➤ Com­mu­nity voices:

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE -

Some of the com­ments at last week’s Rapp Live gath­er­ing,

Last Thurs­day’s (June 19) “Rapp Live” com­mu­nity fo­rum brought more than 200 people to the Theatre at Wash­ing­ton. Over more than two hours, more than 30 people rose to speak, in­clud­ing pan­elists Jen­nings W. Hob­son III, 41-year res­i­dent of the town and pas­tor of Trin­ity Epis­co­pal Church; the town’s mayor, John Sul­li­van; de­vel­oper and long­time Rap­pa­han­nock week­ender Jim Abdo, whose plans for and com­ments about the town of Wash­ing­ton in a re­cent Wash­ing­ton Post busi­ness pro­file ig­nited the con­tro­versy that led us to hold the pub­lic dis­cus­sion; Rap­pa­han­nock County Board of Su­per­vi­sors chair­man and life­long county res­i­dent Roger Welch; County Ad­min­is­tra­tor John McCarthy; and mod­er­a­tor Roger Piantadosi, edi­tor of the Rap­pa­han­nock News.

An au­dio record­ing of the two-hour-plus ses­sion is on­line at Rapp­News.com (go to bit.ly/rap­plive1), along with a tran­script of the pro­ceed­ings. That doc­u­ment ex­ceeds 20,000 words; what fol­lows is thus only a se­lec­tion of the com­ments, with an em­pha­sis on those of the au­di­ence mem­bers rather than pan­elists’.

➤ SHARON KILPATRICK: ... Res­i­dences [in Wash­ing­ton] are be­ing con­verted to businesses. So now we have a town of real es­tate of­fices, B&Bs, lawyers, with some good food, theatre — but far too few res­i­dents. The Rapp News build­ing be­ing con­verted to a bak­ery — I’m all for that. But no­tice where the Rapp News has gone — that was a res­i­dence, now it isn’t. You’ve had a chance to re­verse that with a pro­posal [to build lowand mod­er­ate-in­come hous­ing at the Old Wash­ing­ton School] from People Inc., which was re­jected — a clear mes­sage that only rich folk are wel­come, not those less well off. That is a dis­as­trous mes­sage. Your job, Mr. Mayor, and those mem­bers of the town coun­cil who are here, is to find a way to in­crease the avail­abil­ity of res­i­den­tial property. If we’re turn­ing res­i­dences into businesses, then we need more res­i­dences. And not just for the su­per rich.

➤ GARY AICHELE: With my wife, we own and op­er­ate the Gay Street Inn right down the street. We’ve been here a lit­tle over a year. I don’t know why re­ally, maybe be­cause I have a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence back­ground, and there’s not a lot to do evenings in the town of Wash­ing­ton, Va., but I’m a fairly reg­u­lar at the coun­cil meet­ings. Along with Nancy [Buntin] here, who faith­fully at­tends vir­tu­ally ev­ery meet­ing in this town. You don’t have to be a res­i­dent, one of the 138 spe­cial people who live here. You can come from any­where . . . I have no idea where I stand tonight, on half the things that I’ve heard. I’m glad I’ve heard them. That’s why I came, that’s why I’m stay­ing, be­cause I think in­for­ma­tion is help­ful. My wife and I made a ma­jor com­mit­ment. This is where we plan to live our lives. We cashed out re­tire­ment and bought an inn . . . As some­body said at the last meet­ing, “We have a lot of skin in this game.” . . .

We don’t just drive through this town, we walk through this town, on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. I don’t know whether Mr. Abdo’s plans will en­hance our town, de­stroy our town, make it bet­ter or make it worse — we may not know that for a decade. It has a lot to do with is­sues much big­ger than what goes on here, or what goes on in town coun­cil. No one could’ve pre­dicted 2008; most didn’t. I too wish that suc­cess­ful businesses and dear friends find places to stay in town, and don’t get forced out. So there’s a lot on the ta­ble, and there’s a lot of rea­son for people be­ing here and be­ing up­set, but I’ll tell you this: If you are as con­cerned as you seem to be, please join Nancy and me. There’s plenty of room in the town hall . . . There is a process and I’m here to tell you, hon­est to God, they do fol­low the process. I don’t care who buys the mayor din­ner, frankly, so long as ev­ery re­quest comes to an open process, with pub­lic no­tice, where I and any­one else who’s in­ter­ested, has a right and maybe a duty to show up. And talk about those things, then and there. That’s how we do busi­ness in the town, and I for one am com­pletely happy with it.

➤ MOLLY PETER­SON: ... My hope is that, as the county grows, as it will — it kinda needs to, to some de­gree . . . I hope we can all agree on that — that the in­ten­tions stay pure. And that it does al­low people of our age group to come in, ’cause I gotta tell ya, there aren’t a whole lot in our age group around here. (laugh­ter) . . . My hope is that ev­ery­one can please stand to­gether with the hope and hon­est pure in­ten­tion, that we can all con­tinue to live here, and stay here, and grow our fam­i­lies here, and have our businesses

here. Be­cause it isn’t — no, it isn’t al­ways easy. But we do pay our taxes, and we open our doors, be­cause we like be­ing here . . . . I hope that it continues to grow in a pos­i­tive way. I also hope at the same time, maybe some­day we’ll be able to af­ford to buy land here. Be­cause at this point in time, we’re still priced out of the mar­ket. But I hope that we aren’t pushed out, even­tu­ally, as we were in Colorado.

➤ FRAN KREB­SER: . . . I’ve been lis­ten­ing to all this, and read­ing all this on Rapp­net and The Post and ev­ery­thing else that’s been pub­lished, and frankly I’m dis­ap­pointed in some of the un­happy, nasty com­ments I’ve heard. And read. But in lis­ten­ing to the pre­sen­ta­tion that just came through Mr. Abdo, I like the fact that we would have more busi­ness here in the town. We need more busi­ness in this com­mu­nity. I work at the pub­lic schools, and I helped try and find jobs for stu­dents through CTE classes. We have no place that we can send kids to learn about trades, be­cause the businesses are so small. We also do need a place for people to live in the town, and that’s an­other prob­lem al­to­gether. But I re­ally do think that the in­tent of Mr. Abdo is to get good some busi­ness here and to keep our com­mu­nity vi­able. I don’t know this man at all. But I know that my hus­band, who was part of this com­mu­nity for many, many years, was in­volved in the plan­ning of keep­ing the small vil­lage con­cept and keep­ing that vi­able, to main­tain our open space in this county.

➤ BETH GY­ORGY: . . . John [Sul­li­van] was talk­ing about the de­cline of pop­u­la­tion in the town, and how the town needs more people. I don’t see where Mr. Abdo’s pro­pos­als are go­ing to bring those people. He may be hir­ing them hand over fist, that’s what he said. But they can’t af­ford to live here. And the last at­tempt at af­ford­able hous­ing in this city was tor­pe­doed. And I per­son­ally find that un­con­scionable. (ap­plause)

➤ DEMARIS MILLER: ... I’ve seen this movie be­fore. I re­mem­ber when Rae’s Place, a won­der­ful lit­tle del­i­catessen, was es­sen­tially put out of busi­ness for­ever by some­one who had grand ideas that didn’t last. . . . This town is not an is­land, it is part of a greater ecosys­tem of the county. We have Merry Moo Mar­ket that could eas­ily be put out of busi­ness by some of this. We have the Triple Oak Bak­ery

that could eas­ily be put out of busi­ness by some of this. We have other businesses that are go­ing to be chal­lenged by what is go­ing on by some­one with deep pock­ets in this town. That would be prob­a­bly okay, be­cause I do be­lieve in free en­ter­prise, but my fear is that, in the end, these people will find they can’t make the big bucks here in town and they will leave too, and we’ll be worse off than be­fore. Please, Mr. Abdo, in the fu­ture, in­volve the com­mu­nity be­fore you make these grand plans. I think you have some good ideas, I’d love to see some of the im­prove­ments . . . but I want to see more fam­i­lies in Wash­ing­ton and it’s not go­ing to hap­pen un­til this town wants to see fam­i­lies in­stead of rich people from town com­ing out to en­joy. One other point: I am very dis­turbed by some­thing that is not your fault, at least not di­rectly. I like Stony­man [Gourmet], I think it’s a great busi­ness (ap­plause), it’s in a great lo­ca­tion and they are be­ing driven out of town.

➤ JOHN MCCARTHY: ... The way we pay for ev­ery­body else, and the way we pay for not hav­ing enor­mous in­creases in the tax rates — and Mr. Welch and I have just sat through a se­ries of budget hear­ings in which ev­ery­body was telling us, “Let any­body else in here who will pay money rather than raise my real es­tate rate!” We know that ev­ery­body doesn’t want that. But the thing that does come in, that doesn’t cost much in the way of ser­vices, that is a net tax pro­ducer, are tourism-based businesses. They hire a lot of lo­cals, they use lo­cal con­trac­tors, they sus­tain them­selves largely in the en­vi­ron­ment that we’ve cre­ated. And it’s like shoe stores in shop­ping malls: You don’t want one, you want eight. Eight restaurant­s do bet­ter than any one of them would if they were the only place in town. Now there are people that get squeezed out, there are losers in the game. I don’t know how to game that sys­tem. I’m sorry as hell about it. But one thing I do know is, tourism and agri­cul­ture are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked. We sell land­scape to these people who come out from the city, whether you are run­ning an ap­ple stand in Sper­ryville 30 years ago, or you’re sell­ing smoked mus­sels on the half shell in some frou-frou kitchen to­day — you’re still soak­ing the tourists. (laugh­ter) We do that well. There’s noth­ing dis­hon­or­able about that. (laugh­ter, ap­plause)

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