Hello Middleburg! Here I address my ties to Middleburg, my motivations and my hopes for the future.
After my marriage dissolved some thirty years ago, my distaste for suburbia was high. My attraction to the country was growing, but my life had been in California and Virginia suburbs. I was compelled to find a place that truly appealed to me.
I mulled what attracted me to the country. I was 28 with a small newbie salary and years of future child support, but motivated to make it work.
My family had a wooded place then near what is now Ski Bryce, so I was familiar with the area from driving there. I was looking for a place with people who maintained small town friendliness and belonging with a taste for interesting discussion.
I stumbled on Middleburg and rented an apartment on Madison Street. In the early 1980’s, Middleburg boasted a roaring nightlife – the Night Fox and Café le Rat. Plenty for a newly single man juggling a new job and weekend visits by my toddler daughter. Middleburg had the sense of place and the people I enjoyed being among.
Middleburg proved a delightful and unique town. In the early 1990’s, I bought a house in Ridge View. I got interested in battling sprawl during Piedmont Environmental Council’s fight against Disney. Losing Middleburg the way Leesburg was developing sparked my interest in Town government. I was eager to get involved. Middleburg was special, too rare to lose its character and its sense of history and of place.
I began attending monthly council meetings. My first opportunity was Middleburg’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). The Town submits applicants for the BZA for court approval, which is mostly pro-forma. The BZA hears appeals to decisions by the Town Zoning Administrator – rare.
I kept attending council meetings and applied for an opening on the Planning Commission. This was a great opportunity to influence planning and tame developer influence. It is work, but I recommend it to anyone concerned about Middleburg’s future direction. I attended the Virginia Municipal League’s excellent training and I cannot recommend it highly enough to members of the commission! It gave me an invaluable understanding of zoning and an introduction to the Dillon Rule – Middleburg may only exercise powers explicitly granted in the Virginia State Code. George Lengauer, a remarkable man, then chaired the commission.
The commission finished amendments to the Zoning Ordinance and then began updating our Comprehensive Plan. The Plan as we began was thin, bare bones. However, a new Town Planner in the person of Martha Mason Semmes provided great guidance as we added substance. The commission completed the updated Plan and sent it to Council in 1999. By then I was on council and its representative on the commission.
I am most proud of my introduction for the Land Use section of the revised Comprehensive Plan (adopted February 2000): “Middleburg is not a new town searching for an identity. It is not seeking to duplicate suburban housing or shopping center development … Rather, Middleburg has distinguished itself over the past two hundred years as a small, independent rural village of historic significance and natural beauty with well-established residential, agricultural and commercial land uses. The town is at a point where restoration and preservation, rather than growth from new development, are primary goals for the future.”
I continued work on planning/zoning issues, such as Windy Hill and Salamander. However. I was alarmed about water when I first ran for council.
The crisis facing the water utility kept getting worse. I knew little, but learned as much as I could. Middleburg hired an engineer to produce a study and plan for the utility. With the issues identified, we obtained a utility rate model. Staff use it to ensure that revenues suffice to pay for operations, maintenance and build reserves for future replacements. . Finally, we hired a professional company, Inboden Environmental Services, to operate and maintain it. We do have more work to plan, particularly replacing water lines on the western side, but our utility is now manageable, sustainable and yielding improvements.
My goal on council is to keep Middleburg the beautiful eighteenth century small town with a vibrant commercial center that delighted me when I moved here decades ago. Middleburg must have a high quality water supply that is sustainable for the long term. I am confident that the wonderfully involved people in Middleburg and its surrounds will help us keep sprawl at bay and that we can maintain the tranquility and beauty befitting our role as the Capital of Hunt Country!
Are you interested? The November 8 ballot includes a special election to fill an unexpired Middleburg council seat. You must live inside the town and file with the registrar by August 19 to get on the ballot. The person elected joins us once the clerk swears them in to office. Call the registrar at 703-777-0380 for filing details.
Please send questions, suggestions, comments or complaints to the Eccentric for Ask a Council Member. I would love to hear from you!