Letter: Bringing ‘balance’ to Little Washington

I’ve been here since before The Inn opened and watched it expand over the years, and I find Mr. Jim Abdo’s recent characterization [in a June 6 Washington Post article] of our county seat insensitive and horribly inaccurate — particularly when he, with a couple of decades coming and going here, has apparently failed to see and/or have experienced the real vibrant community that has existed, even before the Inn opened its doors. One has to wonder why.

From the Post article, we have Mr. Abdo opining the success of the Inn and the relative condition of the town: “[The] tiny town . . . was literally going in the opposite direction . . . ‘It was hollow, it was vacant, it was empty,’ Abdo said. ‘There was no pulse.’”

The Inn is a contribution here, but it isn’t the do-all, be-all, end-all for the town or the county. Chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell is certainly a celebrity and a force majeure, but he didn’t build the county seat — only a prosperous business in it. He has also bought out and converted many of the old town places (a number of them former residences) as he has expanded his own empire.

Mr. Abdo’s concern that the visitors to our little hamlet need more to do when they come to sample our lifestyle is touching, indeed. It is a wonder that all those 30,000 meal eaters a year at the Inn have been able to muddle through their trips here with such paucity of distractions after they have sated their appetites.

One thing is for sure, if Mr. Abdo and his cronies have their way: Judging from the style and quality of taste they have displayed to date, along with their expressed objectives, those visitors won’t find any of that lifestyle left. It will have been successfully developed right out of existence.

Both Mr. O’Connell and Mr. Abdo have expressed a desire to see our county seat, and ultimately our county, become a more densely populated and more “developed” area. A quote from another Washington Post article gives us Mr. O’Connell’s apparent vision:

“While opening the Parsonage, he gestured toward a book about Chautauqua, a town of 4,500 in western New York named this year by Smithsonian magazine as the best small town in America to visit. ‘It’s wonderful to have an example of a town that this town should become,’ he said.”

It is interesting, to say the least, that the “health” of our environs in the future, and for our county and community, is seen by these and some others as requiring “growth,” “expansion” and “change” —  particularly development, which implies underutilization doesn’t it?

It is true that time itself brings change; but what is the responsible role of real stewards of a very unique and special environment such as exists here in Rappahannock County? How does that integrate with the interests and actions of developers and investors with a vision such as Mr. O’Connell’s and Mr. Abdo’s?

We have land mass and scenery with a currently low population density, but imagine the Town of Washington with a population like Chautauqua — 33 times what it is now. That could not possibly happen without a concomitant increase in our county population. What constitutes balance?

For lots of folks today, life is a “going” and a “doing.” Here, there are those of us who see it quite differently. We don’t need to go because we are here. We don’t need to be in a hurry, but not because there isn’t anywhere to go; there are more places to go to here than you can shake a stick at. They just aren’t the same ones you find in every other town or city or suburb across the land.

The reason they are available here is because we don’t have all those other things. And all those other things are easily obtained a short distance from here.

What does constitute balance?

Tim Pagano

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