The Leesburg Town Council maintained its position on the Sycolin Cemetery Tuesday night after a motion to reconsider paying for drainage mitigation solutions to the historic Black cemetery failed in a 3-3 vote.
Councilman Ara Bagdasarian put forward the motion to reconsider the council’s May 11 vote after the body rejected a proposal to allot $150,000 for a drainage system.
Had Bagdasarian’s Tuesday night motion carried, he would have requested that town staff, representatives of the Loudoun Freedom Center and two council members meet to discuss a solution to the drainage concerns and vote on a new plan at the council’s June 7 meeting.
Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez and Councilman Zach Cummings joined Bagdasarian in voting for the motion, while Mayor Kelly Burk, Councilman Neil Steinberg, and Councilwoman Kari Nacy voted against.
Councilwoman Suzanne Fox, who voted in favor of the drainage mitigation system on May 11, was not present.
“I wanted to get all the parties at the table,” Bagdasarian told the Times-Mirror. Bagdasarian voted against the $150,000 flood mitigation system on May 11, but then added an amendment to the MOU that would call for removal of the northern trail surface material and modifying the contour of the path to mitigate the drainage problem.
While Bagdasarian said he still has concerns about modifying the drainage around the natural spring, he said he wanted to have a meeting where all parties could discuss the issues face-to-face.
“I’m just looking for a solution that is acceptable, that addresses the concerns of the Freedom Center, that respects the people who have been laid to rest at this ancestral site…but we [also] need to do what is in the best interests of the town and the community and the constituents that we represent,” he said.
The Sycolin Cemetery has been part of the Leesburg Executive Airport’s runway protection zone since Leesburg purchased the property in 1989. The land is the final resting place of approximately 65 Black Loudoun residents buried between 1913 and 1954. Until the history of the site was brought to public attention in 2015, the town left the property — situated on a steep hill above a spring — in a natural state.
LFC Founder, Pastor and NAACP President Michelle Thomas has announced that she will not sign the memorandum of understanding as currently written, without a drainage mitigation plan. If the LFC doesn’t accept the MOU, the town has stated that staff will maintain the site for $3,300 a year but not perform any additional preservation.