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Votes

Working to Preserve History

Planning Commission to weigh historic preservation plan.

History has a home in Loudoun, said Douglas Foard, with five national landmarks, 49 sites listed on the state of Virginia’s historic register and some 3,000 historic structures. The trick in Loudoun isn’t finding history, said Foard, the real trick is finding out how to preserve that history.

Foard, chair of the county’s Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, and other committee members presented their proposed Heritage Preservation plan to the Board of Supervisors on Monday. The focus, Foard told supervisors, was not on spending tax dollars to keep history alive. Instead, committee looked for ways to make history profitable.

“We put together a plan that allows for the preservation of historic Loudoun, while allowing for continued development,” Foard said.

That means emphasizing heritage tourism and beefing up county government’s grant writing program, helping landowners find state and federal money to preserve historic resources.

But the committee also called for greater research into Loudoun’s historic areas, a comprehensive database of known historic and geographic landmarks and greater county power to make developers protect historic sites.

While they expressed some reservations, board members voted 7-1-1 to send the committee’s draft plan to the Planning Commission, with Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) voting against and Supervisor William Bogard (I-Sugarland Run) absent.

“This should not be interpreted as an agreement with everything in here,” said Supervisor James Burton (I-Mercer). “But I think the things I have concerns about will get sorted out at the Planning Commission level.”

Both Burton and Supervisor Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles) expressed concern about what the committee considered historic, with Burton noting that some houses were only 50 years old.

“We don’t want to confine Loudoun’s heritage to just the late-18th and early-19th centuries,” said Foard. “Even Sterling is significant in American suburban history.”

Planning commissioners should finish work on the draft plan in the next month, said county planner John Merithew, which could mean the board would see a revised plan by late November, or in time for the December public hearing. Any later could mean that the current board members would not be able to vote on the revisions before their board terms end in January.

But Board Chair Scott York said that the quality of the plan was more important than the timing. “Let’s get this right, rather than rushing it through to get it passed in this board’s term,” he said. “I’m confident where the votes will be on Nov. 4.”