This artistic rendering of the proposed Rush River Commons project.

Comment articles reflect the opinion of the writer(s), not the Rapp News. Comment below or by writing a letter to the editor:

Mr. Randall Fort’s blathering attack on the opponents of the location of the Rush River Commons  (“The tide is going to come in,” June 26) should be a serious warning to those who cherish the traditional ambience that generations of Rappahannock folks have vigilantly worked to protect.

Mr. Fort begins by totally misunderstanding the wisdom of the great King Cnut who, in legend, put his throne in front of an approaching tide. Cnut’s point was that the power of men, even a King, was nothing compared to the majesty of God’s natural forces. After all, Cnut was a Viking King, a man who knew and understood the might of the Oceans as well as any man then alive. He was a master sailor of the wild North Sea. He was not a fool, and it is foolish to think he was.

In mistaking the reasoned opposition to Chuck Akre’s well intentioned development as “a seminal example of attempts to impede the progress which is inevitable and necessary,” Mr. Fort has raised questions which lead one to think that he doesn’t have the slightest understanding of what we are discussing here. He seems to believe that the encroaching suburban growth to our east has not been Topic A around here for the last 30 or 40 years. Apparently he doesn’t understand that our zoning codes are informed by one of the wisest comprehensive plans ever composed, under the visionary influence and guidance of the late Phil Irwin and other farsighted men and women of Rappahannock. 

The “Comp Plan” was revised this past year and is available on the county’s website. It is a must read for anyone who lives here or plans to live here. Particular attention should be paid to the Principles and Goals of the document. Here is a very brief excerpt:

A scenic county shall mean:

  • One in which preservation and enhancement of the natural and historic beauty and cultural value of the countryside shall be respected as being of foremost importance; and,

  • One in which conditions for a sustainable agricultural and tourism economy are not dependent on traditionally defined growth patterns as have developed in jurisdictions nearby as a consequence of the growth of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

To insist, as Mr. Fort does, that the feelings of our 7,400 residents are immaterial to our future is to suggest that there is an inexorable force which robs us of our right to make those decisions. Mr. Akre surely understands that danger. Who doesn’t applaud his purchase of Eldon Farms, with an assurance that it will never be subdivided and commercially developed? I also applaud his generous instincts in the matter of affordable housing and a home for the Food Pantry. Many of us have long worked and contributed to those causes. 

The crux of the problem is that by placing the project in our county seat, it is not subject to the usual deliberative processes of our county government, which reflects the sense of the wider community. That is because the Town of Washington, with a population of only 120, has a town charter which enables them to greenlight a development like this without the oversight and due diligence of the Comprehensive Plan or the usual scrutiny of the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. That traditional “vetting” process is not going to happen in this case, and that, if nothing else, shows naive civic disrespect. 

Rush River Commons is, in the opinion of many, simply not a good geographical fit at that location.

But this was a done deal, a fait accompli, when it was announced. There have long been hard feelings and cultural friction between the Town of Washington and many county dwellers. This has done nothing to ease that open wound.

Mr. Fort has conflated Chuck Akre’s charitable instincts with Fort's own deluded vision of the inevitable tide of suburban sprawl.

Fort declares, “[They can] protest and complain all they want, but the tide is going to come in.” Really? Read the Comp Plan, Mr. Fort.

Mr. Akre’s intentions are obviously altruistic and I know of no one who thinks differently. 

But this project has been handled with the usual clumsiness of our naive arrivistes. This episode might well be remembered as the moment when the county was disrespected by the town one too many times. This was a deep-pocketed end run, bypassing the normal input of that larger community, those who built this county and who are directly impacted by the decisions made within it.

It is a classic case of “bigfooting.” This sort of power play, however well intentioned, is never well remembered.  

The writer lives in Harris Hollow


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