Historic Trust Files Suit

Historic Trust Files Suit

Organization wants permit overturned to stop development near Oatlands.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation plans to seek a court injunction if the developer of a proposed large-scale housing subdivision decides to go ahead with construction near Oatlands Plantation.

Loudoun's Building and Development engineering division has granted a grading permit to Courtland Farms Loudoun LLC. The developer must post an erosion and sediment control bond before it can begin grading, Neelam Henderson, project engineer, said this week.

Brad Klein, managing member of Courtland Farms Loudoun LLC, said this week that he would need to talk to the development's attorney before deciding whether to proceed.

Elizabeth Merritt, deputy general counsel for the National Trust, said the organization is preparing to file a motion seeking an injunction in case the developer posts the bond. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is trying to stop construction of the Courtland Woods housing subdivision, because visitors could see it from the Oatlands Plantation, built in 1804.

THE NATIONAL TRUST has filed suit in U.S. District Court to overturn a wetlands permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers. The permit grants road and storm water infrastructure to allow construction of 277 houses, paved streets and retail stores on meadows and woodland directly overlooking the plantation.

Merritt said the lawsuit addresses two issues. "One is the national policy issue relating to the Army Corp's approach of putting blinders on and refusing to … consider visibility," she said. "It has been an issue that dates back for 20 years. Because the National Trust owns Oatlands, we have to protect the Oatlands as well as get the Army Corp to change its policy."

The National Trust has filed suit in three similar cases nationally and won, she said.

THE PROPOSED 200-acre Courtland Woods is next to the 1000-acre Oatlands Historic District and the 700-acre Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, which are protected from development.

The National Trust, the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Audubon Naturalist Society filed the suit.

Klein pointed out the irony of Piedmont and Oatlands trying to stop the housing subdivision now when they supported the development during the original zoning hearings. He said the developer made concessions early on, such as increasing the tree preservation areas and buffers for the Banshee Reef. "Does this sound like good faith negotiations to you?" he asked.

Peggy Maio, Loudoun field officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council, said the project is a case study of land planning and politics. When it was zoned about 10 years ago, she said, people thought it was best to cluster development together and preserve the land around it. "What we learned is that there is far too much residential potential in the rural areas and countryside," she said.

Courtland Woods would adversely impact Oatlands and the nature preserve, which is a state birding trail, she said.

"It has environmental and tourism impacts. The effort to protect Courtland Woods is tremendously important in several ways."