The County’s Plans  for Middleburg

At 5:00 PM on Thursday, December 14, exactly one hour before its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at Town Hall, Loudoun County Officials were scheduled to deliver a special presentation on the County’s “Comprehensive Plan” focusing on the impact of revisions to the plan on Middleburg and environs.

Since July Council member Bridge Littleton has been attending meetings of a 26-person “stakeholders committee” appointed by the County Supervisors, that meets every other Monday from 6:00 to 9:00 PM to solicit opinions and offer advice on the multi-million-dollar exercise entitled, “Envision Loudoun.”

According to Littleton, the committee, headed by Ricky Barker, was operating in what he described as “more and more of a contentious environment.”

In his view, the committee to date has made has made “decisions that were not in the interest of Middleburg, the rural areas or preserving what went around them.”

He was particularly critical of the committee’s apparent approach to housing needs in the county.   Instead of doing “good planning” and saying “just because [a study] said we needed another 18,000 houses, we don’t want that”, the committee has said, “where do we put them”.

Littleton noted that roughly 83% of members of the public consulted by the committee said “do not put more houses in the transition area”; however, the stakeholders committee voted to triple it.”

“The scary thing,” he said, was that the committee’s document “would be the foundation on which decisions would be made.”

“They were,” he said, “generating a ton of stuff to support their recommendations but, his opinion, “they had not done the policy work to actually come up with the right policy statement for the County.”

On the other hand, Littleton noted they did a lot of great work with the public input sessions and reported that over 8,000 people participated.”

The Piedmont Environmental Council has been active in encouraging the general public and concerned non-profits to become involved in the matter.

Town Council in general, and Littleton, in particular, were expected to have sharp questions for the County at the December 14 presentation.

The session is open to the public.

A $320,000 Tax Refund

On November 9 Councilman Mark Snyder moved, and Town Council approved without dissent, an amendment to the Town’s Budget allowing the refund of some $320,000 in personal property taxes paid even though they were not due, and to cover the tax revenues that would not be received this year.

Town Administrator Martha Semmes noted that the State Code permitted the Council to refund the past three years’ of such tax levies, with a ten percent interest payment. 

Town staff, she said, had issued letters to the businesses that had paid the tax over the last three years. 

The Town Treasurer will issue the refunds, which Semmes estimated would be issued in early December. 

Introducing Middleburg To Richmond

Middleburg’s Business & Economic Development Director, Jamie Gaucher, reported to Council that he had traveled Richmond to “introduce himself” and meet “the people who headed up key divisions of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership”

“Many of them,” he noted “had heard of Middleburg; however, no one had ever been here.”

“This,” he said, “will change.” 

Financial Literacy Program

Middleburg is partnering with Middleburg Bank to do “a financial literacy program” at Middleburg Community Center, Economic Development Director, Gaucher reported.

The program, he said, will “touch on topics such as credit, the difference between working capital versus fixed assets, types of loans, what a loan package consists of, and federal and state guarantees that may be utilized by small businesses.”

The initiative, proposed by Middleburg Bank, will “be at no cost to the Town and would address a need,” Gaucher assured Council.  If successful, he said he “could see it evolving into an on-going relationship.” 

The sessions will require registration but will be open to the general public. 

School Safety Patrol Program

Middleburg Charter School has approached Middleburg Police Chief A. J. Panebianco in the hopes of partnering with the American Automobile Association to start a school safety patrol program.

“The kids,” he said, “asked for it.”

Current plans call for initial in-school interviews with eight fifth graders. 

At the end of the school year, eight fourth graders would then be selected and mentored by the fifth graders. 

Members of the “Safety Patrol” would receive a sash immediately, but would not officially “earn their badge” until after the first grading period.   

Panebianco then plans to bring the  “patrol” to a Council meeting and formally administer an oath once they have earned their badges, a ceremony similar to that expected of every member of the Middleburg Police Force.

In the Chief’s view, “ this would be a good opportunity to show the students how the Council operated . . . and taking the oath would hold them accountable to the community.

Ads to Promote Small Business

Business & Economic Development Coordinator Gaucher reported that he was also launching an advertisement on WINC FM that would focus on Small Business Saturday in order to get people to visit Middleburg to do as much Christmas shopping as possible.

Feed Bag Foods

Councilmember Hazard inquired as to what was “Feed Bag Foods”.  Business & Economic Development Director Gaucher advised that they had a double-decker bus, with the ground floor serving as the back house of a restaurant, and seating is located upstairs.  He explained that they did not want to be a food truck but rather wanted to park in Middleburg on a semi-permanent basis.  Mr. Gaucher opined that this was interesting. 

Councilmember Littleton questioned whether the bus was red.  Business & Economic Development Director Gaucher confirmed it was bright red.  He noted that he and the Town Planner discussed some locations where it could go.  Mr. Gaucher suggested the Council think of it as a semi-permanent bus and noted that it would be brought in on a trailer.  He opined that it would be like a little building.  Mr. Gaucher reported that their interest was not only to serve from the bus but also to potentially have an indoor space.  He opined that it would be a twelve-month a year operation and suggested they could have picnic tables or an outside space. 

Sidewalks, Water Lines and Repaving Plans

Town Planner Will Moore told Council that “infill sidewalk work” is moving forward, that survey work had been was done on Chinn Lane to make sure there was adequate storm drainage since the curb and gutter would direct water to that area.” 

Moore reported and Town Administrator Martha Semmes met with the Virginia Department of Transportation about the Ridgeview Water Line Project currently set to be completed “in coordination with the repaving VDOT planned to do in the next calendar year.”

That repaving, Moore intoned, “involved almost the entire town, with the exception of Route 50 and a few other spots.”

VDOT, he said, plans  “to mill and pave” on the south side of town; however, on the north side, they would do full depth construction.”

That means, he noted, “a lot of disruption and time to accomplish the work.”