Friday, February 14, 2014

Catoctin Creek Towne Center and the Attempts to Discredit the Opposition

Mayor Bob Lazaro, via the Leesburg Today, is still trying to attempt to discredit those opposed to latest development in Purcellville. 
To shed some light,  I am sharing one of my first letters to the Purcellville Town Council regarding the proposed Catoctin Creek Apartments, a development which now includes an 18 acre amusement type park. 

Dear Town Council, 
I am writing to you to express my dismay regarding the proposed development of an apartment complex off Hirst Rd and ask you to not support it. Though the developer has not submitted any application, I believe that each of you is fully aware of the scope of this project.  It is important that the Town Council represents the community and it is my intention to get as many residents against this development and I ask for your support in defeating it. 
Can this project conform to the Comprehensive plan? NO!

Environmental: The proposed apartment complex would align with Catoctin Creek, the Kane Nature Preserve, and the designated wetlands.  Protecting existing trees and green spaces mitigates pollution and protecting this area from a large development will benefit Purcellville in the long run and add to the quality of life for all of our residents.  Be prepared to take down the "Tree City USA" sign! 
Hirst Rd is one of the Gateways into our Town and any development should be done to provide a small town aesthetic.  Development along this corridor should have minimal impact on the environment and surrounding communities and an apartment complex with a possible capacity of 200+ units is not in keeping with the preservation program adopted by the Town Council.  
Conservation efforts should be made and the 100 ft wide buffer around streams and creeks should be enforced.  The developers plan likely does not meet this requirement and the Town Council should not give special exemption to the developer on the basis of tax-credit designation in exchange for destroying an environment that can never be restored. This will create more traffic and greater need for traffic mitigation and construction which will further erode the small town feel of Purcellville.  
The Town of Purcellville has a shortage of recreational facilities and passive open space.  A medium sized sporting complex such as playing fields or a small dog park would better serve the community and the limited use of additional pavement and the construction of buildings will retain ground saturation in and around the wetlands/creek/nature preserve. 
The addition of such a large complex will further strain schools, create higher demand for public safety services, and push to the limit public utilities. The pump station on Skyline Drive was built to accommodate less than 200 homes.  Rapid growth  and additional use placed upon this station will result in the pump being over worked.  If provisions for future expansion were not given when built, the entire pump station or major components may have to be replaced.  At what cost to residents? We already pay the highest rates in the area for water.  The town is currently able to meet water capacity but according to the comprehensive plan this will turn into a deficit in the long range future.  Continually growing our community financed by bonds and debt is not fiscally responsible and will only increase the tax burden that we already endure living in this area.    
Do the benefits outweigh the negatives for such a project? NO!
I am a firm believer in low income housing and I was aware of the tax-credit properties that are near my home when I made my purchase in the summer of 2011. However, my choice was not to be completely surrounded by high-density apartments and with the swipe of a pen you could effectively take that choice from me and many others in our community.   It appears that the members of our council do not live in close proximity to the proposed apartment complex and you may feel that it will not directly impact you, but I assure you that it will in the long term.  
Only when affordable housing is not overly concentrated in strong neighborhoods with high home values and low poverty rates can the adverse effects on nearby properties be mitigated.  The community of Old Dominion Valley (ODV) currently has three tax-credit apartment complexes surrounding the community, all of which are just on the other side of the W&OD Bike Trail. The addition of another tax-credit property will designate this particular area of Purcellville as less desirable.The current residents of ODV and surrounding areas will vacate their residences one by one and move to more desirable locations, mostly outside of town, which will decrease market values which in turn will decrease market values in all of Purcellville.  Residents moved out here for the idyllic lifestyle and small town atmosphere and this type of development could forever change the face of Purcellville. Even without the tax-credit status, an additional apartment complex would have a negative effect on our town. 
As a low-income project, the developer is going to make millions on the front end of this project with developer fees and we as a town will be left with a property that may or may not stay in good financial stead after its 15 yr compliance period is up. A minimum amount of funds will be allocated for upkeep and will in time become a blight on our quaint town. If you look at the other tax-credit properties in Purcellville and surrounding cities in Loudoun, there is very little landscaping or architecture which means any development on Hirst Road would poorly reflect on the Town of Purcellville.  It would be easily seen from Route 7 and passing tourists may dismiss our town on the basis of the view from the main road.  
Purcellville has a 25% ratio of tax-credit housing per capita compared to Leesburg's 16%; we clearly don't warrant more tax-credit properties. Affordable housing is more available here than in our surrounding communities.  As a rural community, Purcellville residents mostly rely on private transportation to work and more low-income residents may require additional public transportation.  Huge buses clogging up our streets and air is not compatible with the town directives.  Adding so many residents in a short time frame will create a hardship on our town, schools, and traffic.  
Multiple studies find that smaller low-income housing projects (less than 50 units) have no impact on crime, but larger projects may result in an increase in crime.  Based on crime reports throughout Loudoun County, the correlation exists within our community as well as surrounding ones.  Many cars have been tampered/broken into in recent months in Old Dominion Valley and our proximity to such housing makes our community a prime target.  Adding a large development would statistically increase the odds for more crime incidences.  Since the town is not large in terms of square miles, the entire town could be adversely effected by this.  
I hope the Council realizes the best course of action for the Town of Purcellville and will vote against the apartment complex when the time comes. 

Bob's response:

Thank you for your email.

As you know, the owner of the property in question has not submitted an application for rezoning to the Town. Contrary to what some have told the community, any such application would be subject to public hearing and public input by both the Planning Commission and Town Council.

Again, thank you for your email.


Robert W. Lazaro, Jr.
Town of Purcellville
221 South Nursery Avenue
Purcellville, Virginia 20132

And I responded with a letter explaining why we are taking action in making residents aware of this development and about Big box retail, using Walmart as an example and in my letter wrote "You were elected to meet the needs of the current residents, not the potential in-migrants.  To argue otherwise is to deny the very structure built into our federal system of government or to stretch the word "constituent" beyond all reason".  To my utter disbelief, Mr. Lazaro went on a rant the following week during a Town Council Meeting about how he was disturbed at how "some in the community were against immigrants."  Margaret Morton Reported his misleading statements that week in the Leesburg Today.  He has asserted to many in the community that I am against the poor because I am against this development.  One must ask themselves, does Mr. Lazaro reveal his hidden support of this developer/development given his attempts to discredit outspoken residents and manipulate information in the public sphere? He has stated he can't comment on the project, meanwhile members of the Board of Supervisors and Town of Leesburg Council Members comment with regularity on projects. 

I am disgusted with the contempt some members of our Purcellville Town Council have for their constituents and their behavior following these meetings where they shake hands and pat the backs of those representing the developers, all the while smugly laughing like long time friends showing their utter disregard for the wishes of those who put them in office.