Crosstrail developer withdraws land offer for Loudoun courts expansion

December 10, 2012

The Loudoun County courts complex will not be moving to the Crosstrail development on the southern edge of Leesburg. Peterson Cos., developer of the project, has withdrawn its offer of land for the courts expansion.

Jon Peterson, senior vice president of the Peterson Cos., said in a Dec. 4 letter to Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee Chairman Ralph M. Buona that, after talking with “numerous stakeholders on this issue,” he thought that the decision had already been made to keep the courts in downtown Leesburg.

“It has become obvious that capable representatives from both the Town of Leesburg and Loudoun County have extensively evaluated the circumstances surrounding this matter,” Peterson said. “In doing so, it appears that the two parties have mutually agreed upon a long-term solution that will keep the location of the
. . . courts complex in its existing location in downtown Leesburg.”

But Buona said the committee has not concluded is discussions.

“No decision has been reached, and the committee’s vote will be in the form of a recommendation to the full board,” he said in an e-mail. “Both [Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott] York and I have . . . stated publicly that our desire is to keep the courts in downtown Leesburg but that we have to work through some potential issues with the town to make that happen.”

Buona said he expects the committee to make its final recommendation in February.

The committee is weighing options for expanding the court facilities to meet increasing caseloads and other needs resulting from Loudoun’s rapid population growth. The committee is considering expanding the courts in downtown Leesburg or moving some or all of the courts to a county-owned property south of Leesburg.

In June, county staff members recommended keeping the Circuit Court downtown and moving the General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations courts to the county-owned site. But after representatives of Loudoun’s judicial, legal and law enforcement agencies said all the courts should be kept together, staff members recommended last month that the court facilities be expanded in downtown Leesburg.

On Nov. 19, the day before the finance committee was expected to make its recommendation, Peterson Cos. offered a gift of land in the Crosstrail development for the court complex. The committee voted to consider the proposal, over the strenuous objection of Leesburg District Supervisor Kenneth “Ken” Reid.

The committee also asked county staff members to meet with Leesburg officials to discuss a list of concerns related to expanding the courts downtown. Those issues include the town’s land-use requirements, connection of the new space to existing court facilities across Church Street, transportation concerns and the need for more parking.

Reid said he was glad that Peterson Cos. had withdrawn its offer, calling the proposal untimely and inadequate to meet the county’s needs.

“I asked them to withdraw it, and I’m pleased that they did,” he said. “Now, the town has to belly up and work with [county staff members] on the concerns the finance committee raised.”

Paul Brown, division manager for the county’s Construction and Waste Management Department, said that staff members from the county and town had met to discuss the list of issues raised by the finance committee and were preparing a report.

Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd, a proponent of expanding the courts downtown, said that she was pleased that the developer had withdrawn its offer.

“I e-mailed Jon Peterson and said I appreciated that they took another look and chose to re-think it,” Umstattd said. “I think that then we can continue to work with the board on their downtown option as we have been for the last year.”

Umstattd said the Leesburg Town Council is expected to discuss the courts expansion at its work session Monday and that the public is invited to comment on the issue at the council’s business meeting Tuesday. She said that public comments will be heard shortly after the meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

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