Loudoun County supervisors have their eyes set on an alternate property to construct a new fire and rescue station in western Loudoun.
Eyeing approximately 11.7 acres at the southwest corner of John Mosby Highway and James Monroe Highway, near Gilbert’s Corner, the board voted unanimously on June 20 to purchase the property for $875,000.
The deal, which is contingent upon successful completion of the purchase and a 120-day due diligence period, would be the first step in finalizing a new site for the fire and rescue station outside the Village of Aldie.
“I'm just really excited that we were able to get to this point, so today is a big day for a lot of folks in Loudoun County,” Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington (R) said after making the motion on June 20.
The board is still considering the previous option after voting to defer its July public hearing on construction of the 20,000-square-foot station in Aldie proper to November. The decision to have a second public hearing came earlier this month after county staff faced questions about an appeal and whether it was filed on time. The board ultimately sided with the Loudoun County Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure, or DTCI, stating that the appeal was filed on time.
The appeal follows the county's Historic District Review Committee’s February decision to deny the application submitted by DTCI.
The committee believes the siting and sizing of the proposal – in addition to the demolition of historic buildings – will require substantial grading and alteration to the existing landscape. The committee found the project is not in conformance with the Historic District Guidelines. Additionally, the committee determined construction may undermine the structural integrity of the Aldie Tavern and that the size and scale of the proposed facility is not compatible with other residential and commercial buildings in the district.
Targeted for the south side of Route 50 in the Village of Aldie, DTCI had sought a ruling to construct a station on three parcels of land located within the county-designated Aldie Historic District. A substantial part of the proposed facility and requisite retaining walls would be constructed on the parcel at 39491 John Mosby Hwy. The property, owned by the county, contains an 1810 Federal-style residence including a circa 1850 cellar house, mid-20th century garage and 20th century wood barn. The primary building on the property – the two-story residence known as the Aldie Tavern – is not being proposed for demolition, while a separate cellar house and garage is set to be brought down, according to the department's appeal. Adjacent properties also contain older buildings that are proposed for demolition in order to construct the facility.
Earlier this month, the board directed county staff to file a zoning map amendment application to remove a portion of the land proposed for construction of the fire station from the Aldie Historic and Cultural Conservation District.
But on June 20, the board voted unanimously to defer action on removing a parcel from the Aldie Historic and Conservation District until Oct. 31.
The board received multiple letters from firefighters describing the conditions of the current station earlier this month. Some testified to being diagnosed with bronchitis, been bitten by spiders, found rodents, snakes, and dealt with occasional flooding and overwhelming structural damage.
The existing station, built in 1971, is approximately 6,000 square feet and lacks the programmatic and functional space to support and accommodate assign staff providing 24-hour emergency service delivery to the Aldie community and the surrounding response areas, the appeal states. The existing station is also located in a major floodplain, and flooding has forced the evacuation of staff and emergency apparatus, disrupting emergency service delivery more than 20 times since being built. Therefore, the appeal argues, the current property is not a viable location for new construction or renovation and expansion of the current facility.
“Throughout this entire process I had one issue and one issue only, and that one issue was the safety of our firefighters and getting them in a building that was reliable appropriate and safe," Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said. “This does that, so I’m good.”
The debated project was originally estimated to cost nearly $19 million.
Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System Chief Keith Johnson said after the board’s decision on June 20 that the staff is excited about the announcement.
“Our goal is to get a fire station built for our people as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “The current station is certainly safe, but it was never designed for 24-hour human occupancy for a fire station. We’re looking forward to a new site that will meet our needs and help us provide service to the citizens of Aldie.”