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Leesburg Town Council delays Morven Park work

The Town of Leesburg is currently deciding whether or not to halt the process of annexing Morven Park into the town. —Times-Mirror courtesy photo
The Leesburg Town Council voted April 8 to delay debating the Morven Park boundary line adjustment for one more month.

Council seemed poised to vote to cease work on the BLA; members were previously scheduled to vote in March before delaying the vote until the following meeting.

Tom Dunn, who proposed the motion to cease work, enumerated his concerns in an email to the Times-Mirror. A lengthy list, his qualms largely focus on cost, including potential utility and trash cost, the need for more police force, more traffic and limited income coming from Morven Park, which is operated by the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit and thus tax-exempt.

“Morven Park has a much higher chance of costing the town money than providing benefits,” Dunn said at the council meeting.

The Leesburg Town Council initially voted, at the behest of the Westmoreland Foundation, to annex Morven Park at its Sept. 10 meeting in a 5-1-1 vote. Park leaders had hoped the move would enable expanded offerings and facilities and allow the park to host more special events than the county allows, which is just 10 a year with a requisite 14 days in between events.

"There are many, many benefits that will accrue to the town,” said Westmoreland Foundation, who manages the Morven Park, executive director Frank Milligan. “There's no question that this partnership will allow Morven Park to become bigger and better, and it will benefit the town and local businesses."

In light of the issues and possible cessation of bringing the park into the town, the Westmoreland Davis Foundation sent a letter to request a delay in voting until after the Board of Director's May 5 meeting.

"Morven Park has requested a one-month deferral to consider all the points that have been raised. I look forward to discussing it in May,” Milligan said. “We look forward to joining the town and working through some of these issues assuming we can get back at it.”

Complicating the matter, the Leesburg Planning Commission legally has just 100 days to make a recommendation on Morven Park, a clock which ends April 26. If no decision is made, it is automatically moved to the council and is assumed to be “recommended.”

At its April 3 meeting, the Planning Committee voted to hold off discussing Morven Park until the council makes a decision, and the topic should come up again at the commission's April 17 meeting.

Deputy Town Attorney Barbara Notar confirmed that the Town Council can vote to accept or reject the commission's recommendation; additionally, the commission can vote to defer.

“I think to postpone is denying the inevitable,” Dunn argued.

And while Dunn stood alone in opposition in September, both Vice-Mayor Dave Butler and councilwoman Kelly Burk echoed his sentiments.

Ultimately, four council members voted in favor of Katie Hammler's motion to delay further discussion of Morven Park until the Town Council's May 13 meeting.

"I had seriously voted to consider to cease all work but I've got two-thirds of the council that wants to wait and an apparent majority of the planning commission who wants to postpone,” said Mayor Kristen Umstattd before voting.

While Town Council seems split on what to do, members of the community have come out in droves in support of the annexation.

"I'd like the town to try to understand the symbiosis between what goes on in Morven Park and how it promotes business in the Town of Leesburg,” said Anthony Cavallo, who owns the restaurant Vintage 50 in Leesburg, at the March 25 meeting. “It's going to promote more business in the town. If we can do events at Morven Park and keep people in the town, they will stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants and shop at local stores.”


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