Victory for Preservationists

Victory for Preservationists

Developer fails to get "stop order" lifted.

Preservationists claimed a victory Monday in their fight to stop development of a large subdivision in view of historic Oatlands Plantation.

But a spokesman for Courtland Farms Loudoun LL said a court ruling that prevents the developer from moving forward with grading and construction is only a temporary setback. Brad Kline said his focus is on the outcome of the developerÕs lawsuit against the preservationists.

Kline, a managing member of Courtland Farms Loudoun LL, said his organization filed suit last week against the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Piedmont Environmental Council, the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Army Corps of Engineers, seeking $20 million in damages.

"All the judge did was not lift the Ôstop order,Õ" he said. "The courts are considering giving us a speedy trial. É They didnÕt win anything."

THE DEVELOPER FILED a motion Friday, seeking to reinstate federal and local permits to proceed with the development of 200 acres adjacent to the plantation and the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve. It also sought to keep the National Trust, Piedmont and the Audubon from contacting the Army Corps and Loudoun County concerning the project.

Chief Judge Claude Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia, United States District Court, denied both motions.

Mark Herring, who argued against the developerÕs motion on behalf of the National Trust, Piedmont and the Audubon, said the developerÕs attempt to restrict the contact was an "outrage."

"This case is nothing more than an attempt by the developer to bully public officials É and to silence the voices of citizen participation in matters of well-established public policy," he said.

Elizabeth Merritt, deputy general counsel for the National Trust, described the developerÕs move as an example of a SLAPP or a "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation" that is designed to "harass and intimidate" citizens and advocates.

KLINE DESCRIBED their comments as "typical."

"They are trying to get a lot of publicity," he said. "Let the courts decide."

He said the organizations already have negotiated, through the zoning process, the measures they wanted to protect the view. The development only can be seen from the entrance to Oatlands, he added.

The Loudoun County Department of Building and Development blocked construction of Courtland Woods two weeks ago, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended its wetlands and stream crossing permit.

The National Trust, Piedmont and the Audubon sued the Army Corps six months ago, trying to overturn the wetlands permit. The permit granted road and storm water infrastructure for construction of 277 houses, paved streets and retail stores on meadows and woodland directly overlooking Oatlands.

<1b>Ñ Andrea Zentz