Beyond the scenic easement issue, which I addressed in a Letter to the Editor last week, Rappahannock County has a number of issues that are fundamental to its survival that are of concern. There are many others, but these are top of mind:
1. Water: In my view it is not only the quality of water that worries me as the quantity of water. It appears that a number of springs are drying up or have dried up, and that the water in the river appears lower.
2. Sustainability of agriculture: It is becoming more difficult to sustain farms with the present cost of producing products — not everyone has sufficient income from other work to support the farm. If this occurs, how does the economy of Rappahannock survive?
3. Taxes: The taxation rate is going up every year and the yield and sometimes the value of the asset is going down.
4. Jurisdictional confusion: Conflict between state and local regulations, for example, mean that land which would qualify for the CREP program (which would help the water quality and reduce erosion) is not allowed in land use because it goes against the land-use program — and thus it would be unwise economically for anyone to enroll. There is a conflict between what is good for the streams and what the county will allow. Basically, the county is not allowing people to protect water quality unless one goes into scenic easement, which I believe might be deleterious to the county in the long run.
5. Tourism: How to balance landowners’ rights with the right to have commercial interests on land to make economic sense? Every tourist dollar that we bring in adds to the local economy. When I was a child, there were major tourist gift shops and roadside stands in Sperryville; now there are just a handful in the whole county.
In a lot of rural areas, such as in Georgia, large farms are supported by hunting operations — quail hunting, etc. The only true value of the land is its scenic beauty — how do we balance that with commercial interests? A few years ago a cell phone company wanted to have cell towers in three locations on my property, which I elected not to do it because some of my neighbors asked me not to. How does one balance commercial interests versus one’s own survivability?
If the county does not look to the future, but to the past, issues will be presented that we are not prepared for. I am curious if anyone has any answers to these issues.