|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 status of Morven Park will remain in flux after the Leesburg Town Council voted against a measure to halt the boundary line adjustment of the historic property.
Councilman Tom Dunn, who proposed the resolution, hoped the council would vote to cease actions last month, but on April 8, the council voted to delay debating the Morven Park boundary line adjustment for a month.
Dunn has enumerated a list of concerns regarding the annexation, something he has opposed since it was first initiated in September. 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.
“I would recommend that we pass on this and get on to our actual plans for the planning of the town and our goals that we set forward earlier last year,” Dunn said. “There are no additional benefits to the town. They wanted a postponement, the director was out of town and now they've asked for a postponement and the director is out of town. Now I'm questioning their dedication to this project.”
Dunn added that he was bewildered as to why Morven Park, who he feels is looking for less regulation, more events and more allowances, would even want to join the town given the parameters laid out by the town planning commission.
“Last year, they did 130 events and they had no county permits denied. We're going to limit them to 40 events,” Dunn said. “Somehow I can't see how that's giving them more of what they're looking for.”
While Dunn’s motion failed 4-3, he found support from both vice-mayor Dave Butler and councilwoman Kelly Burk.
While Butler didn’t made no comments, Burk noted there were still so many lingering questions regarding the project, particularly regarding water and development on the Limestone Overlay District, a one mile area underlain with rocks that will dissolve when exposed to acid, like granite, marble and limestone.
"I've heard talk from the community that there's worry about the 300 acres being turned into development,” Burk said of the 300 acres not restricted by conservation easements.
But Mayor Kristen Umstattd, who voted against the proposal, argued that current zoning ordinance would limit the amount of houses, confirming with Planning Director Susan Berry Hill. Hill told council that if brought into the town, Morven Park would be limited to developing only one home per three acres, or 25 residential units. Under current county zoning, 70 residences could be constructed.
“This is the best way to limit development in the north,” Umstattd said. “This is the lowest number of units per acre we got.”
Kevin Wright, whose mother, former Leesburg mayor B.J. Webb sits on the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation, said that he felt it was too early to stop the process and advocated for public hearings on the matter.
“I think if we want to get answers on these questions, policy calls for a public hearing,” Wright said. “I think that is the correct form to have this kind of discussion as opposed to reaching a conclusion based on perceptions and stopping this process ad hoc midway through."