The matter of the Catesby Farm minor special exception for an events and banquet facility has generated a substantial public response over the course of the application, now for more than one year. I offer this summary, below, to provide clarity on the position of the community:
In March 2016, the community of residents and neighboring landowners presented a petition signed by 90 persons all standing in opposition to the application and requesting their elected representatives, the Board of Supervisors, to deny the request based on the inappropriateness of the proposed commercial use—a use totally unrelated to any agricultural, historical, traditional or residential use that is the generations old pattern in this most conserved area of our county.
After additional months of scrutiny of the evolving application, timely relevant, responses expressing opposition were submitted by numerous individuals.
Two community meetings were held, one in March, on site at Catesby and attended by county staff and neighbors, and one eight months later in September with Supervisor Tony Buffington and staff and attended by more than 60 near neighbors, at the home of an adjacent landowner and resident. At both meetings, the community expressed, unanimously, its opposition to the proposed use.
At the public hearing on October 12, thirty-five persons spoke in opposition to the proposal, nearly twice that number rose to express their opposition.
As of November 30, six local and regional organizations, The Land Trust of Virginia, The Goose Creek Association, The Mosby Heritage Area Association, The Unison Preservation Association, The Piedmont Environmental Council, The Loudoun Coalition for Preservation and Conservation (comprised of 24 independent organizations) have made written statements to the Board of Supervisors and/or their membership, describing in detail the reasons for request of denial of the application. These organizations are representative of their memberships with thousands of active members who support and expect vigorous action be taken on their behalf to protect the integrity and resources of the Piedmont, including rural western Loudoun County.
The above, described “Body of the Community” has, for generations, invested life, passion, and personal wealth whether abundant or scarce, in this mission. As a result, they have created and preserved an authentic landscape and vibrant traditional environment that is a haven for wildlife, a harbor for residents, and a magnet for visitors. Members of this body have, over time, served in state legislatures and on past boards of supervisors, commissions, or councils and shaped, together with the support of the community, the laws, regulations, and ordinances that have provided the conditions under which this unique resource can exist and thrive. There is a wealth of wisdom and experience in this community that understands and cherishes so rare a place.
We beseech members of the Board of Supervisors to recognize the impending magnitude of their decision on December 6 and vote to deny SPMI 2015-0018, Catesby Farm. Join with us, your constituents, to preserve rural Loudoun for all and for the future.
Bonnie L. Mattingly
Catesby Neighbors Against SPMI-2015-0018
On Dec. 6, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on a “minor special exception” proposal we submitted earlier this year concerning our Catesby Farm property.
Unfortunately, our limited proposal has been met with an undue and unwarranted level of misinformation and mischaracterization by many opponents, especially those who seek to use this vote to make a broader and more complex point about growth in western Loudoun, rather than focus on the true and just merits of our minor and straightforward request.
In short, we are simply pursuing an option afforded us under the county’s existing Comprehensive Plan and its Rural Economic Development guidelines – that is, to host up to 20 limited events of less than 200 guests on our 200 acre-plus property over a 365-day period.
This involves no permanent construction, no impactful changes to the property or scenery, and no use of certain roads in proximity to the farm. It involves some temporary tents, temporary lighting and music, and parking – all located in the middle of our expansive property and away from others.
Importantly, we have made - during the course of this process - no less than 10 substantial concessions in an effort to address concerns, mitigate any potential impact, and demonstrate genuine good faith and understanding.
While we could have easily pursued an option to turn Catesby into a B&B enterprise, we deliberately chose not to – even though doing so would have afforded us the ability to host even more events and on a larger scale than what we currently seek.
Those who are opposing our efforts fail to recognize that, already across western Loudoun, dozens of enterprises already function as event centers - holding events almost every weekend, seeking to generate revenue in the same way we are. These include a multitude of local B&Bs, wineries, breweries, and others.
Which raises the question: why should our proposal be held to a higher, unfair and unequal standard?
Concerns have in the past similarly been expressed about venues in their nascent stages – such as Salamander Resort, Middleburg Film Festival, and Shadow Creek Weddings & Events – all of which bring in hundreds of people dozens and dozens of times annually. Yet all these venues have taken root in Loudoun to widely-acclaimed success and heralded as generators of jobs, needed revenue, tourism, and business pioneers for the area.
Our family has been a good neighbor and resident of western Loudoun for many years. We cherish the lifestyle and traditions of our special community. We want to open the doors of Catesby and share its beauty and heritage with others.
We have earned the right to pursue the same dream and mission others have pursued in Loudoun. We deserve the ability to carefully, smartly and prudently host visitors on our property to generate much-needed revenue to survive financially and reinvest in our farm to preserve it in its pristine state for our children and future generations to enjoy.
County staff has recommended approval for our request. The Virginia Outdoor Foundation has indicated our proposal is fully in compliance with existing easements.
We hope others will see the many benefits of our request, and support us on Dec 6.
Michelle and Scott LaRose
Catesby Farm, Middleburg
Election Day dawned as a pleasant day, with 20 or so prospective voters gathered at the St. Louis, Va., polling place, awaiting its 6 a.m. opening. When I arrived there as a Times-Mirror observer, voting was brisk and a record turn-out in prospect.
After voting myself, I took up a station between the Republican and Democrat teams chatting with voters, mostly about the propositions on the ballot. As for the presidential race, almost all voters arrived with their choice already decided. Relations between the two party teams were cordial, even friendly. For nine hours I saw no hostility or heard any raised voices – an omen for a collegial future approach to the policy questions that would face the new president, whomever that might be.
I hoped it would be Hillary Clinton, as she had far more experience with and knowledge of the issues – immigration, climate, finances and debt, education, public safety,
In short, it looked to me that mainstream America was ready to ensure its future by supporting responsible, bi-partisan compromises to address national problems.
Later in the evening, my hopes drained away, as voting balances shifted to Donald Trump in key battleground states. There, it seemed that were demanding change regardless, and voting for its potential instigator, Donald Trump. Though alarmed, I fell asleep in front of the TV. When I awoke the next morning,Trump had over 270 electoral votes. He was the president-elect, and the Republicans remained in control of both branches of Congress.
What does a concerned voter do now?
First, accept the results, unless specific fraud is revealed – an unlikely event. Then, hope that Mr. Trump moves from campaigner to president, listening to knowledgeable people, issue by issue, and acting in the national interest.
Failing that, speak vigorously in personal discussions, and through the media, to inform and alarm voters.
The futures of our children, our nation and our world are at risk. We must hope our new president understands this, but if not it falls to us, as informed citizens, to make this our top priority. Our forefathers are watching.
Bruce Smart, Upperville
Former undersecretary of commerce in the Reagan Administration
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