Letter: Grow villages; cultivate farmers

My first letter to the editor; I feel compelled to express some serious concerns.

First, let me say that Rappahannock County has lost one of its formerly most influential and savvy longtime citizens with the passing of Newbill Miller. His early leadership and foresight in his role as a supervisor put this county on course to protect all we love here. One of his forward-looking insights was that villages should stay as villages (places where families and commerce thrive), and rural areas should stay rural (where agriculture can continue with minimum “urban” interface). May God rest his soul, and many thanks be given to him for his straightforward, honest, selfless, dedicated years of leadership solely for the benefit and future of this county and its citizens.

As the author and consultant of the county zoning ordinance adopted in 1982, which, with refinements by John McCarthy is still in effect, I must give a necessary warning. In ’82 I tried to persuade the planning commission and board of supervisors to make provisions for some expansion of the county’s villages for future growth – to no avail because, then as now, the villagers like them the way they are.

The supervisors and the Washington Town Council must be aware that villages are the comprehensive plan-designated areas for whatever growth happens, whether it is a low-/moderate-income, elderly or upscale development that maintains the basic village character. For example, the latest attempt to provide some low- and moderate-income housing at the Old Washington School is a good example of what is sorely needed in Rappahannock today. Schoolteachers, deputies, the elderly, less fortunate locals and others would welcome the opportunity to live there and not have to move to adjoining counties.

Washington used to be a village with families young and old, some local serving stores – even a car dealership way back when! It appears to me that Washington is becoming no more than a retirement community and the influentials don’t appear to want any growth or a mixed-income village.

As most people are aware, Rappahannock is becoming an oasis where people want to reside for what is not here. My warning: We must encourage and accommodate some growth in and around our villages or our county could become susceptible to a successful “exclusionary” lawsuit.

Lastly, the board needs to continue to be aware that farmers, who hold the key to our wondrous open spaces, are not exactly getting rich. Land use tax and property-tax exemptions for farm equipment are a must if farming is to have a chance of existing in the future. Villages and avocation farmers as well as non-farming “newcomers” must accept this premise if Rappahannock County is to continue as the special place that we all know it is.

In Washington, the whole process culminating in the withdrawal of the People Inc.’s housing plan leaves serious questions as to why some town council members and other community residents suddenly got so interested personally in the purchase of the Washington school apartment building. I surely hope local politics are not turning sour.

A 1960 “newcomer” in Gid Brown Hollow,

Dick McNear

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