The Leesburg Town Council voted Sept. 10 to initiate proceedings to bring Morven Park within town limits.
The vote was 5-1-1, with Tom Dunn opposed to the boundary line adjustment and Vice Mayor Dave Butler absent.
“The concern for me is in the cost factor for the town,” Dunn said.
On May 15, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors unanimously signed off on a measure to move the 990 acre estate, formally the home of Virginia governor Westmoreland Davis, into town limits. A nonprofit, Morven Park is operated by the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation and features a historical mansion, gardens, hiking trails and sports fields. They also host events.
The town mulled the decision in July, but town council members, iterated long-term concerns, including whether the town would have to provide utility service, whether the town would have to make adjustments to Route 15 and whether the town would have to provide police for Morven Park's largest events. Police for those events now come from county and state police forces. As such, Morven Park leaders pulled the item from the July agenda in order to investigate concerns.
Scott Parker, Leesburg assistant town manager, said that the current resolution would just begin the process to bring the park into town limits and other concerns will be addressed as the process moves forward.
“All this is for us to go forward and work. There will be more resolutions coming forward as part of the boundary line adjustments,” Parker said. “There is a whole other portion to come after this.”
Parker noted that the resolution “does not oblige” the town to incorporate Route 15 or Marion duPont's Equine Center.
Former Leesburg mayor BJ Webb and Morven Park Board of Trustees president James Harris attended the meeting to speak in favor of the decision and to help assuage fears of Town Council members.
“We are not in the development business in Morven Park; we're in the preservation business,” Webb said. “We're not interested in development and we aren't interested in water and sewer. What we are interested in [is] protecting the trust that the governor and Mrs. Davis ask us to protect when the trust was created in the 1960s.”
Harris articulated a similar sentiment, assuring council members that Morven Park was willing to make concessions and compromise as necessary.
“We have a vision for the park,” Harris said. “We believe working with the town is the best way for both the town and us to achieve the potential of Morven Park.”
Councilman Fernando “Marty” Martinez made the motion, while Kevin Wright seconded.
“The things that have all been highlighted as concerns, we have within our control the ability to manage the risk,” Wright explained. Wright is Webb's son, which he addressed when he spoke.
Any BLA will not be instantaneous, but the process is now set to begin.