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If at first you don't secede: Could Loudoun County split asunder?

If at first you don't secede: Could Loudoun County split asunder?

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L OUDOUN--A secession movement in Virginia? Yes, there is indeed a secession movement taking place at this very moment in Loudoun County. The Citizens for Catoctin County's goal is to create our own county, from western Loudoun County, thereby gaining the right to control our own destiny.

The Virginia constitution allows us to create new counties, but doesn't have a process, yet, to do so. We are hoping to create such a process and are asking for your support.

A brief history: Loudoun County comprises two distinct areas. The eastern part of the county is a highly populated urban area with lots of shopping centers and high-tech businesses. The terrain in this eastern portion is flat.

The western part is quite different. We are a rural community, based primarily on a rural economy, and we wish to remain so. Our terrain is mountainous, and the majority have wells and septic systems. As different as the landscape is, our needs are equally as diverse.

But because there are more voters in the east, western Loudoun residents are outvoted when it comes to the issues that concern us the most. Our vision is to protect our rural economy, our natural resources and open space, maintain smaller schools and class sizes, and keep our taxes from rising out of control. The ever-encroaching development is making this more and more difficult to do.

Loudoun County is the third-fastest growing county in the country. Consequently, many problems have occurred. Our infrastructure is simply not set up to handle it, and we cannot keep pace with it. Our resources have been stretched beyond their limits, including natural resources like water.

The citizens of Loudoun County, especially those in the western portion, have expressed concerns for years over the rampant growth--but have been ignored by the majority of the Board of Supervisors. They have gone so far as to even ignore the supervisors elected to represent the west, by not allowing them to place certain items on the agenda.

Our current board is giving developers free reign to pave over and carve up our beautiful county, and we have no voice in these decisions. Our rights in western Loudoun County are being trampled, and secession is our last resort.

We began our secession movement as a means to protect our land, our businesses, and our slower way of life. We stand to lose many of our rural businesses (our economic base) because of zoning that has been imposed on us by the current board. This zoning removes most of our agricultural zoning, replacing it with residential. Businesses like farm markets, nurseries, sawmills, bed and breakfast operations, guest farms and rural retreats, veterinary services, grain mills, restaurants, antiques shops, art galleries, commercial wineries, and many more will all be in jeopardy.

We also stand to lose our small towns, country roads, open spaces and--most importantly--control of our own destiny.

We are just like any other Virginians. The Citizens for Catoctin County are farmers and librarians, mechanics and doctors, grocery store clerks and pharmacists, federal government employees and gas station attendants, teachers and local government workers. We are as diversified as any group can get.

Is it too much to ask that western Loudoun County residents (or any Virginia residents) have the ability to control the area in which they live? Do you not expect that same right where you live? If your rights were being denied and trampled, would you not do something about it? We are simply asking for the rights that are due us as Virginians and as United States citizens.

If you would like to know more about our plight, you may visit us at catoctin county.org. This battle ultimately will be decided in Richmond, at the General Assembly. What happens in Loudoun County will have a deep impact on you and your rights as Virginians. We hope that we can count on your support.

NANCY P. MEISSNER is co-chairman for Citizens for Catoctin County.

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