Statement of the Germanna Foundation Opposing Amendments to Orange County Comprehensive Plan
The Germanna Foundation preserves what is best in the heritage of Orange County and works to transmit those values to the rising generations.
The staff-initiated proposed amendments to the Comprehensive Plan short-change the future, and so we must ask the Orange County Planning Commission to send this flawed plan back to the drawing board.
The Germanna Foundation supports economic growth and the cultivation of our cultural resources. Since 1956, the Germanna Foundation has preserved the largest portion of the first European settlement in what was once the western frontier of the British Empire.
Today, the Germanna Foundation is the center of a far-flung community, with members in the United States, Germany, Canada, and Australia.
It is that shared sense of heritage and responsibility to the community that led the Germanna Foundation to donate 100 acres of land to build the first campus of Germanna Community College here in Orange County, which has done more to benefit the residents of Orange County than any other institution.
We have sponsored our own Boy Scout troop and hosted many others who have hiked our forested land and canoed along the Rapidan River.
We also use our transatlantic connections to bring opportunity to people here in Orange County – on April 15, civic and business leaders (including Supervisors Frame and White) came to our headquarters to meet with representatives of a half-dozen German energy companies interested in investing in our home county.
While the Germanna Foundation has been far-sighted in bringing greater opportunity to people living in Orange County through higher education and jobs using the latest technology, we have also looked to safeguard the cultural landscape for the betterment of future generations of Orange County citizens.
The current Agricultural Zoning classification of the horseshoe-shaped peninsula of land along the Rapidan River in eastern Orange County aids in the protection of historic and scenic resources, which welcome both residents and visitors into Orange County from the west along Germanna Highway.
This modest protection would be swept away in the staff-proposed plan.
Good planning translates into good-paying jobs. The Counties of Albemarle, Clarke, Rappahannock and Fauquier have strong rural land use plans that protect against sprawl within their agricultural lands, while fostering agrarian-based economic development.
Orange County’s proposal to treat every parcel twenty acres or less as “residential” is the antithesis of these other sound planning practices demonstrated in the region.
Southern Fauquier’s conserved rural farmlands sustain more than twenty-five active family-run dairy farms and its northern rural areas foster good-paying equine industry jobs.
These conserved landscapes with their concurrent good-paying and locally-owned businesses and job opportunities stand in sharp contrast to the predominantly low-paying sprawl and strip-commercial-covered counties to the north and west.
Look closely at the types of jobs created in the sprawling commercial developments surrounding Fredericksburg and one can see Orange County’s bleak future under the staff’s proposed plan.
Notice, too, that increased service demands from sprawl are barely paid for by chain store tax receipts.
A comprehensive spreadsheet showing all the “real” costs must include column for the lost opportunities of long-term sustainable agricultural and tourism-related jobs that would be forever beyond Orange County’s reach if the staff plan is approved in its current form.
The Germanna Foundation strongly suggests the introduction of a new section in the plan for meaningful economic development which fosters Orange County locally-owned businesses and good-paying jobs.
This vision cannot be implemented with the new commercial and residential sprawl but instead by emulating Fauquier and Rappahannock’s strong agricultural plans and zones.
Further, in a spirit of sympathy with the County’s current residents’ concerns for the loss of their home’s value, the Germanna Foundation strongly opposes the new area designations for “Town Suburban Residential” and “village.”
These significant increases in suburban densities foster speculative residential development at a time when the county should be paying greater attention to the creation of good-paying jobs that simply don’t reallocate one retail job from a locally-owned business site to another retail job at a multinational corporation site.
Meaningful historic conservation that has both cultural and economic development value, however, is not achieved with token signage, parking lot drainage pits named after Civil War heroes, or by road and development names on projects that destroy tangible historic resources.
Instead, good planning succeeds in the conservation and management of historic properties in their intact historic settings.
Local heritage organizations, like the Germanna Foundation, comprised of local citizens and business representatives, attempt to meet the daunting challenge of conserving local historical resources that are reflected in Comprehensive Plans, and yet those very cultural resources are routinely destroyed by development and rezoning approvals.
If the staff-proposed Comprehensive Plan is approved, we will recommend to the Orange County Board of Supervisors to consider rescinding its Tourism Proclamation on the April 23, 2013 Agenda.
Almost 80% of all tourists are heritage tourists who visit authentic and intact historic destinations like Orange County.
Turning the Germanna peninsula into a zone for “Potential Economic Development” or “Town/Suburban Residential” would spoil the experience sought by tourists and the locally-based Orange County merchants who service them. (http://culturalheritagetourism.org/documents/2012CHTFactSheet_000.pdf )
It is senseless to transform these valuable and unique resources into another wasteland of dullness.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Good community planning is about both “process” and “outcome.”
The process should have intensive community involvement and input, and the outcome should benefit the greater good. Orange County’s staff-rushed grab-bag of proposed plan amendments are neither procedurally nor substantively fair to its citizens.
The amendments facilitate low-density residential sprawl and junky, low-paying strip commercial development across its presently scenic and rural agricultural corridors and areas.
The Germanna Foundation is a regional leader in heritage tourism.
It is the successful manager of historic Salubria in Culpeper County, it is seeking preservation of historic Germantown and the John Marshall Birthplace Farm in Fauquier County, and is working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the University of Mary Washington on an archaeology plan funded by the Germanna Foundation to complete the excavation of Governor Spotswood’s Enchanted Castle and to locate the palisade walls and blockhouse of Fort Germanna here in Orange County.
The cultural landscape of the Germanna settlement is fragile; it cannot be rebuilt if lost.
If it is lost, citizenship suffers. We don’t preserve our 179-acre part of Orange County to raise trees; we preserve our forest to raise men and women of character.
The Germanna Foundation has much at stake in this peninsula of land and throughout the region.
The Germanna Foundation therefore requests that Planning Commission ask the staff to rethink their proposal in order to protect this historic gateway, in recognition of the decades of work by forward-looking local, state, and federal organizations concerned about the future of our culture, and out of respect to the future generations of Virginians and Americans.