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There are pros and cons to the proposal, made by some in the community, to designate the 9-acre Rouse estate on Wilson Boulevard as a local historic district.

We can see both sides in the argument: the desire of one side to preserve an historic house and tract of open land, the desire of the other to maintain private-property rights. Each has merit.

And because of that, skittishness among county leaders is both prudent and completely understandable. If an historic district is enacted over protestations of the property owner, an ugly, costly and protracted court battle could ensue.

And as for the county government’s purchasing the property outright? Anyone who sat through the two-decade-long saga of the Reevesland farmhouse located nearby will understand county leaders’ lack of desire to go down a similar path.

Given all that, we’ll not be critical of those at the top of the county-governance pyramid – County Board members, county manager, county attorney – for not wanting to intervene in this matter.

But we do think it’s important to draw back the curtain on how the county government has handled this matter. Because while the government talks a good game when it comes to preservation of local history, its actions speak differently.

In fact, some of those who are eager to see the preservation of the Rouse estate have come to the conclusion (most likely correct) that their supposed allies in positions of authority are not really as eager to provide help as they purport.

Some believe that the leadership of the county government, in fact, is doing everything it can to slow-walk the historic-designation process so the owner of the property would be able to tear it down – and then the Arlington government can walk away from the matter mouthing platitudes along the lines of, “well, we did the best we could.”

If Arlington leaders indeed have made up their minds to not be helpful in this battle, why not simply state, “We’ve made up our minds to not be helpful”? Better that than leave advocates for the property’s preservation with the expectation that some action in support of that effort will be taken.

If only the county government would be up front about its intent, its actions would be easier to swallow.

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