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County courts complex discussion crawls along

Loudoun County’s looming decision whether to keep its courts complex in downtown Leesburg or shift the facilities elsewhere around the county seat will now come after the new year.

The Board of Supervisors Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee approved board Chairman Scott York’s (R-At Large) motion for delay – as well as a further vetting of a new proposal to transfer the courts’ offices out of downtown – during a Nov. 20 meeting.

The committee will examine the issue again in January.

While most county supervisors on the committee, as well as Town of Leesburg officials, want the courts system to remain in downtown Leesburg, the supervisors said they must consider the pros and cons of every option – which include keeping the court offices downtown around Church Street, shifting the departments to a government support center on Sycolin Road or the latest offer from the Peterson Companies, which offers the county land between the Dulles Greenway and the Leesburg Airport.

Jon Peterson, senior president for Peterson Companies, sent a letter to Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) just hours before the Nov. 20 meeting with his company’s proposal, offering the county the Dulles Greenway-area property – known as the Crosstrail project – for free.

Still, Buona and York made clear the company’s proposal needed to be examined closer before being considered.

York said there a number of elements critical to the decision on the courts’ work space, including the assurance that the county won’t have to move the whole system again for future expansions and guaranteeing the safety of anyone using the courts’ complex.

Phase Three of the courts expansion has for years been a part of the county’s long-term plan. Beginning in 1997, the county built a two-phase expansion project of its courts complex after learning through a planning study that space was needed due to growing case loads.

While phase one and two were being constructed, a third phase project was identified to meet future needs, planned to be constructed on the site of the former Adult Detention Center at the corner of Market and Church streets.

York and Buona, who chairs the finance committee, have both stated they want the courts complex to remain downtown, but feel obligated to explore the costs and consequences of each location.

“I have said all along, and I’ll restate it again, that I have absolutely, really no desire to move it out of where it’s at right now,” York said.

Cost estimates for the court expansion project vary – from $35 million to more than $100 million – depending on the parking options selected.

“What is clear to me is that we cannot split the courts,” Buona told the Times-Mirror in early November. “I personally met with the judges from all three courts together at once and got a good opportunity to better understand their daily operations. It is very clear that all three courts must remain together.”

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