Board Delays Vote on Gilbert’s Corner Park Permit - Leesburg Today Online—Daily News Coverage of Loudoun County, Leesburg, Ashburn: News

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Board Delays Vote on Gilbert’s Corner Park Permit

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Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:56 pm

The Board of Supervisors yesterday tapped the brakes on the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's plans for a passive recreation and natural park near the intersection of Rt. 50 and Rt. 15, instead voting to send it to committee for further review and discussion.

The board ratified the commission permit needed for the 5.82-acre Mount Zion Historic Park on Rt. 50. The permit was approved by the Planning Commission. In 2010, NVRPA acquired the property from the county, which had operated the historic site since 2003.

But the park directly across Rt. 50 from Mt. Zion, known as Gilbert's Corner Regional Park, spurred questions from supervisors. It is located on approximately 157 acres on the north side of Rt. 50 on the west side of Watson Road. NVRPA acquired the eastern portion of the property from the Mount Zion Church Preservation Association in 2009, and leases the western portion from the Piedmont Environmental Council.

Requesting separate votes on the park applications, Vice Chairman Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) said she wanted to examine whether the Gilbert's Corner park could be used for active recreation, including sports fields.

"There is a tremendous deficit in this county," she said about ballfields. "I think a park is a wonderful thing...but I am concerned by the fact that there is not even a provision for a soccer field."

Other supervisors expressed similar concerns, including Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), who said he met with Loudoun Soccer Tuesday and learned the organization has 8,000 children signed up.

"And there are 6,000 in Ashburn youth football," he said. "We are in desperate, desperate need for fields. We have a lot of hiking trails. We have more hiking trails than we know what to do with."

Another concern for supervisors was whether having a park there would create problems if the county ever needed to expand Rt. 50 or Rt. 15.

Project manager Judi Birkitt and Planning Director Julie Pastor told the board the commission permit only addressed whether a park in that location met the requirements of the county's Comprehensive Plan and that any decision to move forward with ballfields would require a special exception application, along with another commission permit.

"They just wanted to be able as a first step to have commission permit for passive recreation because it was by right," Birkitt said. "In the event they want to come back for a special exception use, at that time, it could open up to a study of transportation and all other mitigating factors."

Todd Hafner, director of planning and development for NVRPA, also told the board there were limitations on the property.

"About half the property is wetlands, and there is a wetlands conservation easement," he said. "The other half has a conservation easement that we would not put fields on it. That would be prohibited on this property."

Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) at first attempted to explain to the other board members that overturning the planning commission's approval of the permit would leave the property as is.

"It is what it is. I appreciate the concern about active recreation uses, but if we deny the commission permit it is not going to help that issue," he said. "We are not going to negotiate that issue at this time. That needs to come forward in another application. The property in itself, between wetlands and easements, there is not too much available for active rec."

But other supervisors noted this was the first time they had ever dealt with a commission permit, and said they would like to have the time to review the application in committee before making a final decision.

"Hopefully in a year or two we will much more seasoned up here. But think it is good to err on the side of caution," Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian), who chairs the Transportation/Land Use Committee, said.

Currently, the Gilbert's Corner Park has only three barns and a storage building on the property, and most is considered environmentally sensitive with forested areas, steep slopes, and wetlands associated with Howsers Branch, a stream that runs through the center of the proposed park.

The Mt. Zion park includes the church, which was built in 1851 and is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, a cemetery and a gravel parking area. Minimal improvements will be made, including installing interpretive signs and a short trail to the old Carolina Road bed on the west side of the property.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • goosecrick posted at 10:07 pm on Thu, Feb 9, 2012.

    goosecrick Posts: 4

    The new supervisors obviously don't know their county, didn't read the paper in 2010, or learn how to use a search engine. If they had googled the topic, or even gone to the NVRPA website, they would have immediately found articles which covered the history and transfer of the land to NVRPA. It received a great deal of coverage at the time, just two short years ago. Idiots!!

  • Paul Martin posted at 11:11 am on Thu, Feb 9, 2012.

    Paul Martin Posts: 5

    Notice to new board members- as the Chairman pointed out, the land in question is either wetlands or in easement. It was never intended for a "Sportsplex"! I suggest the Board work with their developer friends to actually provide adequate recreational land and fields as part of the development process rather than dumping the needs on in ill-suited areas and taxpayers. I can never understand why elected leaders don't step up and tell developers, OK you can build BUT YOU pay for all YOUR impacts including active recreational resources, no dumping 1 red cent on the taxpayers. The taxpayers have subsidized growth in this county since I moved in the 80's when taxes were 80 cents on the hundred. They have only gone up, up, up from there as transfer payments from taxpayers to the developers who woefully under-proffer needed services such as active recreation sites for the residents they sell their homes to. And our elected reps let them do this. Who exactly are they working for?

  • Can't Be Too Busy to Care posted at 10:36 am on Thu, Feb 9, 2012.

    Can't Be Too Busy to Care Posts: 1

    Is there ever a moment to realize that we cannot give ourselves the right to take and take and take just because some group needs something. This is how we go " bankrupt". Spending what we don't have, borrowing when we should not. What am I talking about? I am talking about the fact that you can't turn a park into a soccer field for organized league. We can't keep turning every green space to a lawn. There has to be another way. How about building up - indoor soccer places. We have to stop this craziness. It is a historical park. Helllooooooo! What's next - take a cemetery and turn that into a field. We can't keep borrowing just like the banking system destroyed itself - we are, with the same mind set we can't destroy the nature. Darn it it takes hundred years to have a good forested area. Development takes down thousands of trees and we try to make up for it by planting hundreds of them. But guess what - it means so little because it will take 20-50 years to get them grow enough to make up for what's been taken out.

    Please, read some science. Our planet is sick. If you doctor said to you, you will get sick or die, if you smoke and eat junk food - you have the choice to do what ever you wish.

    But the planet belongs to all of us. The science is saying, we have pollution problem, we have pollinator problem, we have clean air problem, we have problem with our fish and food being contaminated - it goes on and on....

    So do you all have the right to keep on destroying it, not protecting it and taking my right away to ask for "keeping this planet healthy"... It's like second hand smoking. Do you like to stand next to someone who smoke? How about in your house?

    Our natural resources don't belong to you, or me . It belongs to all of us. We all share it. It is not for sale. It is not to be destroyed for profit or leisure. If we don't have enough soccer field may be we have already developed enough to provide for families to live here. Have you thought about that. Or may be our kids and families needs to realize they need to find another way of being active, or another sport.

    Stop it already, please.

  • Robbie posted at 2:36 pm on Fri, Feb 3, 2012.

    Robbie Posts: 7

    Loudoun Soccer played 165 games and practiced 600 hours at Lansdowne Sports Park last year. And yet the county proposes paying $20 million for 45 acres at the National Conference Center that won't include a practice field for Lansdowne High School and requires the destruction of Lansdowne Sports Park instead.
    With all the competing needs for raw land, the new supervisors interested in judicious spending should have a Saturday public hearing before they rush to judgment on an expensive boutique school that will impact heavily on so many and benefit so few. This decision is too important to slam dunk. They need to take a breath like they did on the sheriff substation. Economics 101 dictates they at least know what it will really cost.

  • gbay926 posted at 1:48 pm on Fri, Feb 3, 2012.

    gbay926 Posts: 137

    To Leesburg set the record straight, when I moved to Eastern Loudoun in 1976, it was also rural. The suburban "lifestyle" chose us through a series of poorly thought out developments. I agree the this park is not suitable for athletic fields but in my time on the planning commission, we had more requests for fields in the western areas than the east.

  • Leesburg Resident posted at 11:29 am on Fri, Feb 3, 2012.

    Leesburg Resident Posts: 161

    This Board is truly a bunch of newbie no-nothings about Western Loudoun let alone how the process works. Scott York will have his hands full this session for sure. Western Loudoun should not become the dumping ground for overgrowth and demand in Eastern Loudoun. We get stuck with more traffic which leads for the demand for more roads/expansions which destroys the Western Rural Economy and destroys the beautiful scenery and winery tourism etc that make Loudoun County a great place to visit. No one wants to drive out to Middleburg and see Ashburn development and sports recreation fields all over the place. It's sad how little Janet Clarke and the others appreciate these facts. Eastern Loudoun needs to develop in its own backyard. They chose a suburban lifestyle.

  • hubba bubba posted at 10:46 am on Fri, Feb 3, 2012.

    hubba bubba Posts: 440

    Didn't we just open Bolen Park for sports fields? This particular park doesn't seem to be the type of land to put soccer fields on ( "and most is considered environmentally sensitive with forested areas, steep slopes, and wetlands associated with Howsers Branch, a stream that runs through the center of the proposed park."). Did we have a previous BOS member want to put playing fields in flood zones?

  • Flipfire7 posted at 7:52 am on Fri, Feb 3, 2012.

    Flipfire7 Posts: 2

    This was the site of a battle during the civil war. Mt. Zion church was used as a hospital duriing and after the battle. Soldiers are buried in the cemetary adjacent to the church. Let's build soccer fields on the site. Ridiculous!

  • bschweiker posted at 1:53 pm on Thu, Feb 2, 2012.

    bschweiker Posts: 45

    God forbid children actually have a place to go outdoors without being in an organized sport! You'd think this county is one large strip mall and ball field. Old fashion, nature trail parks have a purpose. The new BoS is just showing its ignorance. I hope Blue Ridge does a better job at pikcking its supervisor next election. Thankfully Catoctin's seems to have a level head so far.

  • mosborn posted at 1:44 pm on Thu, Feb 2, 2012.

    mosborn Posts: 151

    Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) - "We have more hiking trails than we know what to do with."

    Truly frightening that a Supervisor in the county I live in made that comment.

    More to the point, if half of this parcel is wetlands, and half of it is under easement...what exactly are we postponing this for? Janet Clarke's pet project to expand Rt. 50 to Gilbert's corner for no apparent reason?