On June 9th, Middleburg’s Town Council held what was, by all accounts, a productive if uneventful meeting: the pledge of allegiance promptly at 6:00, followed by the usual staff reports, appointments to Town Committees and Councils, mostly technical revisions to zoning ordinances and rental regulations, and well-deserved special recognition of Middleburg’s two 2016 Loudoun Design Award winners: the National Sporting Library and Coe Eldredge of University Group.
Lt. Mike Prince continued to report on the Middleburg Police Department’s seemingly never-ending efforts to help smooth the flow of traffic in the face of impossible conditions; facilitate parking; and curb speeding and other issues caused by frustrated commuters, back and forth, doing their best to minimize delays on Route 50.
A week later, on June 16, a massive thunderstorm dubbed “The Hailstorm from Hell” capped what was arguably one of the most challenging weeks in the history of the town.
There have been worse storms, causing more damage, and longer power outages. There was, as one wag put it, no snow. And at press time the Town appears to have suffered only property damage, without any loss of life or serious injury.
That said, June 9 to 16 was a week to remember, or perhaps, better said, a week to forget.
Construction along main street continued apace, with what has all too sadly become its almost routine accompaniment of noise, dust, one-way traffic jams, blocked or non-existent parking, frustrated commuters, and a resulting marked decline in retail and restaurant traffic.
The town’s merchants and service providers, working with Town Staff, the business association and Chief A.J. Panebianco’s hard-working Police Department, carried on: doing all that is humanly possible to rise to the challenge: working out parking alternatives, mapping routes, working overtime, educating visitors and townspeople to constantly changing conditions.
Then came a gas leak, ostensibly caused by construction damage to a meter in the northeast end of town. Heard over a policeman’s cell-phone connection, the leak sounded to one newspaper editor like a “jet engine.”
As a safety precaution, Police immediately evacuated the area around Middleburg Charter School. As the smell of gas spread to the far east end of town, Middleburg Policemen went door to door, advising business to close and residents to leave their homes if the smell INSIDE their homes became as noticeable as the smell outside.
Again, Middleburg escaped any serious damage. The smell proved worse than the leak. The leak was rapidly repaired, and, at press time, there were no reports of any harm done to people or property by the gas.
Wind and Hail
Then on Friday, June 17, a storm hit Middleburg.
Described by the Washington Post as “The Hailstorm from Hell,” it was part of a long front that moved east across the Shenandoah, crossed the Blue Ridge and unloaded, eventually spreading rain, wind, hail up to the size of baseballs and at least one reported tornado across Virginia, the District and part of Maryland.
At least one local winemaker expressed fears that the hail had destroyed his entire crop.
Families sheltered in basements and guests were hurried to safety on farms as tornado warnings were broadcast, suspended, and then re-instated.
Witnesses reported that every single car belonging to those attending an event at Hill School suffered a broken windshield or other glass damage.
Trees in the path of the worst of the hail were stripped of leaves and limbs by a combination of hail and winds that, in some cases, gusted to 75 miles per hour.
After the storm passed, the Town witnessed what seemed to be hours of a passing parade of vehicles with flashing lights: among them police and emergency vehicles, VDOT and power company vehicles, tow trucks and glass repair vans.
With the roads unsafe and electrical service interrupted, the Middleburg Police Depart joined their counterparts in the surrounding towns, cities, and counties to minimize after-the-storm accidents and injury.
To date no deaths and no serious injuries from the storm have been reported in the Middleburg area.
[ For exclusive Middleburg Eccentric photography See: http://wp.me/p7kQ73-1nd ]
In other news, Council passed without opposition amendments to the Town’s zoning ordinances governing the style, size and placement of fences, and, among other things, would give Salamander more flexibility in determining “setbacks,” (how far back from the street houses must be built) in its new development.
The Loudoun County Design Cabinet singled out Middleburg’s National Sporting Library and Museum and Coe Eldredge of University Group for special recognition at the June 7th meeting of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
The Cabinet recognized The National Sporting Library and Museum for its outstanding “transformation of the Vine Hill Mansion into a world class art gallery,” and the University Group for its work on the Middleburg Professional Center office building.
Audits and Passwords
Town Treasurer Ashley Bott reported that she and the Town’s IT contractor were still working to increase the security of Middleburg’s computer systems, with plans now pending to both lengthen the passwords needed to access Town’s data, and change those passwords as often as every ninety days.
Bott also met with Town’s auditors and reported that the audit schedule has been set, with work beginning in July.
Police Lieutenant Mike Prince reminded Council that the Middleburg’s popular and highly successful celebration of “National Night Out” had been set for August 2. This year, he noted, the ever-popular dunking booth would return, along with the Department’s world famous hot dogs.
Vice Mayor Darlene Kirk noted that motorists continue to cut through the Ridgeview Subdivision to avoid construction delays and expressed concern that “once the construction was complete” they would continue to do so “as they would have learned that path.”
Council seemed to agree that a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Pendleton and Marshall Streets would help, and asked staff to once more request that the Virginia Department of Transportation take action on the matter. Mayor Davis pointed out that the intersection was especially dangerous because many motorists “already believed it was a four-way intersection.”
Council and Committee Appointments
Council appointed Peter Wood, Maribe Chandler-Gardiner and Anne Charlotte Robinson to the Middleburg Arts Council for two-year terms, ending on June 14, 2018.
Prem Devadas, Duane Ellis and Vincent Bataoel were appointed to the Economic Development Committee.
New Website Developer
Town Administrator Martha Semmes announced that both the Town’s review committee, and Economic Development Advisory Committee had supported the selection of “ReviZe:The Government Website Experts (http://www.revize.com) for the Town’s new four-year Website Development Contract
Mayor Davis noted that, in her view, ReviZE “provided everything the Town needed and was well versed in government websites.”