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?