Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Unified or Fractured? Neither?

Constitutions, charters, statutes, and ordinance provide the source of authority for elected officials and staff in the policy-making and day to day process of managing the town.  A clear understanding of roles and responsibilities increases our effectiveness.  Whether legislative or executive, our goal is to serve the community.  

Our Town processes are most efficient and productive when we work well together.  Each of us has a role to play and has defined responsibilities.  Conflicts arise when the needs and responsibilities of one are not understood or respected by another.  

Our staff can be a tremendous help in developing ideas, structuring processes, and keeping us on the straight and narrow. I have served just under one year; there are many situations and instances that will arise that I have little or no experience with.  Myself and my colleagues on the Council must rely on staff to provide us with a myriad of information so that we can fully perform our duties. Neither of us is free from imperfections.   

When there is a concern, be it staff or council, the matter should be discussed privately. I did that. However, my colleague chose not to.  Public criticism only makes martyrs. 

I am disappointed that my moment of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and frustration on my part was made public last night by Council Member McCollum.  There have been numerous private emails from my colleagues that I consider disrespectful and undermine our sitting Mayor. However, I have not chosen, nor has the Mayor, to provide provocation and attempt to undermine this council by taking it to the public.  

The actions last night have made me ponder who exactly is providing the fuel for this narrative that we are a fractured entity.  

Definition of Fracture:(with reference to an organization or other abstract thing) split or fragment so as to no longer function or exist.

We continue as a council to function.  We continue to move things forward. I even tend to agree with this council member most of the time. I agreed with him and he with me several times last night. Therefore, I don't agree that we are fractured.  

But let me provide some history.  Last year, some members of our town council attempted to deny Mayor Fraser his authority to appoint a member to a local governing committee. That and the efforts since, to undermine and discredit him have sadly left me more suspect than I would like to be.  

When I listened to the council meeting (May 12, 2015) a day later, it perplexed me as to how Council Member McCollum was appointed by the VML when they do not make the appointment as he stated in his comments. Research showed that countless other municipalities included it as an agenda item.   I sent an inquiry solely to the Mayor and the Town Manager in an attempt to temper my angst and keep it private. The Town Manager promptly provided the background and through a series of emails we came to an amicable consensus on how to proceed under the same circumstances in the future. The issue was resolved quickly between me, the Town Manager, and the Mayor. After my email was circulated to the entire council,  I expressed to everyone that my initial email(click to read) was poor messaging and terse, and I apologized in a subsequent email (click to read)  to all who saw it.  The Town Manager also apologized to me as well. 

Comments about my emails were edited and spoken out of context last night, and that is why I chose to publish them.   At no point was my communication an attack personally on Council Member McCollum and I made that clear in my council comments at the dais.  It was not the intent of my message, and several others did not interpret it as a personal attack on Council Member McCollum either.  Council Member McCollum never attempted to have a private conversation with me about my intentions even though there were public comments made last night by other council members that we should pursue that course in these situations.   

I was concerned about the process and making sure that each and every member of this council is provided the same access. We have four new members of council, and there are many nuances and procedures that we will not know of until a situation surfaces.  Staff and our veteran council members should provide leadership. They won't always catch everything or be at the ready, but we look to them on guidance.   

Regardless, we have been fighting for the heart and soul of Purcellville. We have been working on our budget, moving forward on initiatives such as the survey, economic development, and assessing our assets to better align our future.  We are having to attend annexation meetings that require the attention of town council and its residents.   

This is the second time this narrative of being a "fractured" council has been brought up at our meetings and it is truly a non-issue. Inserting this into our council meetings is nothing more than an attempt to divert the public and media attention from the issues that truly matter to the residents.

Our spoken words and actions have power, and they can and will define us.  Once out, we can no longer hide from them or the truth of who we are.  Disagreeing is the hallmark of democracy. However, respect must come from both sides.  

"Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things."- Warren Bennis

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Development, Annexations and the Northern Collector Road

On Friday May 1, 2015, Joe Bane and J. Roncaglione hosted a meeting to discuss the proposed annexation of two properties. One is a 67 acre property north of town off Berlin Pike bordering Route 7 and the other is 84 acres located west of town off Business 7.  Several members of the Purcellville Town Council, Purcellville Planning Director Patrick Sullivan, Blue Ridge Supervisor Janet Clarke, Hamilton Town Council Member Craig Green, as well as other elected officials attended both meetings from Loudoun County. 

Both proposals included data centers. The landowners talked about how data centers would bring in significant tax revenue into the Town and County and could be used to relieve the Town’s large debt without raising taxes.

Residents voiced their concerns over the developments and countered many of the points raised by the landowners.
  While there was no consensus or general agreement regarding these projects, it is good to see developers coming to the public and involving them in the process and starting a dialogue.   

“In a negotiation, we must find a solution that pleases everyone, because no one accepts that they must lose and that the other must win... Both must win!”   ~ Nabil n. Jamal

A few days later, on May 5, 2015, there was a Purcellville Area Northern Collector Road Follow-Up Meeting hosted by Board of Supervisors Janet Clarke and Geary Higgins. Residents of the Wright Farm community are concerned about the impact of the annexation proposals and the Northern Collector Road on their neighborhood.

Proposed alignments for the Northern Collector Road

Even though the Northern Collector road was added to the County Transportation Plan in 1995, the homes in Wright Farm were allowed to be built starting in 2003 in close proximity to the easement for the road and in some instances the road would eliminate a home, traverse a homeowner's septic field, wells, and comes within a short distance of multiple homes.  Many of the homeowners were not provided any information about the road when they purchased their homes or not until their closing and they weren't made aware of the size and nature of the road. The Loudoun County study to determine the need for the road will include projections with and without the completion of the Route7/690 Interchange.   

Knowing that there was an easement for a road, the county and town (since PUGAMP was in effect when Wright Farm was built) should have mitigated these issues during the zoning and site plan review for this community and should have required the homes be built such that any future road’s impact would be low. 

The Northern Collector road is being pushed to the forefront now that the Mayfair development has commenced construction and a section of the Northern Collector Rd was proffered.  In addition, several property owners along the proposed road (pictured above in yellow) are actively seeking annexation into the Town of Purcellville so they can develop their land with higher density uses since town utilities are needed to allow for such development.  

This area was changed during the 2003 Countywide Remapping and Rural Remapping in 2006 which remapped properties on the north side of the Town of Purcellville from A-3 (agricultural residential) to JLMA-3 (Join Land Management- 1 house per 3 acres).  

I believe that all residents inside and outside of Purcellville should be involved in determining the growth pattern and development around Purcellville.  Zoning is a social contract and it has become all too common to constantly up-zone property and change the landscape and nature of an area to the will of developers and the detriment of area residents.  I don't purport to stall progress or growth and nobody thinks these parcels will sit vacant forever. I do believe that any growth conversation must involve public dialogue because the decisions that get made must represent the values and preferences of those who live here, not just those who wish to develop here and live well outside of our town.  

Changing demographics and the nature of how people shop online have contributed to a shift in how development will occur going forward.  What worked for another town may not be appropriate for Purcellville.  

Catoctin Circle (in red) was the first collector road in Leesburg.