Pave paradise?

I love Rappahannock. It suits my soul.

We stopped in Gainesville a few days ago. Amazing how fast that community developed.  Blazing lights replace the stars; the American need for shopping and entertainment evidenced everywhere.

I date myself by recalling Seven Corners was the only regional shopping mall forty-some years ago. Then came Fair Oaks, an indoor luxury, so close! Though it did take the place of an attractive public golf course. Dulles Airport was huge. We marveled at the empty building. You could throw a nickel at the ceiling and it would stick in the cork-like structure. There are a lot of nickels up there. It only took 20 years for Dulles to develop. Warehouses, hotels, and office complexes blanket the landscape. Tysons Corner was soon followed by Tysons II. My friends used to ride horses there. Manassas got its multiplex theatre, Costco and Best Buy. But, I wax nostalgic.

Rappahannock Planning Commission member Al Henry was interviewed in the paper last week. He made some excellent points about county needs, but a couple of notes caught my eye. First was the need for a zoning administrator. Rappahannock is a small county. I suspect a secretary and an administrative assistant might be more appropriate than a new zoning administrator. Second, “expanding our zoning” to provide more commercial and industrial gives me pause for concern, akin to assessing an icy slope. Our zoning is not perfect, the villages could use better commercial zones. I presume, and may stand corrected, the zoning was created when villages were primarily residences with a country store and a few home businesses. But, changing zoning is fraught with peril.

Our Rappahannock forefathers created the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Regulations 50 years ago. These are historic, well-crafted documents. Like any document, they are fragile and must be treated with care. Changing zoning sets the county up for failure.  Rezoning ONE piece of agricultural to commercial or industrial drills a hole in the dam and sets the bull on course toward the china. It is nearly impossible to rezone one piece or location and tell others they cannot. Lawsuits await, zoning crumbles. Say goodbye.

We need to think out of the box to further the comprehensive goals of “Agriculture and Tourism”. Rappahannock is approaching a cusp. We must be vigilant to retain our unique character or the dam will break. If that happens, it won’t be long before all will wonder why we paved paradise, presuming anyone can recognize it.

Rick Kohler

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