A U.S. District judge has denied a motion by the developer of the Courtland Farm subdivision to reinstate federal and local permits to proceed with the development of 200 acres adjacent to Oatlands Plantation and the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve.
Judge Claude Hilton also denied Friday a restraining order preventing the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Audubon Naturalist Society from contacting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Loudoun County government officials concerning the project.
Courtland Farm-Loudoun LLC filed the motions after the Corps this month suspended a wetlands and stream-crossing permit needed for construction to continue on the 277-home development and a stop work order issued by Loudoun County. The Army is responsible under the Clean Water Act for protecting waterways and wetlands from development.
The suspension was part of a settlement with the National Trust and other groups, which sued the Corps in March to block construction. The lawsuit alleged that the Corps illegally issued a permit allowing construction on less than an acre of wetlands because it wrongly concluded that its actions would have "no effect" on the 1804 plantation. At issue was whether the Corps should have considered the effect of the entire development on Oatlands or just the impact of disturbing the wetlands.
As part of the settlement, the Corps called for "re-opening the consultative process" to determine the subdivision's impact on Oatlands.
"The judge's ruling [Friday] will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the full review of the proposed development's impacts on Oatlands and other historic resources and ways that those impacts can be avoided and mitigated," said Christopher Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council. "It enables all parties to continue the process agreed upon by the Army Corps of Engineers."