The subject of annexing land into Purcellville’s town limits has been a hot topic in recent years, and at a joint meeting of the Purcellville Town Council and the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee on Tuesday, local businessman Chuck Kuhn and developer Hobie Mitchel presented the town with new options for annexation and growth.
The parcels being discussed include the 118-acre Warner Brook property located off Purcellville Road across from Mayfair, as well as two properties in the west end. Altogether they total approximately 250 acres outside of town. Kuhn also owns an additional approximately 250 acres on the outskirts of Purcellville.
Kuhn, owner of JK Moving and Storage, purchased Warner Brook on Aug. 9 for $3.25 million from the Warner family, who tried to develop the property two years ago. Magic Kayhan purchased the other 12.5 acres of Warner Brook in 2018 for $900,000, which includes the house, barns and an additional residence.
Town Council voted in 2018 to deny annexation to Warner Brook, which was a proposed mixed-use development with an indoor and outdoor sports facility for recreation, a commercial town center and single-family detached residential housing neighboring Wright Farm.
Currently, the property can be developed by-right as Joint Land Management-3 zoning, which allows for one residential housing unit on every three acres.
In 2018, Mayor Kwasi Fraser said he did not believe annexation was the solution to Purcellville’s debt.
On Tuesday, Fraser said he believed Kuhn’s opportunity would present a way to monetize the town’s assets and partner with other entities to drive economic growth.
“In the recent election the message was loud and clear to look at solutions and to not raise taxes or water and sewer rates,” Fraser said.
Kuhn approached Tuesday’s meeting as a way to start a dialogue about the properties surrounding the town and how they should be used.
“What we’d like to do is figure out what is the best interest of the town and Loudoun County and the community. I don’t have a driving agenda. When I look at the economic challenge of the town of Purcellville, it is apparent there needs to be a way to get a bigger tax base into the town,” Kuhn said.
He said he is also considering Loudoun County as a whole, and he believes there is a shortage of industrial and commercial ground.
“We wanted to talk to Purcellville first to see if there is any interest in annexation before moving ahead,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn says in addition to providing more employment to the area, development on the discussed parcels would create a larger tax base. He said it could also help clean up areas on Main Street, where he believes there are businesses that would benefit from operating in an industrial park area.
Mitchel said they could provide incentives to encourage businesses to move to the industrial park. “We can come up with economic incentives that can be reasonable with community discussions. We are here trying to help figure that out,” he said.
In addition to an industrial park, Kuhn mentioned a county-owned recreation center as a possible option in the space. Or, he said, some of the land could be used as a location for the town’s police station.
According to Kuhn’s presentation, the proposed Warner Brook annexation could provide tax revenue to the town of approximately $223,000 per year, as well as additional revenue for water and sewer usage of $140,000 per year.
Fraser thanked Kuhn for the opportunity, and he acknowledged the town’s economic challenges, with a focus on the $1.3 million in debt that will be due in 2023.
“Rarely do we have someone in before they think about development. What you are asking is for our interest before you develop a property,” the mayor said. “Thank you for considering us and coming before us so we can provide you with input. Our challenges can be summed up with our wastewater treatment facility. There is significant debt attributed to that facility. I see it as an asset that can be monetized by getting more users. But with more users comes more traffic and burden on our infrastructure. Those are ideas I would like to start looking at instead of residential.”
Councilman Stanley Milan asked what types of light industrial businesses would go into Warner Brook. He was also concerned about changes in the traffic patterns.
Kuhn said he would consider building one or two 100,000-square-foot buildings for JK Moving and Storage. The other sites would be sold and would be developed per covenants that are established for the industrial park. Regarding traffic, Kuhn said he would conduct a traffic study to see the impact.
When asked about the possibility of building data centers on the property, Kuhn said he had not researched that idea.
Fraser said he was open to data centers as a possible option.
“There will be a time of reckoning about where will data centers go. I would not say I’m against a data center coming into western Loudoun, if you can make it look like a barn ... in my innovative mindset all options are on the table,” he said. “I don’t want us to take data centers off the table, they just need to be built uniquely.”
The next steps are for council members to seek out community input and to meet again in 30 to 60 days on the subject. Kuhn said he is looking to move forward within a year.
“I have watched the town of Purcellville for years, and I know what you inherited. Every time a toilet flushes in town you are losing money, and I’d be bracing for bankruptcy. Economically, the town is in trouble, and change has to happen,” Kuhn said.
Councilman Tip Stinnette said he disagrees with that assessment.
“I appreciate your bluntness, and I happen to disagree with you. I don’t believe we are in jeopardy of being bankrupt. Fiscally we are in a great position. We have to juggle a few things to get through 2023. I would beg to differ with you on that. I understand your intent,” Stinnette said.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct information pertaining to Chuck Kuhn's purchase of the Warner Brook property.