Tuesday, September 08, 2009

How Can Loudoun County VA Get Out of Debt?

Gateway to Loudoun County is pleased to begin providing a series of occasional "Guest Blogs" written by those very familiar with Loudoun, Dulles and the Northern Virginia region and associated topics consistent with our "business and the community" themes.

The following is provided by Mr. Rob Noyes, who manages 3500 writers on his Letter Writing Service website (http://www.LetterRep.com), and who runs a very popular Loudoun Winery twitter aggregation via @LoudounWineries to support and promote rural economic development and organic products in Loudoun County and Virginia. Contact him here, or at LoudounWineries[at]gmail.com .

How can Loudoun County get out of debt?

This conversation really occurred. I know...I was the taxpayer.

Taxpayer to Loudoun County official: "In what ways is Loudoun County raising money to pay its huge debt?"

Reply: "The only thing Loudoun County is interested in is selling real estate in order to levy the associated taxes."

Please read between the lines here. The Loudoun official is not referring to the selling of existing homes. The taxes on existing homes (in most cases) are already being paid. The Loudoun official's statement refers to selling new, yet-undeveloped homes to more newcomers to Loudoun.

I grew up here in Loudoun...attended Loudoun Country Day School and Catoctin Elementary, participated in Pony Club, played Little League, was baptized and confirmed at St. James Episcopal, worked during summers at Morven Park...and as much as I enjoyed the quaintness of Loudoun County the way it was, the newcomers to Loudoun County have made it a truly wonderful place. Loudoun County's population is more talented and better educated now, thanks to its newcomers, than it ever was back then. Additionally, "Made in Loudoun" organic products, including local Virginia wines and beer, are much more well-known and appreciated by friends and families of new Loudoun residents outside the County. Regardless of what anyone else may say, if you're transplanted to Loudoun, as far as I'm concerned you're very, very welcome.

That being said, I disagree with the county's position to sell more homes to an ever-growing local population. By doing so, it sells in bits the very thing that makes Loudoun so desirable. So, rather than sit here and wait for the 120 square feet of land behind me to be built into a quad-plex for which some poor soul will pay too much in taxes, I'm offering some different ideas for Loudoun County to make money.

1) In 1661, King Charles II, presented with a map of the New World and told to divide it by royal decree into governable portions of land, laid his hands on the Potomac and York Rivers and declared the section between the two as "Northumberland County".

Why is this significant? Because Loudoun County, as well as Fairfax, Stafford and a few others still hold that border that was set by royal decree prior to the revolution. Henrico County, the county of our esteemed state capital, has a claim to no such history. It was shaved from the carvings of multiple counties until it finally reached its present boundaries.

2011 marks the 350th anniversary of King Charles decree. Wouldn't an invitation to Prince Charles to come to Loudoun to re-enact that event be marketable? (Note: Prince Charles, the Duke of Windsor, is not the namesake of King Charles. King Charles II was of the House of Tudor while Prince Charles is of the House of Windsor, previously Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.)

2) In 1737, the western border of what is today Loudoun County was established when Prince William County (which would later be divided into Fairfax and finally Loudoun counties) was created. Of note, Loudoun's western border, the original Prince William western border, rests at the top of the Blue Ridge, instead of just a half mile away at the Shenandoah. Why? Because in 1737, what lay west of the Blue Ridge was quite literally 'Indian Country.' The western border was established 'on top of the mountain' for strategic positioning to look down on the Indian villages that dotted the banks of the Shenandoah from Harpers Ferry down to Front Royal.

Why is this significant? Because when a political boundary is established it means that anyone living inside the boundary must pay taxes. In exchange, those living inside the boundary are granted certain provisions, most notably in 1737 was protection. Pre-revolutionary soldiers were assigned to the Blue Ridge border to stand guard against indian raids upon the residents and taxpayers of Prince William(Loudoun) County. In the 20 years between 1737 and 1757 when Loudoun County was established, something had to happen up there. Some soldier died by attack or disease or age and was interred up there.

In 2006 when the original settlers of Jamestown were discovered (again, pre-revolutionary citizens), Queen Elizabeth visited Jamestown to pay her respects to those she still considered subjects of the crown. Wouldn't she do the same for one of Britian's soldiers buried here in Loudoun? Let's go find one.

3) The Mount Zion Community Cemetery, the black cemetery at the intersection of North and Liberty Streets in Leesburg, holds the grave of Loudoun's purported oldest resident, Mary Mallory, who died at the age of 108 after living her first 60 years as a slave at Morven Park.

Loudoun County has a rich black history that is, unfortunately, disjointed and under-marketed: Arcola's slave quarters, the Middleburg Freedom School, St. Louis (the oldest black township in the South), the Waterford Freedom School, Mary Mallory's slave quarters, Mary Mallory's grave and the Mount Zion Community Cemetery. This site holds not just Mary's grave but the graves of 40 people who lived before the Emancipation Proclamation, 13 of whom fought in the Civil War and several of whom walked to Baltimore to enlist in the Union. Of course, just down the street from the cemetery is the Mount Zion United Methodist Church, the oldest black congregation in Virginia.

In 2011, Colin Powell is slated to conduct the ribbon-cutting for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the mall in D.C. With no Harriet Tubmans nor Thoroughgood Marshalls in the surrounding area, can't Loudoun's rich black history bring people visiting the Dr. King Memorial to Loudoun, thereby stimulating our economy?


3% of every dollar spent by people staying in hotels in Loudoun is called the 'Transient Occupancy Tax.' 1% of this 3% goes directly toward paying our taxes. Finding reasons to bring people to Loudoun is our priority...or we can just bury it all under new homes to levy the associated taxes.?

Got any ideas of your own? Comment back!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um -- It would be very interesting to know what department that official works in for that is certainly not the opinion of the Western Board members and the others ran on a slow growth campaign.

9:59 PM  

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