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April 12, 2021 · OPINION

Warrenton plan charts path “for a prosperous future”

The town council will continue the public hearing on Warrenton’s draft comprehensive plan update at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 13.
By Alec Burnett

As a former elected official, I do not advocate critiquing the activities of the current town council, primarily out of respect but also as a professional courtesy similar to most who would not make public comments critiquing the person who replaced them in their former position.

However, after reading the recent letter to the editor sent by other former council members, I felt a reply is warranted in order to provide some objective context for those who are most impacted by this pending decision.

First and foremost, the current council has been elected by the citizens to speak and act on their behalf to make decisions that serve the best interests of the town. To those who may not agree with the outcome, please, remember how blessed we are to live and thrive by the policies of a representative government.

Regarding the proposed Comprehensive Plan, just as any other impactful decision, there will always be concerns, questions and opinions. But, overall, I and many other residents believe this five-year-long process of due diligence and inclusive engagement has manifested itself into a plan for our future that best meets the diverse needs of all town residents, young and old, current and future and not just those of any one or more groups that have a specific and self-serving agenda.

Secondly, I am proud to have served my hometown alongside my elected peers and having spent countless days and hours embracing and committing to making holistic and comprehensive revisions that truly addressed the specific needs of our future, unlike previous town leaders who simply made rubber-stamped decisions and kicked the can farther down the road. The majority of current council should be applauded for seeing this ideological change over the finish line while at the same time remaining aligned and true to their charter and duty of serving the people above themselves.

We should all recognize and appreciate the challenge and complexity involved in planning for a prosperous future for all of Warrenton and, although it is far easier to do nothing more than make minor updates and glossy revisions, rarely does taking the easy way out result in anything more than short-lived prosperity that serves only a few. Wholistic visions are rarely if ever unanimously supported, but they are responsible actions that should be the priority of any governing body.

I will always applaud a less-than-perfect plan over inaction and firmly believe that the majority of citizens agree. One thing that became very clear from day one during my time in the dais is that the citizens don’t elect council members to do nothing.

There is no need for further debate in a public forum of the details of this plan or try to argue what we know the current council, planning commission, staff and citizens have spent considerable time and effort on.

What is needed however is an awareness that there are many other past council members who didn’t sign onto that letter and who don’t share the concerns they laid out. Although there may be individual concerns which have been shared with staff and sitting council members, it needs to be known that no effort around comprehensive planning is ever easy nor does any effort ever achieve every goal of every citizen.

Balanced and controlled growth that acknowledges the pressures put on the Town of Warrenton by both Northern Virginia and Culpeper are challenging and there is no single solution.

No one, including myself, believes this plan is perfect on every issue, but it is a well-thought-out plan that comprehensively addresses the diverse needs of both today’s and tomorrow’s residents of Warrenton and allows further council members with a roadmap based on the wishes and desires of today’s residents. I encourage all citizens to read it for themselves and not simply fall prey to the opinion of a select few who are not elected and actively doing the hard work of planning a future that is better and brighter for all.

We the people, not we the few, make the decisions for us all.

The writer served as Ward 2’s representative on the town council from 2016 to 2020.
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