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Letter: Many deserve thanks for historic-preservation legislation

'This is a landmark step forward for historic preservation, particularly in Arlington, where we have learned some very hard and bitter lessons.'

To the editor: I am thrilled and relieved that Gov. Youngkin signed HB 1395, which will provide additional protections for historic preservation in the commonwealth, including locally.

This is a landmark step forward for historic preservation, particularly in Arlington, where we have learned some very hard and bitter lessons due to lack of appropriate procedure and protections in the recent notable past.

Success has many parents, failure is an orphan, as the saying goes. Primary credit must go to John Reeder, whose idea it was originally to take the novel approach of changing/improving existing applicable state laws.

By virtue of coincidence, Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) had previously joined me on the board of directors of the Arlington Historical Society. John and I hammered out some rough wording to amend current Virginia preservation law so that such a loss that occurred in Arlington could be hopefully prevented in the future, with legal protections, requiring local authorities to follow the codes. I then relayed our intentions to Del. Hope, who in his great wisdom, saw the need, the gap and the potential for success, and he agreed to sponsor a bill towards the desired end.

He did this FOUR times – 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 – thus earning special thanks and recognition for persistence and perseverance. Preservation supporters cannot thank Del. Hope enough for all that he did, over that extended period of time, both upfront and behind the scenes as “the sausage was being made,” to attain support of his colleagues in the legislature, and ultimate passage of the bill.

And of course, thanks are due to Gov. Youngkin, who had the options of approving, amending or vetoing the bill outright. He chose to sign it, to his great credit.

Lastly, to all within the Arlington County government who supported the bill, credit and thanks are due. It has never been made clear to me who those individuals were, but they must be acknowledged and recognized – forces of enlightenment and sensible, modest progress for historic preservation in Arlington, which has been so often tragically neglected.

This is not the end however. We need to all pull together again, to introduce another bill that would address the issues and provisions of “standing” in the courts for appeal of an adverse decision, that were stripped from the original bill during this 2024 legislative session.

Tom Dickinson, Arlington