Loudoun County voters had their wish for a county park supported Monday when the Board of Supervisors denied a developer's proposal to build on land the county hopes to acquire for a park.
Earlier this month, 59 percent of the Loudoun voters passed a referendum to issue $15 million in bonds to purchase the 357-acre Claude Moore property in eastern Loudoun for a county park.
On Monday, the McLean-based development firm of Miller and Smith, current owners of the Moore property, asked the supervisors to rezone the land so that it could build about 1,200 houses on it. Also, the firm asked the supervisors to amend the county's five-year Eastern Loudoun Area Management Plan.
By a 5-to-1 vote, with two absent, the supervisors denied the proposal, saying that it did not comply with the county's land management plan, which calls for the Moore property to remain as open land. Supervisor Steve Stockman cast the only vote supporting rezoning. Also, the supervisors said the proposal did not meet seven of the eight zoning considerations for the land.
"We saw no reason to amend the zoning that was already there," said Betty W. Tatum (D-Guilford), chairman of the board.
"We had no reason to feel that the county land management plan is in error," Tatum added.
Also at the meeting, the supervisors passed a motion for the county to acquire the Moore property, which is alongside Rte. 637, opposite the Loudoun campus of the Northern Virginia Community College on Rte. 7.
The land was appraised at $13.5 million
"We saw no reason to amend the zoning that was already there," said Betty W. Tatum (D-Guilford), chairman of the board. "We had no reason to feel that the county land management plan is in error."
just before the Nov. 3 referendum.
At present, however, ownership of the land is in doubt, according to Tatum.
About 10 years ago, Moore gave the tract to the National Wildlife Federation to be used as an education center and wildlife preservation park. The tract contains several historical buildings and is traversed by Vestal's Gap Road, which some local historians say is one of the most historic roads in the United States. Gen. Edward Braddock and George Washington marched their troops down the road in the French and Indian War of 1755.
But in 1985 the wildlife group sold the land to Miller and Smith for $8.5 million. Moore is trying to sue the group, saying that the nonprofit organization does not have clear title to the land and sold it without his permission.
The dispute over the ownership of the land may be settled in court, in which case the free market would determine its value, said Tatum.
If the county succeeds in its effort to purchase the property, the land will become the first of three parks the county intends to build as part of a new parks and recreation program.
"The Claude Moore tract fits in so perfectly with our parks plan," said Tatum. "There's really no county park per se at the moment. More and more people are becoming aware of the needs of the county for parks and recreation services."
Should the county purchase the land, the Department of Parks and Recreation would then present a park use plan for the property to the Board of Supervisors. A public hearing would probably be held before use of the park would be determined, said Tatum.