The developer of Courtland Woods, a proposed subdivision near the historic Oatlands Plantation, has won the latest skirmish in a battle between economics and the environment.
Brad Kline, a managing partner in Courtland Farms, Loudoun LLC, has been granted permission to move forward with his plans to build as many as 277 houses, paved streets and retail stores on meadows and woodland directly overlooking Oatlands. In spite of a lawsuit, a stop work order, a revoked permit and other hurdles, the developer has found a way to keep its project alive while restoring wetlands.
THE DEVELOPER decided this month to build a bridge over the wetlands and to remove the fill placed in the area. The Army Corps of Engineers, in turn, determined the permit was unnecessary and abandoned its historic review. The county lifted the stop work order on all but the wetlands section of the development, because of the Army Corps’ action, said Terrance Wharton, director of building and development. He said Courtland Farms, Loudoun LLC must remove the fill from the wetlands and obtain project approval before they can proceed with that first phase. “They can work in other sections,” he said.
Kline said the developer is happy with the decision. The concrete span will eliminate any need to disturb the wetlands, he said. “In hindsight, I wish I had done it initially. But I assumed everyone was satisfied … when I consented to all those concessions. It’s unfortunate.”
He provided documentation of six supervisors who thanked him for working with opponents to mitigate concerns about the projects’ impact on the environment. The comments were taken from transcripts of a public hearing Nov. 4, 2002. Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) described Kline’s effort, “There was always straightforward, straight up, ‘If I can help, I will,’” she said.
James Burton (I-Blue Ridge) commended Kline for being flexible and making changes.
Kline predicted contractors will be able to start building houses in the spring.
ELIZABETH MERRITT, a lawyer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, maintained the county and the Army Corps made a mistake by lifting the order and the permit. She argued that the Army Corps admitted it is retaining jurisdiction over the project, so it should continue until the span is built.
She also criticized the Army Corps for abandoning its historic review of the project. “We think they acted unlawfully in terminating the review,” she said. “Since the Corps is monitoring the wetlands, they are obligated to meet with us to talk about impacts on Oatlands and to develop mitigation for it.”
Merritt accused the federal organization of entering into an agreement to reopen negotiations and walking away from it.
Diana Bailey, an Army Corps spokeswoman, said the organization is aware of the National Trust’s concerns. “We’re working on a response,” she said.
Merritt also charged that Loudoun acted unlawfully, because the move to revoke the stop work order contradicts a county ordinance. Wharton denied the accusation.
Meritt said the bridge is going to be costly, although none of the parties could specify the price. “In a way the Army Corps called their bluff. If you are going to spend the money … we are going to make sure you are going to do it.”
Kline said the company will start removing the fill in coming weeks.
THE NATIONAL TRUST for Historic Preservation, the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Audubon Naturalists Society filed suit against the Army Corps of Engineers in the spring, seeking to overturn a permit that allowed the construction of the development. They said it would adversely affect the environment and it would ruin the plantation’s view.
The 200-acre development is adjacent to the plantation and the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve. The Army Corps suspended the wetlands and stream crossing permit in October, and Loudoun County officials issued a stop work order. In an October settlement agreement, the three organizations also dropped the lawsuit and the Army Corps reopened its review of the National Historic Preservation Act of the development’s impact on Oatlands Plantation. The Army Corps would examine ways to modify the project to avoid or minimize adverse effects on the historic property. Courtland Farms, Loudoun LLC, filed suit to reinstate the permit, but a judge denied the developer’s request.
The developer found favor after deciding to build the bridge.