A speech that former County Administrator Bob Lee gave to the Warrenton Rotary Club last week is reproduced on these pages.
For the past several months, the Times-Democrat has been working with the thoughtful and articulate Mr. Lee and about 10 other community leaders who have been meeting here every other week to discuss some of the issues that his speech outlines, namely, that while Fauquier County has done an admirable job of preserving the countryside, it has not done nearly so well in fostering a pleasing and sustainable urbanside.
The impetus for these group discussions is the generally-shared conviction that we need to start acting now if Fauquier County is going to continue to be the great place to live that we all enjoy.
There is some good news and some bad news about the future for residents of Fauquier County
The latter first.
There are a number of analysts who forecast that in the future, the vast majority of new jobs, housing units, services, recreation and amenities will occur to our East, the vast majority within the 10 miles of Memorial Bridge that includes Tysons Corner. Most of that growth will occur from Gainesville inward toward Washington, D.C.
Compounding our problem -- and this is a problem -- is that Baby Boomers are heading to places where they can get out of their cars, where they can walk or bike to restaurants and recreation, where services are more generally and readily available.
At the other end of the spectrum, younger workers are attracted to urban settings for the same reasons, plus the nightlife, plus they are not willing to suffer two-hour commutes, one way, to get to work.
Even if they were willing to idle away so much time, they are increasingly unwilling to gamble that fuel to power their cars will be affordable, even that it will be available.
Today and going forward, getting to jobs from this distance will not be a feasible option for most.
The good news is that Fauquier residents can adapt and evolve toward becoming a more balanced community.
Indeed, we have many of the key ingredients that will enable us to thrive in a changing world -- an outstanding hospital. A community college. A well-educated populace. A rich history. An agricultural heritage. Unsurpassed beauty.
And change of the magnitude facing Fauquier County presents huge opportunities for entrepreneurship and business activity.
Here are our options:
The urban development that takes place here will be within the urban enclaves that now exist. Non-urban/agrarian development will take place primarily outside those enclaves.
We will conserve land, water, air, material and energy, by fairly allocating the total cost of mobility and access and by creating a balance of jobs, services and housing which will minimize commuting.
Jobs, housing, services, recreation and amenities will continue to be scattered across about 3.5 million acres in Virginia with every community scrambling to try and capture urban growth, but ending up with ever more dysfunctional settlement patterns.
There is no possibility of making the necessary changes to achieve a sustainable trajectory or creating the opportunities that entails, unless the market, the political leadership, and the voters who elect it understand the need to change.
The bottom line is that in order to make the changes necessary to become sustainable, we all have to work to restore the balance between individual rights and community responsibilities.
That is why the 1972 trip to England that Mr. Lee recounts in his speech is still so important, 40 years later.
Fauquier will certainly survive. If a thoughtful, engaged community can come together to plan its collective future rather than let it develop in the helter-skelter fashion to which we have become so accustomed, it can thrive.