did you suggest the current land should be sold as such and why should you or any other person be able to determine how a tract of land is used that you do not own or pay taxes for?

The developer bought the land as a gamble, supposing that he could have the zoning changed to accommodate his desires. He is gambling on his ability to alter the zoning. His gamble may not pay off. No investment is loss-proof; any investment is a gamble of sorts. If he loses his gamble and can’t alter the zoning to build as many houses as he wishes to, he can either (a) build houses on it at a lower concentration, as the current zoning permits, or (b) sell it as farm land. Horse properties still sell for lots of money in Loudoun County, and the billion-dollar-per-year horse industry is a powerful economic engine in Virginia. At least that way the land just won’t sit on his books forever and he’ll break even, less the holding costs and the money he wasted on his lawyers. That is why I suggest that he could sell it. I’m not suggesting ways for him to make money, only pointing out that he doesn’t have to keep the land forever in the event that he can't build on it.

"Actually this is not true. Statistics show clearly that townhouse developments, for instance, generate far more costs to a community than their owners can possibly pay in taxes. . ."

This is nonsensical. There is an increased tax base so why would a new school required to accommodates the new children cost more than the proportional cost of the existing schools to the number of current children? Why can the town even afford the school they have? Pretend that the new residents are forming their own separate town. The taxes would necessarily support the infrastructure that must be created. When it is all integrated, what changes? If no NEW services are created and only additional people added to the existing services, where is the extra cost?

Because people who buy townhouses are of more modest means and usually cannot afford to pay as much in property taxes as those who can afford single-family houses. Yet the four-person family living in a townhouse uses as much water, as many seats in the schoolhouse, generates as much garbage, and probably requires more police work than the family in the detached house.

I think of my own community, which was built fifteen years ago. About a thousand new houses, including townhouses and single-family units, required a new elementary school. The new families by themselves could not afford the cost of construction, even though the school isn't big or fancy. The cost had to be spread out through the county and thus no one noticed much of a property-tax rise as a result. But if Loudoun County has to build 125 new schools, at millions of dollars apiece, people are definitely going to get a tax hike and they are going to notice.

Also please cite your statistics and include details. I would love to see if there are fluffy new services that are being included.

If I go to the trouble to do some research and find the source for some data, would any of it change your mind? I suspect I’d be wasting my energy, but if you’re truly interested it won’t be hard to find the sources I’ve read. The experience of local governments is that townhouses create more expenses than they generate in taxes.

Doubtless we could all find “fluff” in a budget. All governments have some. But there’s no reason for the residents of a county to have to trim their budgets so that a developer can build the houses he wants to build and create resulting social problems.

Also, around these parts roads are indeed paid for locally, with the exception of state owned byways.

And as I have mentioned, we are about out of places to build roads here without condemning a lot of private property.

You clearly have enormous government waste in your neck of the woods. And I never suggested the infrastructure you listed was among the projects that drain the funding. Conversely, it is programs that most often involve government schools, fancy libraries, parks, and a number of so-called beautification projects.

Perhaps you're right—-our kids don't need libraries. Let’s let them grow up in ignorance without exposure to a broader variety of books than their parents can buy.

"Fine. Tell that to the people whose houses burn down, who are the victims of crime, because they don't "require" such services according to you."

What? Homeowner's insurance. Charity. Law enforcement. I believe that the first one is required with a mortgage.

Homeowner’s insurance doesn’t usually cover a house in an area that has no fire protection at all.

Charity is always an option. . .Should taxpayers be responsible for all victims of everything or just those you deem deserving of such services. Let's let the private sector do what it does best. Government is rarely the most effective option and is often the most costly.

I agree that private enterprise should handle more of our needs and that government is inherently inefficient. But charity is unlikely to replace every house and its contents after it burns down, especially with houses in these parts averaging over half a million dollars for a relatively modest place. People might contribute to the reconstruction of a single house for some unfortunate family, but they’re not going to keep on contributing when a large apartment building or townhouse complex is destroyed because there’s no fire department.

Look, this discussion is descending into the absurd. You can’t really be seriously suggesting that residents should forgo having a fire department so that developers can build whatever they like. There are some things even Ayn Rand would support government doing, and fire protection is something any rational person would support. Private fire companies were tried in the early years of this nation and they didn’t work out very well, which is part of the reason we have so few eighteenth- and nineteenth-century houses still standing.

"Land that is zoned agricultural is taxed at a far, far lower rate than residential land. Near me, 153 acres of farmland generates about half the taxes of my little lot. No, I do not thank developers." In one breath you defend zoning, and in the other you complain about it. Which is it?

I am not complaining about zoning; I am refuting your claim that the developers contribute more in property taxes when they hold farmland. Their carrying costs are not astronomical (and in any case are part of the cost of doing business, part of their gamble).

". . . We can't all move away and live in the middle of nowhere. How do you expect four million people to buy food and heating gas in the middle of nowhere?" Why CAN'T they move too? There ARE schools in the country, you know. And most people who live in the country work as well. And isn't everyone responsible for their own livelihood?

Not enough jobs or schools or hospitals or roads to accommodate the four million people of the DC area at once. The suggestion that they should all just move out to the sticks simply transplants the problems from one locale to another It is absurd to expect millions to abandon their homes, jobs, and the other aspects of a secure life to go adventuring somewhere because some developer wants to make life in their hometown unlivable. And if they did so, who would buy the houses your beloved developers want to build?

"As I say, unless you live here you cannot understand what exactly it is you are commenting on. In general it may be best to refrain from offering advice about issues in parts of the US one is not familiar with." That is foolishness. I can read. Additionally, I have lived in sh**holes in urban settings, I have lived in suburbia and every extreme you can imagine, so do not presume what I do and do not know. I also attend town meetings, read budgets, and participate in town government. I know there is waste. Perhaps you shouldn't comment on anything unless you have experienced it, right? How about political issues? Should you comment on the validity of welfare if you haven't been on it?

Personally, I wouldn’t presume to comment on the political or social situation in, say, Minnesota or Texas or Vermont, places I haven’t lived in or even visited extensively. I assume that people who live there know more about the situation than someone who lives hundreds or thousands of miles away and gains his knowledge only by reading.

It’s interesting that you fault me for criticizing the uses developers put their land to, but you have no hesitation at all in telling Virginians how they should conduct their government, run their schools, and handle their historic lands!

Should you refrain from saying that our water should be clean unless you have experienced contamination in your water? Your premise is ridiculous.

Ah, so you concede that water should be clean? Regrettably the overdevelopment of Loudoun County is causing serious problems with water pollution. So which is it—is water pollution bad, or is it okay because it’s caused by development? A bit of logic is in order here.

Private property rights are important and are universal. Clearly I do not need to live where you are to see that you and many others support the infringement on private property rights while attempting to protect your own interests. Developers purchase property that you or anyone else could have bought had you created the financial self-sufficiency to do so. So you attempt to divide and conquer politically because you are less successful. Envy is uglier than greed. Try putting as much effort into creating your own happiness as you do into spewing hatred for "the rich". After all, you are on Free Republic.

Since I come from a background that rather precludes me feeling envy or hatred for the rich, you’re mistaken about the reasons I hate overdevelopment. That’s a pop-psychology explanation. In fact just one of the reasons I hate it is that I see some of the most beautiful and historic land in the United States being destroyed. I hate it for the same reason I would hate to see a Jiffy-Lube in Yosemite, a Walmart at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or a long series of strip malls on Big Sur. There are some things so beautiful that they should not be defiled. There are some areas that are important because, like Gettysburg and Antietam and Valley Forge, they are the places our country was made. The woodlands and rolling pastures of Loudoun County form a crucial part of our joint heritage as Americans. There is almost no piece of real estate in Loudoun County that was not the site of a Civil War battle or skirmish. Every crossroads saw a scene in this struggle that helped us establish our nation. But most of these crossroads and fields are now beneath strip malls. We are trying to save the small portions of Loudoun County that haven’t been developed yet. One of the reasons I am a conservative is that I believe some of the ways of the past were wise. I believe in preserving the good and valuable things our ancestors knew. And I do not believe in tearing up what is good and beautiful and replacing it with ugliness. The Devil loves ugliness; it’s his signature.

What I find extraordinary is that any effort of a group of people to govern themselves is termed “socialism” by those who, like you, favor mass development. There’s no reason the people of Loudoun County should be made miserable to accommodate the desires of a few, and they have the right to decide this. They did so by vote a few years ago. Sadly, the big government of Richmond—notably the Virginia Supreme Court, which attempts to legislate from the bench—struck down the decision Loudoun residents made to limit new development (in the western part of their county only). It is a presumption of the highest degree that outsiders should dictate to the people of Loudoun County, or any other area, and tell them that they must live in circumstances that are onerous to them just in order to accommodate the desires of a vanishingly tiny minority of developers.

I cannot continue this discussion. There is no point--you are not moved by any argument except that of profit, and I begin to think you must either be a developer yourself or hope to develop land of your own. I've really been writing for the record more than I've been writing in an effort to persuade you, but now the demands of my own life call me. Thank you for an engaging discussion.

41 posted on 01/26/2006 6:58:04 AM PST by Capriole (The Anti-Feminist)
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