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Letter: Tia Walbridge, Round Hill

Loudoun Now, February 25, 2019

Editor: This past week, my daughters and I pulled into the driveway on a typical evening: I had come from a meeting at the county education building in Ashburn, picked up my oldest from Girl Scouts, and we headed home for homework and dinner. But as we stepped out of the car, we heard a telltale tiny “baa,” from the barn. We discovered one of our ewes surrounded by three beautiful newborn lambs. We dried and warmed the little ones—the low was 20 degrees that night, too cold to be a wet newborn—and fed their mama so she could nurse. My oldest daughter knew exactly how to test to make sure her milk was flowing freely.

It was in pursuit of exactly this life that my family came to western Loudoun. This is not a typical day for every Loudoun family, but it demonstrates a unique diversity of economy and environment that made so many of us decide to raise our families here—that one region can be home to so many lifestyles, in close proximity to an abundance of jobs, and with wonderful schools for our children, is a balance rare and precious, and it is not going to survive by accident.

I serve on the Virginia Agricultural Council and the board of Loudoun County Farm Bureau. I have worked on agricultural issues at both a local and state level. I know that any county that is serious about conservation and a future with active agriculture should have in place three programs that work in concert: a Transfer of Development Rights Program, which allows the county to transfer credits for development from rural areas to more urban areas; a Purchase of Development Rights Program, which gives the county the ability to purchase such rights to hold for future projects at its discretion; and a Conservation Easement Program, which allows landowners to sell their development rights in exchange for tax credits and benefits. These three programs together represent the gold standard in conservation.

On Thursday night, our county Board of Supervisors voted along party lines to deny even researching the role a Purchase of Development Rights program could play in our county. Of the three, the PDR program is the most commonly used statewide, used by 21 counties in Virginia, and is the most straightforward to implement.

After decades of work from activists and experts, I am thrilled our Board of Supervisors is finally talking about these programs. But they are allowing politics in an election year to dictate the conversation, creating a false choice that one program is better than another based on the party of the supervisor who proposed it. This not a one-size-fits-all situation, and we need all three programs to work together to address the needs of all regions, parcels, and landowners.

I urge every citizen of Loudoun to contact every supervisor and ask them to support all three conservation programs and be serious about implementing them so we can maintain our unique and balanced Loudoun for generations to come.

Tia Walbridge, Round Hill

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                  PO Box 602, Round Hill, VA 20142