Loudoun finance committee recommends keeping courts downtown
By Jim Barnes,
The prospects for expanding Loudoun’s court facilities in Leesburg became much brighter Tuesday, when the county’s Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee unanimously recommended proceeding with the downtown option.
The committee had been considering several proposals for expanding the court complex, including moving some or all of the courts to county-owned property off Sycolin Road, outside the Leesburg town limits. But the unanimous vote of the finance committee, which includes five of the nine members of the Board of Supervisors, indicates that the board will most likely vote to keep the courts downtown.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Leesburg District Supervisor Kenneth D. Reid (R) said. “It’s been a long process.”
There was little discussion before the finance committee’s vote. Reid, a strong supporter of expanding the downtown court complex, urged Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd and members of the Town Council to talk to their planning commissioners and members of the Board of Architectural Review to let them know that “this is the plan.”
“It really is incumbent upon you all to make sure that the process goes smoothly,” Reid said.
Umstattd said in a statement after the meeting that the town is committed to ensuring that its review of the county’s application will be “smooth, predictable and efficient.”
“Our staff is experienced in guiding applicants through our expedited process, and both town and county staffs work very well together,” Umstattd said. “We are hopeful that the full Board of Supervisors will accept the committee’s recommendation, and we look forward to a close working relationship with the board and county staff.”
The committee has been weighing options for expanding the court facilities to meet increasing caseloads and other needs resulting from Loudoun County’s rapid population growth. 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 outside Leesburg. But after representatives of Loudoun’s judicial, legal and law enforcement communities urged keeping all the courts together, county staff members instead recommended that the facilities be expanded in downtown Leesburg.
At its November meeting, the committee directed county staff members to meet with town representatives to discuss concerns associated with a downtown court expansion. Those issues included the town’s land-use requirements, connection of the new space to the current court facilities on the other side of Church Street, the need for more parking and transportation issues.
In a Dec. 12 letter, Leesburg Town Manager John Wells responded to a list of questions raised by county officials on issues such as land-use approvals, transportation improvements, and the possible closure of Church Street. Although Wells avoided making any promises on specific land use and transportation questions, he said that the town would give the issue the attention it needs to review it “in a timely and efficient manner as expeditiously as possible.”
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the courts expansion.