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    Loudoun County courts complex likely to stay in downtown

    After years of planning and months of debate on where to locate the county’s courts complex expansion so the facility is best-suited for the growing Loudoun County population, the Board of Supervisors officially has clear direction from county staff, Town of Leesburg officials and the board’s finance committee.

    Following the suggestion of county staff, which has spent countless hours on the issue, the Board of Supervisors’ Finance and Government Services Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend to the full board to proceed with the original plan to keep the courts system facility in downtown Leesburg.

    Chaired by Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), the finance committee is comprised of board Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) and Supervisors Ken Reid (R-Leesburg), Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run).

    “This recommendation affirms the Church Street location in downtown Leesburg,” Reid, who made the motion to recommend the Leesburg plans, said Tuesday night.

    Reid, an outspoken supporter of locating the courts expansion in Leesburg, stressed that keeping the system downtown has always been the plan. Moving forward with that plan on the Board of Supervisor’s end has been been a “long-time coming,” he said.

    For years phase three of the courts expansion has been part of the county’s development plan. In 1997, the county built a two-phase expansion project of the courts complex after recognizing more 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. The third phase was, and now still is, to be constructed on the site of the former Adult Detention Center at the corner of Market and Church streets.

    The full board will take up the recommendation during its Jan. 16 meeting. If the supervisors vote to move forward with the Leesburg plan, staff will move forward with the solicitation of the professional architectural engineering services for the project.

    According to county staff, design for the Church Street site is estimated to require 18 to 24 months to complete due to the “nature of the land use processes and approvals with the Town of Leesburg and a phased construction document process.”

    Throughout discussions in 2012 between supervisors, Leesburg officials and various stakeholders, the possibility of shifting the courts expansion outside of downtown to a government support center on Sycolin Road gained traction and appeared a viable option. Then late last year, the Fairfax-based Peterson Companies offered the county land between the Dulles Greenway and the Leesburg Airport to develop the courts facility. After vetted and discussed, Peterson’s offer was taken off the table.

    Reid and Leesburg officials, including Mayor Kristen Umstattd, adamantly protested any measures to take the complex out of downtown.

    Yet while most supervisors expressed hopes to keep the system downtown, as well, many said they needed to examine every option, factoring in expected cost and the need for future expansions.

    “What is clear to me is that we cannot split the courts,” Buona said in late 2012. “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.”

    The county’s adopted Capital Improvement Program includes “funding to construct an 85,000-square-foot phase three project totaling $53.6 million,” according to county documents, meaning those funds have largely been budgeted for in recent years. That cost could shift by a few million dollars depending on which parking structure or option is selected.

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