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    School Board moves forward in condemning land for acquisition

    eminent domain school board 17 acres ashburnA girl plays on the swing set on the property at the corner of Belmont Ridge Road and Croson Lane in Ashburn that is the subject of an eminent domain dispute. The Loudoun County School Board voted June 25 to condemn the 17-acre lot. Adjacent to a rented home there are about 15 vehicles, a cinder block structure with some boarded windows, stacks of tires, a refrigerator, ladders, tarps, furniture and wooden boards. —Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
    The Loudoun County School Board has elected to use eminent domain to acquire a 17-acre property in Ashburn for a new elementary school.

    In a 6-3 vote, the board elected June 25 to take the property, located on Belmont Ridge Road near Croson Lane, to build ES-27, an elementary school to serve Ashburn and Brambleton residents. The property is owned by Edwin Lim, a pastor in Fairfax, Sarah Lim and trustees of the Sung Chun Park and Chun Hwa Park Living Trust.

    Negotiations between the two parties have been difficult. According to Michael Coughlin, an attorney with Walsh Colucci Lubeley Emrich and Walsh who is representing the landowners, the property owners currently have an offer of $4.5 million, though he would not disclose who made the offer. The School Board has offered $1.5 million and the county assessor has valued the land and the single-family home on the property at $2.18 million. The Lims and Park trustees made a counteroffer of $3.75 million to the School Board.

    “The action we would request is deferral of the buying certificate and giving the parties enough time to reach an agreement,” Coughlin said to the School Board during Tuesday's public hearing.

    Stephen DeVita, counsel for Loudoun County, told the School Board that voting to condemn the property (or begin the process of eminent domain) doesn't preclude the parties from engaging in further negotiations.

    “This is planned to be a slow take,” DeVita said. “There isn't going to be any immediate taking of property. These issues will continue to be negotiated.”

    DeVita also noted that he hasn't seen written proof of another offer on the property yet but will continue to work with the Lims and Parks and their counsel.

    The property has most recently been used as a site to dump construction waste and part of the area is wetland, which can't be used.

    The area is currently zoned for one-acre lots but is by-right for schools, meaning no special exception would be needed to put a school there.

    Debbie Rose (Algonkian), Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Bill Fox (Leesburg) were the dissenting votes on the measure.

    “I am fundamentally opposed to the use of eminent domain,” Rose said. “Difficult negotiations don't ever equate to just taking property away.”

    Rose noted that she only supports eminent domain in cases of public safety.

    “This is never going to be the case here,” Rose said. “It isn't urgent and we need to engage in negotiations, whether its difficult or not.”

    Turgeon and Fox both stated they would have liked to delay the vote until further hearing about the other offer.

    But in acknowledging his support for the measure, Jeff Morse (Dulles) said the School Board still plans on engaging in negotiations.

    “We're not pushing someone out of their house,” Morse said. “We've established the land is for sale and now we're just trying to figure out whether the cost is reasonable.”

    Thomas Reed (At-large) and Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) said the School Board has worked for two years to secure this property.

    But D. Winston Park and his sister Sohyun said the school system didn't communicate as much as they said they wanted to buy the property and left the family waiting. During the waiting period, her father's health deteriorated from cancer and he died in April.

    “They just had us wait. There was no two-way conversation,” Sohyun Park said. “It's not entirely accurate to say it's been two years.”

    Her brother agreed.

    “They've frustrated our purpose. If at all possible, we'd like to see to the public good,” D. Winston Park said. “Being misled has not helped.”

    Coughlin said that while the situation is not ideal, he plans on continuing to work with the School Board.

    “We would have appreciated more time to consumate negotiations,” Coughlin said. “But we remain optimistic.”



    eminent domain ashburn school boardThrough the weeds a cinder block structure with boarded windows can be seen on the property at the corner of Belmont Ridge Road and Croson Lane in Ashburn that is the subject of an eminent domain dispute. --Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
    eminent domainA broken trailer sits in the weeds on a property at the corner of Belmont Ridge Road and Croson Lane in Ashburn that is the subject of an eminent domain dispute. Across Croson Lane a townhouse development can be seen. --Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny
    Comments

    That should be $50k for closing costs and moving costs.


    mopar19 - Van Metre which did most of the Broadlands did set aside land for an elementry school and a middle school just a mile or two from this site. There problem is smaller developments not part of their land deal in the past built up around it and schools are over crowding. Village of Waxpool and now another small neighborhood across the street from this lot not part of the Van Metre project.

    enuf - Everything around here has some wetland on it you cannot avoid it on a property that size. The builders have to build around it too.

    Make a fair offer and be done with it. If they are assessed at 2.18 million you need to offer at least that much plus a little something on top for being forced to move. At least $50 for the closing costs and moving to the next house.


    uh?  Didn’t they overpay for the Lansdowne High school site?  Now they complain when someone tries to sell them land at an inflated value?  And AGAIN they want to buy a school site with wetlands—-meaning they can’t use all the acreage anyway.  What a friggin waste of money and a shame they never learn from their past mistakes!


    I agree Mopar19. First off they own the land and can ask whatever they want for the land. Second, developers in some cases provided land for schools, however look at Brambleton being bused away to another HS. It’s ego, ego ego with this school board(and most prior to this school board). They do what they want, listening to nobody. Even when it lacks common sense.


    How do you figure the owners offer is being greedy?  I guess if the Government knocked at you door and said we are buying your house you would sell for the apraised value.  Hopefully you dont owe more than what its worth.  The way i see it is price and demand, economics, and capitalism.


    While the school board’s lowball might be “insulting,” the owners’ counter-offer of a million and a half over assessment isn’t much more reasonable. It’s the cheap vs. the greedy.


    classic example of what happens when loudoun does not require the builders and developers to set asside land for future schools.  So not only do we have to pay for the school to be built we have to buy the land. Not to mention the roads and traffic lights we have to pay for due to the added congestion.


    1.5 mill for 17 acres?? Maybe in Crazytown.  Where the hell can you buy 17 acres for that little in northern VA, yet alone in Ashburn??  I guess the board’s idea of negotiating means jerking private citizens around for years, then throwing out a ludicrous price attached to a letter of eminent domain…sounds like the mafia, “making an offer they can’t refuse.”  this is flat out governmental thuggery!!  If you want this land so bad then make a bid in the open market like the rest of us, and we all know how hot real estate is now in our areas.  A local school board using the power of eminent domain is like the local police dept using nukes.  First the IRS, NSA, FBI, and now the LCSB.  Government intrusion has now reached every level.  Shame on you school board and shame on the rest of us if we let them.  Virginia, we’ve lost our way…What happened to the home of Life, Liberty, and PROPERTY??


    Wow, and the school board wonders why nobody turns out for their meetings or cares to speak. Egos are alive and well within this school board. Most on the board have failed Loudoun county and should resign.


    I agree with Jill Turgeon. We should make a good faith offer not this 1.5 million insult. Be careful of the word irregardless.


    It’s pretty disheartening to me that a member of the school board would use the word “irregardless”!


    The Town of Purcellville stole the Brown’s 7 acres to build a road to nowhere and tried to pay them pennies for it and in the process destroy their farm.  Eminent Domain has become the domain of gov’t, to reign over the people any way they want.


    Just for the record, regardless of the information that may have (or may soon) come forth regarding potential offers currently relating to this land, I am (as is Ms. Rose) fundamentally against the use of eminent domain, except (perhaps) in cases of public safety, OR if a mutual agreement can be reached with both parties.  It is true that we (the school system) need this site for the next elementary school in that area.  I was quite dismayed to discover that staff brought this forward with the assumption that condemnation would be likely.  If I had understood this from the start, I would not have proceeded to lobby for this site.  It is my understanding that some board members are okay with this acquisition simply because this land is not the primary residence of the land owner.  While I respect their personal views, I do not see why this should matter.  Property is property.  Period.  Irregardless, this vote has gone forth and succeeded.  My hope is that the “discussion” that has been promised will be fruitful and that we can find a home for the school that is so desperately needed, while at the same time, respecting property rights AND ensuring that tax dollars are spent wisely.  It is a delicate balance…but a necessary process, nonetheless.


    This is not the way to use eminent domain. The school board is stealing private property when the owners won’t accept it’s low ball offer. This is the reason people hate the Government.

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