Her name was Meredyth but everyone knew her as Merry, “just like in Christmas,” she told one person.

When she died last week from a rare blood disease, Merry Breed was park manager at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, part of the Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

“Merry was always interested in nature. She loved going on hikes and walking on trails,” said Phil Daley, a past president of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. “She even talked me into going on a night hike without a flashlight!”

Daley said that while she was still a pre-school teacher at Sterling Community Center, Merry worked with him to set up natural history camps in the 1990s for the Piedmont Environmental Council. “She later went on to work as a naturalist at Claude Moore Park,” said Daley.

A longtime member of and volunteer with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Merry shared her knowledge and her love of and joy in nature with fellow supporters of the organization, as well as with park visitors and parishioners of her beloved St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Sterling.

Merry Breed, children planting waystation

Merry Breed and friends after planting a waystation.

Here, in appreciation, are some Loudoun Wildlife tributes to Merry Breed.

Nicole Hamilton, Executive Director

Merry was an amazing woman. Her love of nature and passion for sharing it was infectious.  I knew her best through our Monarch campaign.  She rallied the people at St. Matthew’s to convert lawn in front of their church into a Monarch waystation garden that became alive with pollinators and welcomed Monarchs.

She made Monarch lifecycle costumes and put on plays for her congregation and others to share the Monarch story.  She worked with her team at Claude Moore and with teachers at Sterling Elementary School to plant milkweed, raise Monarch caterpillars and inspire others to do the same. She and I often talked about Monarchs and how the magic of it all never gets old.

Merry was fearless, would speak for wildlife and habitats and the human connections.  She shared her knowledge so freely.

Last February we did our amphibian program kickoff with her at Claude Moore and we walked through the woods at night in order to hear and see frogs. Bats flew through the trees as we shuffled along the path; toads and frogs called from the pond.  She was in her element and I will always remember and cherish those moments together.

Merry was keeping the magic alive every day and we know she continues to smile with us with every wild encounter and every heart touched by nature.

Sarah Steadman, Youth and Family Programs Chair

Most people know that Merry’s nickname comes from her name Meredyth, but I always imagined it could be short for ‘merriment.’

In everything she did, in every class she led, in all the classroom walls, nature center features, and event tables she crafted, and always in her wide-eyes and in the enthusiasm of her voice — especially when engaging with children — Merry was joyful! She gifted so many with her mirthful light and teaching.

I first met Merry when our Monarch conservation paths crossed, but we really bonded over our shared passion for environmental education and youth.

Evermore, when I visit Claude Moore Visitor Center, especially the beautiful Monarch waystation she established there, I will tip my hat to this master educator, passionate conservationist, and loving grandmother.

Ann Garvey, Audubon At Home Coordinator

It was at the very first orientation for volunteers on the Plant NoVA Natives campaign that I meet Merry. That evening in 2014, Merry was tooling around with one leg on a scooter recovering from a recent leg surgery.

She said, ‘Hi I’m Merry, just like in Christmas, and I’d like to help on this campaign.’

And help she did working the Loudoun Wildlife Native Plant Sale at Morven Park, handing out Plant NoVA Native guides. Whenever there was an event at Claude Moore Park, there was a display of information on Plant NoVA Natives that Merry had arranged.

She lived what she preached about the importance of native plants for our animals by helping to establish monarch waystations at Claude Moore, her church and her home.

Like many people, I will miss Merry as will the plants and animals she cared so much for.

Katherine Daniels, President

I worked a long shift with Merry at one of our plant sales a couple of years ago. She and I were exhausted as the event finally ended. We were two of the few left to clean up.

I was limping with sore knees and feet. She told me about her rheumatoid arthritis and immunologic treatment. She had such a great attitude regarding how much the latter helped her. She stayed and helped until we were done. It inspired me to push, too.

She was a very kind person who really loved nature!

 

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Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is grateful to receive again a donation from the Dulles Greenway’s Drive For Charity. The May 19 event set a record high for donations this year with an amazing $331,594.65 collected.  The Greenway says the day of the event was its highest traffic day since 2005.

The Greenway has collected and distributed more than #2.7 million to charities and in scholarships in the 11 years since the program began. Part of the money goes to give a scholarship to at least one student from every high school in Loudoun County.

In addition to Loudoun Wildlife, those receiving donations from the Drive for Charity were:

  • March of Dimes
  • Every Citizen Has Opportunity (ECHO)
  • Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS)
  • Fresh Air/Full Care
  • Dulles Greenway Scholarship Program
  • Loudoun Free Clinic

The Dulles Greenway is a privately owned 14-mile toll road that connects Washington Dulles International Airport with Leesburg.

DriveforCharity

L-R, VP Joe Coleman, Board member Jill Miller, the Greenway’s Public & Customer Relations Manager Terry Hoffman, Loudoun Wildlife Executive Director Nicole Hamilton, President Katherine Daniels and Secretary Bill Brown.

 

 

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Five birders came on a warm, clear and humid morning for the monthly birdwalk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Loudoun.  The walk sponsored by The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and The Friends of Banshee Reeks is held on the second Saturday of the month and is open to all.

We had some great looks at Red-eyed Vireos, Acadian Flycatchers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos and observed a fair amount of breeding behavior including a recently-fledged Green Heron, agitated Indigo Buntings as well as a recently-fledged one, and a Red-eyed Vireo carrying food. After the walk three of the participants saw a family of five Great-crested Flycatchers with three fledglings patiently waiting for their parents to feed them.

Acadian Flycatcher

Acadian Flycatcher.
Photo by Diane Nastase

A total of 44 species were recorded as follows:
Green Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Barred Owl
Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Red-headed Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great-crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-breasted Chat
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Jane Yocom and Del Sargent

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bald-eagles-KD

The Center for Conservation Biology says that according to 2016 survey results for the Virginia bald eagle population, there are 1,007 occupied breeding territories. Yes, more than 1,000 pairs!

What’s really wonderful is that this total number represents a comeback for this magnificent bird from a low of 20 pairs in 1970. The Center says a federal ban on DDT and like compounds in 1972 led to a recovery beginning in the late 1970s.

The Center, at the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University, compiled more than 160 hours of aerial surveys, ground efforts in residential areas of lower Tidewater and observations from inland volunteers that documented the numbers. The densest areas of the breeding population are in the counties around the Chesapeake Bay,  including 75 pairs in Westmoreland County, 73 pairs in King George County and 71 pairs in Essex County..

The 2016 survey is the 60th year of the annual eagle survey initiated by Jackson Abbott and volunteers of the Virginia Society of Ornithology.

You can read more details about the survey here http://bit.ly/29jlG5B and see a map of where the birds are at an interactive portal.

 

 

 

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As we all know, it’s going to take a lot of work by all of us to restore the pollinator populations, including honey bees and Monarch butterflies, to healthy levels. Weather, pesticides, disease, habitat loss are contributing factors and we can’t control all of it but we need to do what we can.

The current administration has spoken out before about the need for federal government agencies to work together to help. Today, the administration released the Pollinator Partnership Action Plan (PPAP), which encourages and gives examples of possible partnerships as well as suggestions that you can follow on farms and in your yards and gardens.

Bruce Rodan, Assistant Director for Environmental Health for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said “As the President made clear, ultimate success can only be achieved through an all-hands-on-deck approach to create the necessary long-term change and fully internalize the value of these creatures to our well-being.” You can read his comments here.

The PPAP examples range from research projects with state governments to making land available to bee keepers and providing tax benefits to landowners who help apiaries. Another project teams a federal agency with the Xerces Society and private seed companies to test native milkweed for commercial production. Milkweed is, of course, essential to the lifecycle of the Monarch as it’s the only plant the butterfly lays its eggs on and that the caterpillars eat.

Locally, as you may know, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on modifying mowing practices and teamed up with VDOT and Dominion Power to plant waystations at rest stops in the commonwealth.

Elswhere, the PPAP says, the Federal Highway Administration and six states in the Mid- and Southwest have informally designated the 1,500-mile I-35 as the Monarch Highway for migrating butterflies.

The report suggests – and we strongly support – planting more native pollinator plants and not using pesticides. Native plants support a greater variety of species in the local environment and are essential to their life cycle.

So take a few minutes to read the report, talk about the ideas, and do what you can. Make a difference.

monarch1-300Spring_Plant_sale2springplantsale3

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The highlights of the 55 bird species observed by the 13 participants on the regular monthly bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center Saturday were Yellow-billed Cuckoo and 8 different warbler species as well as long looks at a number of Acadian Flycatchers. The walk was led by Joe Coleman and Del Sargent assisted by Elliot and Nancy Kirschbaum.

For a complete list of the birds see the eBird list below.

Acadian Flycatcher

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at http://www.blueridgecenter.org.  Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at www.loudounwildlife.org.

Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Loudoun, Virginia, US Jun 25, 2016 8:00 AM – 10:35 AM

Protocol: Traveling

1.9 mile(s)

55 species

Wild Turkey  1

Turkey Vulture  5

Red-shouldered Hawk  2

Mourning Dove  3

Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2

Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1

Red-bellied Woodpecker  2

Downy Woodpecker  2

Hairy Woodpecker  1

Pileated Woodpecker  1

Eastern Wood-Pewee  10

Acadian Flycatcher  8

Eastern Phoebe  2

Great Crested Flycatcher  1

White-eyed Vireo  1

Yellow-throated Vireo  2

Red-eyed Vireo  12

Blue Jay  3

American Crow  2

Fish Crow  3

Purple Martin  1

Tree Swallow  11

Carolina Chickadee  5

Tufted Titmouse  5

White-breasted Nuthatch  2

House Wren  2

Carolina Wren  4

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2

Eastern Bluebird  10

American Robin  1

Gray Catbird  1

Brown Thrasher  2

Northern Mockingbird  2

Cedar Waxwing  6

Ovenbird  2

Worm-eating Warbler  1

Louisiana Waterthrush  1

Kentucky Warbler  4

Common Yellowthroat  5

American Redstart  1

Northern Parula  1

Yellow-breasted Chat  1

Grasshopper Sparrow  1

Chipping Sparrow  2

Field Sparrow  4

Song Sparrow  1

Eastern Towhee  2

Scarlet Tanager  2

Northern Cardinal  5

Indigo Bunting  10

Common Grackle  2

Brown-headed Cowbird  4

Baltimore Oriole  1

American Goldfinch  6

House Sparrow  1

 

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30387735

 

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org/content/atlasva)

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Seven birders came to the regular monthly birdwalk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve on Saturday, June 11, led by Del Sargent and Mary Ann Good.  We enjoyed a beautiful morning with an abundance of bird song and activity.  Our total count of 58 is on the high side for the June walk.  Highlights included a Red-headed Woodpecker, 7 warbler species including 3 Yellow-breasted Chats, and a Blue Grosbeak. It was nice to find a bright young Box Turtle beside the trail.

Box Turtle

 

The list follows:

Canada Goose

Green Heron

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Cooper’s Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Mourning Dove

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Eastern Wood Pewee

Acadian Flycatcher

Great-crested Flycatcher

Eastern Kingbird

White-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Blue Jay

American Crow

Fish Crow

Tree Swallow

Northern Rough Wing Swallow

Barn Swallow

Carolina Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

White-breasted Nuthatch

Carolina Wren

House Wren

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Eastern Bluebird

Wood Thrush

American Robin

Gray Catbird

Northern Mockingbird

Brown Thrasher

Cedar Waxwing

Northern Parula

Yellow Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Ovenbird

Louisiana Waterthrush

Common Yellowthroat

Yellow-breasted Chat

Scarlet Tanager

Eastern Towhee

Field Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

Blue Grosbeak

Indigo Bunting

Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird

House Finch

American Goldfinch

 

Mary Ann Good and Del Sargent

 

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Rust Sanctuary Great Blue Heron Aug 4 2007 2Morven Park in Leesburg is a place of varied habitats and a great place for an outing. It’s one of Loudoun’s Great Places!

Here is Bryan Henson’s account of the bird species spotted on Sunday’s walk.

During the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Nature Walk at Morven Park, our group of 20 nature enthusiasts walking mostly on the Wood Thrush trail found 32 species of birds with highlights including

* Brown Thrasher family
* Decent looks at female and male Scarlet Tanagers
* Great looks at Indigo Buntings
* Many calling Wood Thrushes
* An active barn swallow nest
* flycatchers – Great Crested, Eastern Phoebe, and Eastern Wood-Pewee

The list is on eBird at
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S30087541

After the walk, 3 of us went to another section of the park and watched
Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Great Blue Heron, Grasshopper Sparrow and an
active Eastern Kingbird nest.

 

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Highlights of the 69 species observed on Saturday morning’s walk at the Blue Ridge Center included a Swainson’s Thrush, 9 warbler species including Blue-winged, Cerulean, Kentucky, great looks at numerous Yellow-breasted Chats, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 3 Red-headed Woodpeckers, an American Kestrel, lots of Cedar Waxwings, and lots and lots of Indigo Buntings and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

About 25 people gathered for a joint Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy/Northern Virginia Bird Club bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center on what turned out to be a rather birdy but also very warm day. Everyone met at the Education Center on the north side of the center and then drove down to the south side where we split into two groups, one which began at the Sawmill Field parking lot led by Larry Meade, Donna Quinn, and Gerco Hoogeweg and the other at Arnold Road and led by Marc Ribaudo and Joe Coleman. Both groups walked a lot in the mature woods while one spent a fair amount time along Butterfly Alley and in the fields around Sawmill while the other was in the woods mostly visiting both Piney Run and Sweet Run in two spots.

For a complete list of the 69 birds observed see below.YB Chat 5_28_16 Diane Nastase

Larry Meade and Donna Quinn also spent some time during their walk identifying the following butterflies: Black Swallowtail,  Eastern  Tiger Swallowtail, Zebra Swallowtail, Pipevine Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Orange Sulphur, Eastern-tailed Blue Pearl Crescent, Great-spangled Fritillary, Red Admiral, Red-spotted Purple, Least Skipper, Dun’s Skipper and Zabulon.

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at http://www.blueridgecenter.org.  Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at www.loudounwildlife.org. Information on the Northern Virginia Bird Club is at http://www.nvabc.org/

Joe Coleman

 

Species Name High Count
Canada Goose

5

Great Blue Heron

3

Green Heron

2

Black Vulture

10

Turkey Vulture

10

Red-shouldered Hawk

1

Broad-winged Hawk

2

Red-tailed Hawk

3

Mourning Dove

3

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

5

Chimney Swift

2

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

3

Red-headed Woodpecker

4

Red-bellied Woodpecker

8

Downy Woodpecker

5

Northern Flicker

1

Pileated Woodpecker

5

American Kestrel

1

Eastern Wood-Pewee

20

Acadian Flycatcher

22

Eastern Phoebe

2

Great Crested Flycatcher

12

Eastern Kingbird

2

White-eyed Vireo

4

Yellow-throated Vireo

6

Red-eyed Vireo

30

Blue Jay

20

American Crow

10

Fish Crow

2

Tree Swallow

6

Barn Swallow

6

Carolina Chickadee

10

Tufted Titmouse

2

White-breasted Nuthatch

9

House Wren

6

Carolina Wren

3

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

40

Eastern Bluebird

10

Swainson’s Thrush

1

Wood Thrush

9

American Robin

3

Gray Catbird

2

Brown Thrasher

2

Northern Mockingbird

2

European Starling

6

Cedar Waxwing

50

Ovenbird

6

Louisiana Waterthrush

4

Blue-winged Warbler

7

Kentucky Warbler

5

Common Yellowthroat

6

American Redstart

5

Cerulean Warbler

3

Northern Parula

1

Yellow-breasted Chat

6

Grasshopper Sparrow

2

Chipping Sparrow

12

Field Sparrow

15

Song Sparrow

2

Eastern Towhee

7

Scarlet Tanager

11

Northern Cardinal

20

Indigo Bunting

20

Red-winged Blackbird

4

Common Grackle

2

Brown-headed Cowbird

8

Orchard Oriole

1

House Finch

2

American Goldfinch

30

 

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On April 26 Loudoun County’s Planning Commission voted, 6 to 2, to recommend a 160,000-square-foot, 35-foot-high building on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain in Western Loudoun. This was done with little public notice or input and it is going before the Board of Supervisors tonight, May 19, at 6:30 p.m.Many people are rallying against this outrageous proposal for a lot of different reasons. The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is opposed to it due to the impact it will have on what is probably Loudoun County’s richest area biologically because of the extensive and diverse wildlife habitats that exist there. Short Hill Mountain serves as the eastern border of the Between the Hills Valley while the Blue Ridge Mountains is its western border. The valley and the ridges that border it are heavily forested, offering unique and connected habitat that is becoming more and more rare in Loudoun County. It has farm fields and some of the cleanest streams in all of Loudoun County. Harpers Ferry National Park borders it on the north and northwest where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet and all of those factors combine to make this valley rich with wildlife. Short Hill Mountain is not only a major migration route for birds of prey in the fall, large numbers of other birds such as the Cerulean Warbler also migrate along the ridge in both the spring and fall. A state threatened turtle, the Wood Turtle, lives in the valley while amphibians that have disappeared in other parts of the county, are still plentiful in the many healthy vernal pools which can be find in the valley. Many species of birds that live and nest in the valley have seen their numbers plummet elsewhere but are, for now, still holding out in this area. As shown by our annual butterfly count, more species of butterflies thrive here than anywhere else in the county.There will probably be backup emergency generators at this facility which will need to be tested on a regular basis. Noise pollution in the valley is likely to be more extensive than it would be in an open space and because this building is to be built on the ridge, it will echo up and down the valley and beyond.

This facility makes no sense in such a wonderful place. Furthermore, we are outraged that something with as negative impact as this facility will have is being slipped through the planning process without giving the public any real opportunity to study it especially since there is no need for it to be rushed. To protect this area we are asking the Board of Supervisors to deny this application outright.

Joe Coleman

Vice President

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy

 

Below is an Action Alert from the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition on the issue, including a memo from LCPCC Chair Al Van Huyck to the Board of Supervisors. You can also read the memo and see the image referred to here.

 

The Loudoun County Planning Commission’s 6-2 vote on April 26 to approve the commission permit for a 160,000-square-foot, 35-foot-high building on the ridge of Short Hill Mountain in Western Loudoun, with little public notice or input, next goes before the Board of Supervisors at its May 19 meeting in Leesburg.The building, if constructed, will have a huge impact on the rural area’s viewshed (see image below; areas shaded in gold show where building will be visible from), with far-reaching implications for the area’s scenic and rural character.It is vital that members of the Board of Supervisors hear citizens’ concerns about this proposal. 

What you can do:

• Become informed about the proposal. There are many unanswered questions about what the facility actually will be—among them whether it in fact constitutes a permitted use under the zoning ordinance, and who will own and operate it upon completion. Noise, light, traffic, power and water needs for a facility operating 24 hours a day with 60 employees working three shifts—these impacts have not been assessed. Read more here.

• Email Supervisors and speak at the BOS meeting this Thursday, May 19 (speaking slots for the 6:30 p.m. period are available). Contact the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors at 703-777-0200 to sign up to speak. Click here for supervisor emails. Catoctin District Supervisor Geary Higgins has said he does “not support the current application as it currently stands.” Supervisors Higgins and Tony Buffington (Blue Ridge) need to hear more from their constituents about citizens’ concerns.• Attend the community meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 23, hosted by the project applicant, Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group Inc. (a private contractor which builds facilities but does not own or operate them), to discuss expansion of the facility at the Lovettsville Game Association building at 16 South Berlin Turnpike, in Lovettsville.

• Notify friends, neighbors, your organization’s membership list, and rural business owners in Loudoun about this precedent-setting intrusion into rural Loudoun, with its irreplaceable scenic assets—that so many of its rural businesses rely upon for their prosperity.

• Share this email and the LCPCC Facebook page link.

 

Below is a message from LCPCC Chair Al Van Huyck to the applicant and the Board of Supervisors. You also can download a PDF of the document here.

 

TO            : The Loudoun Board of Supervisors

FROM     : Al Van Huyck

DATE       : May 4, 2016

SUBJECT:  UNANSWERED QUESTIONS REGARDING CMPT-2016-0001; AT&T SHORT HILL

 

The Planning Commission approved the Commission Permit for A&T Short Hill Mountain at their meeting on April 26, 2016.  The Board of Supervisors now has 60 days to either to approve or deny the Commission Permit as an administrative decision without a public hearing.

 

The proposed facility is for a 160,000 square foot structure, 35 feet high and 433 feet long, with eight back-up generators, and eleven air coolers.

 

The following are unanswered questions or pending issues which should be clarified before the Board of Supervisors takes action.

  1. The Zoning Administrator has determined that the application is for an expansion of a “Utility Substation, Transmission” which is a permitted use.However, early Staff reviews and several outside experts suggest that this use is for a “Data Center” which is not a permitted use.The County’s Communications Commission should be asked to verify the Zoning Administrator’s decision.
  2. Is this facility to be a private commercial use or is there a compelling Federal Government need for this facility?The applicant should be required to state whether or not it will be a private commercial use or will it be restricted to Federal Government use.
  3. The applicant is Parsons Environment & Infrastructure Group Inc. (a private contractor which builds facilities but does not own or operate them) and is not a public utility.Can a contractor be issued a Commission Permit or only the utility owner of the site? The Parsons Company should justify why they are the applicant, and should be required to state their proposed end use for the Commission Permit.
  4. If AT&T is to be the end user, they should be required to state that they will operate the facility and not sell or lease it to others as a speculative venture.A statement from AT&T should be required as to their commitment to the facility’s use.
  5. Has AT&T abandoned use of the existing facility? There is some evidence that there is no current activity at the site.A statement from AT&T should be required as to the current use of the existing facility on the Short Hill Mountain.
  6. There is a great need for broadband in rural Loudoun.Will Loudoun residents obtain any benefits from this facility if built?
  7. If the Zoning Administrator’s decision stands will any current transmission substation anywhere in Loudoun County be allowed to receive a Commission Permit to be able to massively expand based on this precedent.There are a large number of substations throughout Loudoun County east and west.  If this interpretation is allowed to stand will it set a precedent in future cases?  The Zoning Administrator should be required to clarify this possible situation.
  8. A Commission Permit’s test is “whether the general location, character, and extent of the proposed use are in substantial accord with the Comprehensive Plan.”The Staff report states that it is based only on the fact it is an “expansion of an existing “Utility Substation, Transmission” which is a permitted use in the Zoning Ordinance.The Staff should be required to explain that the overall reading of the Comprehensive Plan would not justify this facility on the ridge line of the Short Hill Mountain.

VIEWSHED ANALYSIS

The View Shed analysis included in the application is totally inadequate when compared to a privately generated GIS viewshed analysis.The Staff Report notes the structure will be visible from the valley roads. However, a private analysis indicates the structure will be visible over a wide area of northwest Loudoun from the Catoctin Mountains to the Short Hill Mountain in the east and for miles along the Appalachian Trail and down the valley to below Hillsboro on the west.As such the potential negative impact on many rural economy businesses and residents needs to be considered.The County GIS Department should be asked to conduct an official analysis of the view shed impact of the structure located on the ridge line of the Short Hill Mountains.

 

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS REGARDING MITIGATION OF IMPACT

 

The application is vague on important issues which can affect the impact of the facility.  If a Commission Permit is approved then there is only approval of the Site Plan left for discussion, and only existing County regulations can be applied.  Any special mitigating commitments must be written into the Plat Plan prior to the approval of the Commission Permit.  The applicant should be required to make binding commitments regarding the following issues.

  1. What will be the power requirement needed to service the facilities?The applicant orally stated they will upgrade the power source, but not increase the height of the poles carrying power to the site or seek a new line right of way.However, will there be any changes required in obtaining this power off-site?The power requirements should be put in writing on the Plat.
  2. The applicant states they will observe the County’s noise regulations. The noise generated at the top of the Short Hill Mountain, even if within County limits, will carry far and wide in the clear, quiet air of rural Loudoun.The applicant should be required to provide a noise suppression plan particularly because of the difficulty of enforcing the County’s noise regulations.
  3. The applicant states they will attempt to minimize security lighting, but there is no specific information on how this will be done.Lights high on the mountain will be seen over a wide area.The applicant should be required to specify exactly what the lighting requirements will be and how they intend to mitigate the light trespass.
  4. The applicant states they will use existing wells to supply the water needed for the facility.In Loudoun, if a neighbor’s well runs dry because of a well on another property, there is no recourse.The applicant should be required to produce a hydro study which states the expected water requirements of the facility, the flow of the existing wells, the ground water recharge levels expected, and commit to a water supply management plan.
  5. The applicant states there will be no impact on the eco-system on the mountain.However, the scale of the structure and the level of activity suggest that there will be a substantial impact on the environment of the Mountain and the birds and animals which make it their habitat.The applicant should be required to undertake an analysis of the impact of the facility on the eco-system on the mountain.

 

CONCLUSION

The Board of Supervisors should either reject the pending Commission Permit and return the application to the Planning Commission for further analysis or send the application to TLUC and clarify the answers to the questions identified here.

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