‘Inexpensive housing’ in Rappahannock County

Sheila Dwyer Gresinger

While the commentary by Brian Czech in the May 23 edition of the Rappahannock News was interesting to read, his conclusion that current day Rappahannock County “is a steady state economy” is in error.

I understand his and others’ thoughts, who are calling out that Rappahannock not be overcome with development and go the way of nearby Culpeper and Loudoun counties. Mr. Czech did point to what he considers a success, that Rappahannock County “has a rare and tremendous head start in ‘steady statesmanship’ due to its comprehensive plan.”

In addition, I will add, a significant amount of landowners have put their properties in conservation easements which has, for decades, steadily protected spacious openness enjoyed by county residents and tourist visitors. As Mr. John McCarthy stated years ago, the tourist traffic comes, spends money in many of our local businesses, and then goes back home, leaving minimal footprints here.

While I agree, in part, with some elements described by Mr. Czech about a “steady state economy” (we do seem to have time for family life, spiritual growth, at least some striving for political civility), in studying our history, we have yet to achieve what Mr. Czech describes as a “steady state economy,” i.e. “an economy that instead is stabilized and sustainable”.

This dovetails well with the recent discussions about affordable housing here in Rappahannock County.

After reading Richard Brady’s opinion piece in the May 16 issue of the Rappahannock News, I have a question. In his statements encouraging citizens to speak up and against any change that would be comparable to “make Culpeper what it is today. Fauquier is not far behind. And parts of Loudoun are losing their beauty.”

Does Mr. Brady, and some others, not realize that our wonderful Rappahannock County has, for decades, been protected from just those counties’ development changes by encouraging land use participation like conservation easements and a comprehensive plan that has encouraged growth in and around its villages?

Those other counties (with the exception of Fauquier, which has had limited zoning in some areas which caused developers to leapfrog from Prince William to Culpeper, which welcomed that growth) never had the protections that Rappahannock has had and is still encouraging even as changes have come here.

Has not Mr. Brady and some others read about the declining student population in our schools, which could soon impact specific funding needed to keep our schools ready to address the changes our students will increasingly face in today’s society?

At the recent Sperryfest, I talked to some visitors who would love to live here but could not find inexpensive housing in the county. Note I said “inexpensive” housing, because the words “affordable housing” seems to unleash irrational fear mongering, as stated in Mr. Brady’s piece.

Let’s revisit Alan Zuschlag’s opinion letter in this newspaper’s May 9 issue. At the last, Mr. Zuschlag acknowledged that there are some of our senior citizens who wish to be able to find smaller homes rather than their large ones because they wish to stay here in the place they love, just not in a hard to maintain large home.

In the May 9 Rappahannock News, Ron Makala asked a Why Not question in his comments about smaller homes in areas around our villages. In a church sermon a week ago, the words “love one another as Christ loves you” were stated, and included what I consider wise words. That love is an action, and that people will know you by your actions.

So, rather than strengthening the idea of “us vs. them,” which is the perception of mine after reading Mr. Brady’s piece, why don’t we all, or as many as possible, redirect this conversation to acknowledge the changes that factually have occurred here (apple orchards diminishing, Aileen Plant closure, population aging and diminishing) and figure out, together, how we can go forward to accomplish the viability we must have, to regain lost population, lost jobs, and yes, lost housing.

Those actions can lead us to the steady state economy described by Mr. Czech, to how we can sustain the beauty and peacefulness we enjoy. For the future, let us be remembered by the actions we take now together.

The writer lives in Washington.

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