Editorial: A modest proposal

Last week’s Thanksgiving editorial touched on some of the countless things for which we here in Rappahannock County should be thankful. But perhaps that for which we should be most thankful are the very things we do not have.  

For the absence of something can often be even more defining than its presence. What is built — or not built — on this uniquely beautiful, natural landscape not only helps define the county but also, in the words of one commentator, molds Rappahannock County’s “civic soul.”

To take one imaginary example from an alternative universe, there is no Motel 6 at Massies Corner. With different owners and different zoning, that potentiality always remains — no matter how remote its actual realization. But just imagining the possibility is instructive — how the complexion, the very identity, of the county would be fundamentally altered by just one change in land-use and just one man-made structure.

Nor is there a Family Dollar store on the U.S. 211 site where it was rumored last year that the low-cost store might one day soon be located.

Photo by Pam Owen
Pam Owen | Rappahannock News

Now, in the latest manifestation of an alternate universe, affordable housing is being considered on the vacant Emporium property just west of Sperryville. Here, as proposed by the community-action organization People, Inc., would be built a 24-to-28-unit affordable housing complex.

Readers may recall that People, Inc. originally proposed converting the old Washington School building into affordable housing. Given the town of Washington’s water and new sewer systems, that location would probably have made more sense than Sperryville; but Washington residents who didn’t want People, Inc. to become part of the community bought the place themselves.

In the abstract, most Rappahannock residents seem to agree that the county could use more affordable housing options, especially for seniors and, in order to keep them here, young people. That would no doubt be balm for our “civic soul.” But the devil, as always, is in the details; and critics from Sperryville have suggested that Amissville would be a much better People, Inc. location than Sperryville. But Amissville is where I live!

So here’s an even better, more modest, proposal: The town of Washington influentials who bought the old school building decide, on judicious reflection, to turn it over to People, Inc., as originally proposed. Unlikely ever to happen (except in an alternate universe), that one gesture would totally disarm the persistent critics who say the town’s too tiny and exclusive even to exist legally as a real town. More important, it would keep People, Inc. out of my own Amissville backyard!

Walter Nicklin