More Lies and Fearmongering

Loudoun Now continues to offer the Catoctin Coalition, PEC, JTHG, and others a platform to spread lies and misinformation to Loudoun Citizens in their latest publication of Martha Polkey’s “opinion”: https://loudounnow.com/2018/10/17/op-ed-rt-15-plan-threatens-cascade-of-loss-for-rural-northern-loudoun/

Ms. Polkey has been the ringleader behind stopping all improvements to this road for 20+ years with the result being many deaths and the massive delays we all sit in daily. Nowhere in this ridiculous narrative of bogus lies and misinformation or in any of her other constant publications does she provide ANY realistic solutions to the problems on Route 15. No, she keeps pointing to “traffic calming” (code for slowing cars down) as a means to decrease congestion which is a big lie. Her goal is to make Route 15 so unbearable that no one wants to use it. The real boondoggle here is the idiotic roundabouts that she proposes which will saddle Loudoun taxpayers with $60 to $100 million dollars in debt and will fail on day one. Roundabouts are not designed to regulate peak one-way directional traffic and comparing Route 15 (a long stretch of highway) with Gilbert’s Corner (one intersection) is an apples to oranges comparison.

How about public input?

Ms. Polkey would have you believe that it was all a show but the facts are she just doesn’t like the outcome. Survey after survey shows massive support for widening with proper medians. Don’t believe her lies, Ms. Polkey had direct input to the consultants who were studying every solution. Some of her strange “ideas” probably lead to tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars of extra work for the consultants to analyze. How about those who were supposedly not represented on the stakeholders committee? Supervisor Higgins directly mailed over 800 homes informing them of the work being done on Route 15 and how to give feedback. We frequently call out Supervisor Higgins for not moving this project forward fast enough but he has made sure people are involved. At this point, if you live along Route 15 and don’t know what is going on then you just don’t care.

Supervisor Higgins “slammed the door shut?”

What a fat lie. Ms. Polkey and her associates (PEC, JTHG, Ruritans, Ian Lockwood) constantly meet with Supervisor Higgins and county staff trying push their “solutions.” The mere fact that Mr. Lockwood’s “proposal” (which was really just 100+ pages of regurgitated BS from his previous presentations) was included in the document presented to the Board of Supervisors at the September 20th meeting shows that their “solutions” were considered. Again, the problem is Ms. Polkey and her group do not like the outcome so they are trying to say the process was not followed and people weren’t informed.

Less access?

Yes, this is going to happen and is a minor consequence of progress. Some homes will have to be “inconvenienced” and won’t be able to make left turns directly from their driveway. The safety and efficiency of the roadway for thousands of citizens trumps a handful of people’s need to make occasional left turns directly from their driveway. Its debatable whether they can make these left turns today due to the traffic and safety issues. Our suggestion? Move the driveway to another access road instead of directly connecting to Route 15 if possible.

Our elected officials should stop wasting their valuable time (and our taxpayer dollars) on solutions that have already been studied and shown not to work. Instead, they should be concentrating on a project plan which would expedite Route 15 safety and congestion improvements.

Fix Route 15 Now!

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The Special Interest No Growthers Obstructionist Playbook & Tactics

Delay, attack, mislead, malign, misinformation, block, deflection and denial.  Those are the key components for the Special Interest No Growthers Obstructionist Playbook!

Special Interest “no growther” groups delay any meaningful road safety improvements by requesting more data and studies be conducted and insist on adherence to their own corridor management plan that advocates for “trees over peoples safety”.

Special Interest “no growther” groups attack individuals, and often the attack is of a personal nature, who are opposed to their position.

Special Interest “no growther” groups mislead the public by submitting one flowery article after another (and always lacking substance and fact) to the local newspapers about how the bucolic countryside will be “lost forever” while conveniently ignoring the horrendous loss of life and injuries.

Special Interest “no growther” groups make repeatedly false and maligning statements against all elected officials, organizations, and individuals in opposition to their point of view.

Special Interest “no growther” groups bombard elected and appointed officials with voluminous amounts of misinformation as a tactic to prevent any plans from  taking shape to widen or add median strips and paved shoulders for safety.

Special Interest “no growther” groups block progress by scheduling repeated meetings with elected and government officials and managers and take up all of the “limited” speaking slots at public hearings to prevent voices with differing opinions from being heard.

Special Interest “no growther” groups use deflection as a tactic to “talk around” any data and facts that are presented which shred their arguments.

And finally, special Interest “no growther” groups use denial as a tactic by masquerading around as collaborative participants while all along plotting behind the scenes to deny any and all meaningful safety solutions that involve the widening of Route 15.

Special Interest “no growther” groups do not care about the safety and lives of the residents and schoolchildren along the Route 15 corridor and Supervisor Geary Higgins has yet to announce a start date with a project plan to have 4-lane widening, centerline median strips and paved shoulders put in place to protect us.

Perhaps Supervisor Higgins has another agenda other than the safety of the residents and schoolchildren and that is why there is no start date for this project that already has all of the necessary funding approved.

Perhaps Supervisor Higgins is playing politics to start this project a year from now when he is up for re-election.

Our lives and our children’s lives should not be used as pawns in an election scheme and Supervisor Higgins should be ashamed of this tactic.

Supervisor Higgins Should Fix Route 15 Now!!!!!

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Who is the Catoctin Coalition?

Today we will continue to look at special interest groups opposing meaningful Route 15 improvements with a little bit of history about the Catoctin Coalition and its tangled dark web of partner organizations.

The Catoctin Coalition was founded sometime around 2001 for what appears to be the express purpose of blocking VDOT’s proposed improvements to Route 15 based on the VDOT 1998 Route 15 Safety Study North SegmentSee Washington Post letter to the editor from their founder here.

These self-proclaimed traffic experts believe they know better than VDOT engineers about what changes need to be made and have carried on their campaign against safety and congestion relief improvements every step of the way. The Catoctin Coalition is also a partner organization of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (source here). Please refer to our first special interest story for more information about JTHG. For the sake of brevity, we will just reinforce that they are ONLY concerned with protecting the history and rural nature of the corridor – NOT safety and congestion relief! Although they talk a good game about supposedly wanting improvements to Route 15, they care very little about capacity and safety on this road. They are willing to allow small improvements like roundabouts and “calming” that will cost a lot of money, not alleviate the gridlock, but achieve their true objective of avoiding future growth.

Is the Catoctin Coalition acting as a local front group for the JTHG, the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), and the Sierra Club? It operates under a different name but still uses all the same language and arguments. Publications from one group look exactly like publications from the others. There is a common narrative and they stick to it regardless of the facts. They are also all interconnected in both mission, leadership, and membership. See references here and here. Before they took their website down, the Catoctin Coalition even stated that donations to their cause should be sent to the PEC for disbursement to them (Source here). Was this a way to get around applying for official non-profit status and the lobbying limitations that comes with a 501(c)(3) non-profit? 

A close examination of membership as well as community knowledge of the people involved shows the same few people in positions of influence are involved in not only the groups listed above, but also other groups like Friends of Route 15 and the Lucketts Ruritans. One can only assume these multiple groups were formed in an attempt to make it appear that these few people have a more popular stance than they actually do. Don’t let the propaganda and hype fool you, despite their claims of being the voice of the wider community, these groups represent the views of less than 10% of the residents. These groups do NOT want Route 15 improved and are only grudgingly coming to the table with plans because they feel the momentum is turning against their do-nothing stance. For the better part of three decades, they have laid out a series of mutually exclusive demands for the corridor that make it impossible to achieve all of them.  The result – being to demand that Virginia and the County “study it until you get it right” – as was screamed by a protester, and known operative of these groups, at a BOS hearing on February 14, 2018.

One of our elected officials continues to play dumb when questioned about his own and the County’s relationship with these special interest groups. Note the following exchange between the Raspberry Falls HOA and Supervisor Geary Higgins. Full link with excerpt below:

Q: Does the county have a partnership with The Journey for Hallow Ground? Does that partnership have any impact on what road options are considered/approved?

A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will research and provide us with an answer.

Q: Did the Journey of Hallow Ground develop a corridor management plan that describes road improvement options for 15?

A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will research and provide us with an answer.

Keep in mind that Loudoun County has a link to the JTHG on its website. Even if there is no “official” partnership, there is most definitely one in practice. As we’ve mentioned before, these special interest groups were all specifically invited to contribute to the 2017 Kimley Horn US Route 15 Congestion Report. Who wasn’t invited? HOA’s, citizens, and anyone who was actually in favor of real improvements. It was only after a large public uproar demanding change that the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee was formed.

So again we ask – Who actually represents the voice of the community?

FIX ROUTE 15 NOW AND NOT in 10 YEARS!!!

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Who Really Represents the Community?

One of the key refrains that we all hear from the various special interest groups trying to block Route 15 safety and congestion relief improvements is that they are representing the views of the community at large against the heavy-handed tactics of VDOT. They hold themselves up as the voice of the citizens against outside forces trying to ruin our road. Today we examine the accuracy of that statement. You can judge for yourself whether or not these groups are being given more influence by our County officials than they deserve.

We begin with a bit of data. Back in early May of 2018, in advance of the May 10th Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) public hearing and June 14, 2018 vote to grant funding for the Route 15 widening project, the County released a public survey link inviting comments with submission possible in-person at the NVTA meeting as well as via email and through the NVTA website. NVTA staff removed the anonymous comments in order to prevent “ballot stuffing”. What remains are 224 Route 15 related comments attributable to unique individuals. You can read them here:

NVTA Public Comments - Route 15 Project Comments_Clean

Here are the facts:

Out of 224 public comments, 196 comments or 87.5% were IN FAVOR of widening. Here is a selection of their statements:

“With only a single lane in both directions, this is a dangerous stretch of highway with multiple recent fatalities. The amount of time I have to allot for traffic every single day for a 4 mile stretch is seriously affecting our quality of life. I can’t even commit to certain school activities with my kids because of traffic logistics. Finally, my oldest child will be driving in 6 years – with 3 more to follow. Please help keep her safe – and every other Loudoun County resident safe – by addressing this problem now!”

“I am writing to request the NVTA fully fund widening of Rt 15 in Loudoun County. As a resident of Lucketts, Virginia, Rt 15 is our ONLY main artery outside of our neighborhoods. Widening would alleviate congestion which is a safety concern. With the increase in development in Frederick, MD, we have seen a large increase in commuter traffic (MD commuters who don’t pay taxes for Rt 15) and tractor trailers. Our elementary school is located very close to Rt 15 and the increase in traffic and congestion is dangerous for our children. Due to overcrowding in our elementary school, Loudoun County Public Schools will be bussing a class of our 5 & 6 year olds south on Rt 15 to attend another school. This 8 mile drive can take up to an hour due to congestion causing them to miss instruction. Our Middle School has to change their bell schedule to accommodate our students due to the congestion on Rt 15. They have clubs during the school day rather than after school so that our students can participate and not have to sit in hours of traffic to go 8 miles. This impacts students beyond our community and limits educational opportunities. Emergency Vehicles have difficulty getting through with congestion and the lack of shoulder in many sections of Rt 15. Our gravel side roads are seeing more traffic due to gps apps. There are days that both Rt 15 and Stumptown Road are backed up which means we are trapped. Our locally owned small businesses are negatively impacted by the congestion because it hinders access for their customers. Our entire lives are dictated by the traffic on Rt 15. To be ahead of traffic every day, I have to be past the Battlefield merge by 2:15 pm. My children get off the school bus at 2:50. Unless NVTA is willing to build another bridge at Rt 28, widening Rt 15 to Montresor is necessary for the residents along the corridor.”

“I would like to see full funding to the Rt 15 project in Northern VA. As I am writing this, there has been another dangerous accident on the road in our community. The traffic is unbearable and the road is dangerous. I put my family in danger every time I drive on this road. My small children are in danger when we go to the grocery store or even 2 miles to their elementary school. Rt 15 has become major transportation route for commuters from Maryland. They are now learning how to use our neighborhood streets to cut through to avoid traffic. It won’t be long before they are clogged up too. Please consider fully funding this important project. Our safety and the safety of our children is at stake”

“I hope your weeks are going well! I am writing as a concerned father of 3 daughters about the need to widen Route 15. In its current state, first responders (Paramedics, Fire/Rescue, Police) are unable to traverse the corridor in a timely fashion. If there was an urgent medical need in our Village Green neighborhood (~1,200 residents) it could take upward of 30 minutes for them to reach us. Secondly, there is a safety concern with continued accidents, fatal head-on collisions and road rage, which occurs as a byproduct of Route 15’s current state. When those instances happen, first responders are also hard pressed to reach the impacted people in a timely fashion. Our children that are attending Smarts Mill Middle School and Tuscarora High school sit on the bus up to 1 hour each way, 3 out of 5 days a week. The congestion also forces people to use their navigation systems to find alternate routes to traverse, which forces thousands of cars speeding through neighborhoods (a risk to our children’s safety) and through Loudoun’s historical areas (e.g. Waterford, etc.) each week. Lastly the severe traffic congestion impacts our home prices and our quality of life in Loudoun County. I urge you to seriously consider approving funds for the widening of Route 15 to help save lives and make it safe for our future generations.”

Out of 224 public comments, only 28 were AGAINST widening. Here is a selection of their statements:

“We are strongly opposing this project. We are hoping Leesburg can remain a small rural town, with its cute charm of downtown area, parks, and local businesses, and avoid becoming another DC satellite with highway cutting thru:((“

“No to 4 laning Rt 15 North which would negatively effect The Journey Through Hallowed Ground and create a more dangerous rd and even higher volume of traffic.”

“Not sure if I already submitted a comment here, but getting tired of Raspberry falls and other wealthy neighborhood development activists asking to lobby for Route 15 widening project. So here you go: My family is AGAINST this project. – There is no safety concerns with the current route. – There are plenty of other roads that are in much worse condition. – For Raspberry falls activists – it’s all about improving their commute, so that they can resell their houses at higher price.”

“I favor a solution that will minimize disruption and land loss for those of us who actually live along Route 15 and one which will help to discourage these out of state commuters, by making the use of Route 15 less attractive. Frequent traffic lights and/or stop signs and ideally, a toll at some point before the Point of Rocks bridge would be a better solution. Additionally, many of the local residents clamoring for widening the road are those who live in the Selma and Raspberry Falls developments. These communities are already at odds with the rural nature of the Lucketts region. The last thing our region needs or wants is the potential for new developments to spring up and demand additional widening of Route 15”

Conclusions

What we have here is nearly 90% of the public begging our elected representatives to widen the road in order to mitigate the Route 15 safety and congestion nightmare that affects our lives on a daily basis. The 10% opposed are either concerned with future development, don’t think there is a problem in the first place, or are upset that supposedly “wealthy” people in newer developments exist at all. They will try to deny this, but their comments prove otherwise. Don’t believe us, read it for yourselves.

Do you think this very vocal 10% is being favored by our elected representatives and allowed to delay progress by pretending to represent a more popular opinion than it really is? If so, GET INVOLVED. Let YOUR representatives know that you will not stand for further delay tactics by a tiny minority of citizens looking out for their own self interests.

Now, you may be asking yourself, who DO these special interest groups represent? Stay tuned, we have a series of articles exposing the views and tactics being used by the special interest groups, including related national organizations.

FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!

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Half Truth’s and Continued Delay Tactics

Following up on our write up yesterday about Ian Lockwood, this afternoon we received a copy of a statement made by the leader of the Catoctin Coalition:

“Lockwood’s approach requires solid community outreach along the corridor, to ensure that his design reflects desires and vision of the community. We have asked that he be given time to do that community outreach for the North King Street area and the whole corridor.  It would take about 12 weeks. We have so far not gotten approval of Supervisors for that effort. While there is pressure on the county to “not delay” projects, such a small amount of time for a project that won’t begin construction for years seems like a minor concession, especially since the design that Lockwood will produce will be vastly less expensive than what the current plans will cost, and it will be truly citizen-driven, instead of what a group of stakeholders have concluded about the current effort. That process has been front-loaded, with adding capacity and limiting access being the primary goals from the beginning, and without following the well-laid-out procedure in the JTHG Corridor Management Plan. As the saying goes, for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

Sounds good right? Well here is the whole story. Contrary to what this group would have you believe, Mr. Lockwood is not a new player in this game. The Catoctin Coalition was founded in 2001 to block VDOT’s suggested improvements for the road at that time, which included “widening of the road and adding wide, paved shoulders”. As part of this first battle, they brought in Mr. Lockwood. See the link below from 2004 (a letter to the editor “Catoctin Coalition’s Roots” by Gladys Lewis. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2004/02/22/loudoun-letters-to-the-editor/c7d9b82b-74d2-4841-9e3a-cd4ab587ea1d/?utm_term=.12539e1d42e9.

This information really brings to light the constant delay tactics used by these groups to stop anything from being done to Route 15. Mr. Lockwood has had 14 years to come up with a plan. He didn’t. The Catoctin Coalition had the last 15 months to bring him in again during the Route 15 Stakeholder process. They chose not to do so. Instead they waited until the true “citizen-driven” plan went against their wishes. Then Supervisor Higgins generously gave them a month to get their alternative proposal in. They did nothing. Now they want another 3 months to supposedly accomplish what they couldn’t get done in 14+ years. And these groups wonder why the community is screaming NO MORE DELAYS?

On top of all this, let’s not forget that given the information we laid out in a past column: http://fixroute15now.com/day-4-we-need-a-30-year-solution/, Mr. Lockwood’s approach of single lane roundabouts, no widening, and traffic calming, as espoused by the Catoctin Coalition, requires more than community outreach. It requires the denial of reality and the refusal to accept math. Single-lane roundabouts fail when volume exceeds 25,000 vehicles per day while two-lane roads fail at 18,000 vehicles per day. The 2017 traffic count for Route 15 between Battlefield Parkway up through Montresor Road is 26,000 vehicles per day. The northern half of the corridor will be at that level before any project is complete.  So, once again, here we have a special interest group advocating for a failed roundabout “solution” by their own “hired roundabout gun” – again!

 

FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!

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Ian Lockwood “Roundabout Gun (and cartoonist) for Hire”

We residents that live along the dangerous and unsafe Route 15 corridor must drive at our own peril every day.  Our children must ride a school bus on this dangerous and unsafe road for several hours during each school week. We residents, and in particular we parents of these school children, took some measure of comfort that after the horrific loss of life in 2017 the County Supervisors would actually address this treacherous and unsafe road.  Hence, public input forums were conducted, surveys were distributed, residents both supportive and in opposition were invited to participate, and a Route 15 Stakeholder Committee was established.

Reasonableness and civility were to be upheld during this stakeholder committee process as signatories of the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Charter, where amongst other conditions the stakeholders were all to work toward the success of the project. A copy of the Charter can be found: https://www.loudoun.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7429

The process was reasonable and civil until the opposition groups, who are self-proclaimed traffic safety advocates, decided to obstruct and further delay the safety improvements and congestion relief measures by securing a “hired roundabout gun”.

The playbook of the opposition groups is simple; it is called deception, delay and denial.  The opposition groups have deceptively professed over the past 3 decades that they have tirelessly advocated for Route 15 safety improvements.  Just look at the recent deaths and accidents along Route 15 resulting from the lack of paved shoulders and centerline median strips that the opposition groups have opposed from being implemented.  The opposition groups have successfully delayed safety improvements through their ability to attack and conjure up half-truths about any group or individuals who disagree with their approach, tactics and objectives – just look at the recent draconian JTHG letter and e-mail from John Adams.   The opposition groups have denied their duplicity in blocking meaningful safety improvements and congestion relief actions – just look at their recent efforts to delay the process by 3 months in order to raise money to fund a non-resident, Ian Lockwood, whose expertise is in urban planning of city spaces (see bio at http://www.tooledesign.com/company/staff-directory/ian-lockwood  –  NOT high volume rural and suburban highways.  One of his well-known projects was turning the city center of West Palm Beach, FL into a pedestrian friendly area. He also made the drive on Route 50 through Aldie and Middleburg prettier. Route 50 is often hailed as the example for Route 15, but as we wrote extensively last week, this is an apples and oranges comparison given the differences in volume.  Keep in mind that when you hear the term “traffic calming” in regard to Route 15, the ultimate objective is to make/keep the road so horribly congested and/or dangerous that people are discouraged from using it. This is known as avoiding “induced traffic”.

Geary Higgins gave the special interest groups until August 31st to provide recommendations from Ian Lockwood. (read it here)  Have you seen Ian Lockwood’s recommendations?  Geary, where are they?

You be the judge of whether the opposition groups have been deceptive, delaying and denying of safety and congestion relief improvements based on their actions based on the evidence presented.  Who is fighting to protect our families and school children?

Tell Supervisor Geary Higgins to FIX ROUTE 15 NOW and NOT in 10 YEARS!

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Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) – Access, Influence & Money

Who is the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG)?

You may be wondering who is the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) Partnership?  What is their purpose?  Who do they represent?  Does the JTHG care about congestion or safety?  Let’s take a look. The JTHG is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that was formed in 2005.

https://www.hallowedground.org

Their website describes the JTHG as:

“The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is a non-profit, four-state partnership dedicated to preserving our American heritage in the region running from Gettysburg, PA through Maryland and Harpers Ferry, WV to Jefferson’s Monticello in Albemarle County, VA.” “Congress named the Journey Through Hallowed Ground a National Heritage Area in 2008 – the nation’s 38th — and the Secretary of Transportation designated the main thoroughfare running through it a National Scenic Byway in 2009 – the nation’s 99th.” The National Scenic Byway encompasses what was once known as the Old Carolina Road, which now includes Routes US 15, VA231, VA20 and VA53.”

Below is a link to JTHG’s Tax Exemption submission to Loudoun County (including Federal filings, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Financials, Statement of Justification and other supporting documents):

https://www.loudoun.gov/documentcenter/view/108787

Further, per JTHG’s Loudoun County Tax Exemption application (pg3 Item 12), JTHG represented that it is not “involved in carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation” emphasis added. Below is a link to the IRS (and excerpt) regarding the definition of lobbying as it pertains to non-profit 501 (c)(3) organizations:

https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/lobbying

 “An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.”

All of the children’s education programs, camps and tree planting activities appear to be a noble cause.  However, is road engineering and design part of JTHG’s mission?  Also, after reading the JTHG’s fundraising letter, cited later in this post below, ask yourself – Is the JTHG lobbying elected officials?

Route 15 Process

Let’s see how the JTHG is participating in the Route 15 process.

First, the JTHG is a member the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee.

Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Members:

https://www.loudoun.gov/DocumentCenter/View/129269

Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Charter:

https://www.loudoun.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7429

Second, the JTHG has been given unfettered access to our elected representative. In fact, Supervisor Geary Higgins went out of his way to invite the JTHG for their input to the “Route 15 Congestion Report” that was eventually presented to the Board of Supervisors on May 18, 2017.

Supervisor Geary Higgins email to JTHG Bill Sellers 11-18-16

Third, the JTHG was selected as one of only three “stakeholders” in the Route 15 Congestion Report dated May 18, 2017 (see Pages 31 & 32).  Note there were no citizen stakeholders included in the report.

https://lfportal.loudoun.gov/LFPortalinternet/0/doc/218963/Electronic.aspx

A copy of Section 7 Stakeholder Input Summary:

Stakeholder Input Summary 5-18-17

Fourth, the JTHG had nothing to offer in the report regarding Route 15’s congestion or safety.  The JTHG was only concerned about removing berms along Route 15 in front of the Big Springs community.  Below is an excerpt from the report:

JOURNEY THROUGH HALLOWED GROUND (JTHG)

Given the US Route 15 corridor designation as a national scenic byway, a meeting was held on December 13, 2016 with Bill Sellers, the President and CEO of the JTHG Partnership. The JTHG encouraged Loudoun County to utilize the design guidelines contained in their adopted Corridor Management Plan (available online at https://www.hallowedground.org/Partner-Resources/National-Scenic-Byway/Corridor- Management-Plan). Some of the key elements are:

  • Maintain the rural character of the roadway
  • Incorporate the Living Legacy Tree Planting Project
  • Follow the rural design elements in the Corridor Management Plan
  • Review screening and buffering conditions

JTHG acknowledged that the residential developments along the corridor have changed the roadway design with the addition of large mounds placed by the Big Springs homeowner’s association, shown in the photo below, and it no longer resumes the historic character intended for this scenic byway. Therefore, JTHG views this project as an opportunity to make improvements.

Fifth, the JTHG representatives to the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee rarely participate.  Why?  Could it be that they feel they have an inside track on influencing the outcome outside of the public process? They had every opportunity to participate, but now want to obstruct the process in the 11th hour by advocating for a solution that they know won’t work, won’t last, and is a big waste of money.

Sixth, the JTHG enjoys the benefit of Loudoun County promoting and displaying a link to its website on the County’s web page.

Fund Raising

The JTHG is now raising funds.  They seek to raise $20,000 to engage a designer to present an alternative plan.  The JTHG seeks to influence and persuade Loudoun County’s elected officials and decision makers. The JTHG’s fundraising letter “to persuade Loudoun County Officials”:

JTHG Letter 8-21-18

http://fixroute15now.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/JTHG-Letter-8-21-18.pdf

https://www.gofundme.com/route-15-coalition

Below is an excerpt from their Go Fund Me Page:

Route 15 Coalition – JTHG NSB

“Help save one of the most beautiful sections of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, Route 15, in one of the most historically rich sections of the National Heritage Area, from a critical and urgent threat.

The Loudoun County government has been studying alternatives for the future of Route 15 from Leesburg to the Potomac River, and while they’ve said they want to preserve the historic and rural character of the road, new county documents show their intent is a four-lane divided expressway, which will attract more traffic.

Making this 2-lane rural highway a divided highway “with access limited to key intersections” will at least triple the road width, obliterating historic crossroads communities and historic structures, and sharply curtail access to the local small businesses, and heritage tourism on which the economic development of a National Heritage Area depends. It also threatens the viability of large working farms on either side of the roadway.

There is a better, cheaper, and more effective way to address current congestion and safety issues on the road—by using the award-winning model of the Route 50 Traffic Calming Project in Loudoun. We have engaged the designer of that successful project to provide an alternative design vision for Route 15—but we need your help to achieve it. We need to raise $20,000 to get this alternative in front of local and state officials. Can you help us save this irreplaceable part of United States history?”

Are the JTHG’s “persuasion activities” of “Loudoun County officials” prohibited by the IRS?

https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/exemption-requirements-section-501c3-organizations

“The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.  The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.”

Ethics in Loudoun County

Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (Leesburg District) and co-chair of the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee is a trustee of the JTHG.

https://www.hallowedground.org/About-Us/Leadership-Board/Kristen-C.-Umstattd

Considering that the JTHG’s role has drastically changed from being a member of the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee to now working outside the process, this is a clear conflict of interest whether real or perceived.  Kristen Umstattd should remove herself as a Trustee of the JTHG.  Ethics do matter in Loudoun County. A copy of the Loudoun County’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct for the Board of Supervisors can be found:

BOS Current Code of Ethics 2016

 

Asks of Loudoun County:

  1. Return the Route 15 process to the citizens, not special interest groups
  2. All Supervisors to publicly publish and provide a calendar of their meetings with the JTHG since January 1, 2016 (including who they met with)
  3. Supervisor Umstattd to step down as Trustee of the JTHG
  4. Loudoun County to remove the JTHG link on the Loudoun County web page
  5. The BOS direct the Loudoun County attorney to review the JTHG’s tax exempt status with the County
  6. The BOS abide by the Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct signed on January 21, 2016
  7. Grant no special favors or privileges to any individual or entity based on any outside influence or personal relationships
  8. FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!
Comments Off on Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) – Access, Influence & Money

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