Historic county seat looks to future risks of trading charm for convenience
Within minutes of the start of its regular monthly meeting Monday night, the Washington Town Council voted unanimously to appoint Fred Catlin as their new member.
Mayor John Fox Sullivan nominated Catlin to fill the seat vacated by the recently resigned Gary Aichele, and listed his credentials.
“Everybody knows Fred, but just for the record . . . he’s a career educator/fundraiser, in his earlier days . . . runs three Montessori schools. . . . Closer to home, he’s the executive director of the CCLC [Child Care & Learning Center], and not the least of it, he’s been the chairman of the [town] planning commission for several years. . . . So I can’t think of anyone who would be a better addition to the council. I move to nominate him to join the council.”
In the absence of other nominations and after the 5-0 vote, Catlin was sworn in by Circuit Court Clerk Peggy Ralph, followed by applause and Catlin taking his seat at the council table.
Meanwhile, council member Brad Schneider was agreeable in announcing he would be immediately stepping down from his position on the town planning commision, since only one planning commission member can serve simultaneously on the town council.
Sullivan also announced that at the council’s next regular meeting (7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 8), the person overseeing the U.S. Postal Service’s new location, Rick Hancock, will give a public presentation on the process and the postal service’s needs for a new location.
“We hope a lot of people show up,” Sullivan said. “We want to see it stay here.”
Sullivan next said the time had come to focus on the proposals that town attorney John Bennett had been developing to define the town’s legal treatment of Airbnb’s — or, as Bennett said the Virginia General Assembly is now using, “person-to-person” rental properties.
After some discussion, Catlin said the planning commission would put the topic on its agenda for its Dec. 27 meeting, and ready a recommendation to the council by Jan. 8.
This issue dovetailed into the next topic, a recommendation by the planning commision for “the Town Council to recruit, empower, and rely on the willing citizens of the town and surrounding county — all of whom have an interest in the town’s future — to serve on study groups, task forces, and committees to effect the action steps presented below.”
Sullivan loosely broke up the steps into themes for advisory groups, including: infrastructure; economic and housing/population vitality; zoning; and the short and long-term financial health of the town — which took up most of the remaining 35 minutes of the nearly 90-minute meeting.
Vitality, or as Catlin put it “planned growth,” seemed to encompass all the topics for the town’s future such as town boundaries, development and retaining and encouraging new businesses while keeping the “uniqueness of the town.”
“Each year the town becomes slightly more unique, slightly more differentiated from the rest of the world,” said council member and proprietor of the Inn at Little Washington Patrick O’Connell. “We see this all the time from responses and reaction of guests, visitors and travelers, and they are not just charmed but they are astonished that there is such a place . . .
“But it’s very easy to wish to trade convenience for some of the charm and to have services and things closer to you than Warrenton. So there is a struggle, I think, to find that balance. And people won’t know we lost it, until we lost it.”