Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy 12th birthday, Brambleton! (We are Not Ashburn)

I have lived in Brambleton since October 18, 2003... almost ten years ago.  My husband and I had been working in Ashburn (reverse commuting from Falls Church) for several years when we decided to build our first home here.  We liked the idea of living so close to work (even though neither of us were still working at WorldBomb by the time our house was finished, but that's another story).  The tech component of the planned development appealed to us, as did the idea of becoming part of a new community.

We started to realize that, despite the fact that our 20148 zip code was an Ashburn zip code (if you use the USPS zip code tool, it will tell you that Ashburn is the "preferred city" for 20148, with other "acceptable cities" being Arcola, Brambleton, and Broadlands), we didn't really live in Ashburn.  We had some trouble with our initial Verizon phone activation, and I was passed around through various parts of the company because the Arcola exchange was legacy GTE instead of Bell Atlantic. The phone books we received (in fact, still receive) are for Prince William County.  We have NOVEC (a rural coop) for electricity instead of Dominion.  And everywhere we went in Ashburn, we met people who had never heard of Brambleton, and who didn't think there was anything past Broadlands.

I loved (and still love) Brambleton; it felt special, different.  In 2006, I was on "Jeopardy!" (one-day champion, oh yeah) and said that I was from "Brambleton, Virginia" -- I think I was the first person to ever do so on national TV.  The next year, I started writing a column called "Brambleton Buzz" for the now-defunct Loudoun Independent.  The editor thought there was enough going on out here to have something separate from the Ashburn column.  And oh, was there stuff going on out here.  The Brambleton Town Center was booming - shopping! restaurants! movie theater!  Houses were popping up, and the schools were filling up.  Brambleton even weathered the recession fairly well; there weren't a lot of foreclosures like in other areas.  (BTW, I am aware that the Brambleton developer's site says that Brambleton is "in Ashburn".  I know this is a marketing tactic, but I really wish they would scrub those few references off the site.)

Then, the 2010 Census came.  Afterward, there was a tough redistricting battle that separated almost all of Brambleton from Ashburn.  That was the first political use of Ryan Road as a "natural" north-south divider.  Our numbers (9,845 people as of the 2010 Census) were used to justify the existence of two western districts, even though we have more in common with our neighbors in Ashburn than with the rest of our Blue Ridge District, especially in the issues of transportation and schools.  But once the redistricting was done, so was our place in Ashburn.  We were excluded from the 2011 Ashburn Community Outreach survey, even though problems like Waxpool Road, alternates to the Greenway, etc., also directly affect us.  As the survey site says:
Are You in Ashburn?

The Ashburn Community includes the following areas: Alexan at Ryan’s Corner, Alexandra’s Grove, Amberleigh, Ashbriar, Ashbrook, Ashburn Farm, Ashburn Manor, Ashburn Meadows, Ashburn Village, Ashby Ponds, Ashleigh, Belmont, Belmont Glen, Belmont Greene (Belmont Forest), Belmont Ridge, Broadlands, Cameron Chase, Carisbrooke, Cedar Ridge, Courts of Ashburn, Dulles Parkway Center, The Estates of Forest Ridge, Farmwell Hunt, Flynn’s Crossing (Ryan Park Center), Forest Manor, Goose Creek Village South, Hunt at Belmont Country Club, Lansdowne, Leisure World, Loudoun Parkway Center, Loudoun Valley Estates, Morefield Station, Mooreland Estates, The Park at Belle Terra, Potomac Farms, Potomac Green, Potter Property, The Regency, The Reserve at Belle Terra, The Ridges at Ashburn, Timberbrooke, University Center, Vantage Pointe, Villages of Waxpool, and Windermere.

Aw, c'mon!  Loudoun Valley Estates made it in, but we didn't?  (And Lansdowne, with its Leesburg 20176 zip code, is considered Ashburn.  So zip codes mean zip.)  Oh, don't worry, LVE.  You are on the "wrong" side of Ryan Road, and your time would come to join us in "Not Ashburn".  And sure enough...

The school redistrictings of fall 2012 and spring 2013 should have been a wake-up call to anyone in Brambleton who still felt like part of Ashburn.  In the elementary redistricting, the Ryan Road divider made its appearance again, and the small portion of Brambleton residents north of it were taken out of schools within Brambleton and sent to Moorefield Station ES.  This set us up for the debacle that was the middle and high school redistricting.  I don't want to dwell on the details because of the pending court case (which, by the way, is moving forward), but it was a stark visual when "Ashburn" turned out all in white shirts to lobby against Brambleton - an effort that was organized behind the scenes by Broadlands and the other Ashburn HOAs.  By the way, LCPS called it the "Ashburn and Dulles North area" boundary process.  Guess which one we are?  Not Ashburn.

And no one would dare to suggest the construction of a limited-access freight-cargo road through Ashburn.  Can you imagine?  But it's okay to dump on Brambleton because we're "new" (hello, 12 years old!) or we're "still building" or we're "so big".  Yet we cannot fully leverage our power because we've been divided and conquered even as we continue to grow.  In 2011, we were the sixth-top-selling planned community in the nation, with 454 new homes sold.  In 2012, we set a new record by selling 466 new homes, an average of nine homes per week.  By 2020, after the next Federal census and subsequent redistricting, perhaps we will have more effective and direct representation on both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board.  In the meantime, what can you do?  Little things, like using Brambleton in your address (not Ashburn), telling people you live in Brambleton (not Ashburn), and supporting Brambleton businesses.  Put your rants and raves on the Brambletonian. Get involved with and embrace your community.  You could also do big things, like running for Blue Ridge District Supervisor or School Board Rep in 2015 (Brambletonians north of Ryan Road and east of Belmont Ridge can run for Dulles District offices).

We are Not Ashburn.  We are Brambleton.  Happy birthday to us.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to school

My twins start kindergarten at Legacy ES today.  Here's a little picture we took for Loudoun for Full-Day Kindergarten.  It's too late for my kids, but hopefully in the future kindergarteners here will get a full day like almost every other school district in the Commonwealth.

Oh, and my kids are going to a school that was left overcapacity on purpose during last fall's Ashburn/Dulles North elementary redistricting.  Legacy is on overflow for kindergarten.  Parents who do have the resources to pay for private full-day kindergarten face the possibility of not getting a spot for first grade next fall.