Public hearing set for Jan. 13
County-developer proposal and purchase offer put two villages at center of controversial deal
By Laura Longley
Aldie and St. Louis, two historic villages threatened for years by controversial projects, are now caught up in another proposal for a complex land transaction between the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and local developer John “Jack” Andrews.
And, at press time, a surprise offer for three Aldie parcels that are key to the County-Andrews deal has just been sent to the County.
The outcome of the developer’s deal and/or the straight purchase will likely determine the villages’ future livability and historic fabric.
The St. Louis proposal
In a proposal put forward by the County last fall, Andrews’s Mojax LLC agreed to abandon plans to build a 30-house cluster development on 16.4 acres on Snake Hill Road in St. Louis, located in western Loudoun. The Supervisors agreed to purchase the land, known as Middleburg Preserve II, from Andrews for $1.5 million.
But the deal fell through soon afterward, due in part to a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality consent order, which involves a civil penalty of $32,275 to Mojax, LLC, the purchase of 0.6 acres of wetlands credits, and restoration of those wetlands.
Eager to spare St. Louis from a development that could jeopardize community wells and water table, Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall put a new proposal from Andrews before the Supervisors on Dec. 1. They agreed to go forward.
Acting on a suggestion from Andrews and his adviser, Loudoun developer and Aldie resident Leonard “Hobie” Mitchel, the County took under consideration a proposal in which Mojax would convey its Middleburg Preserve II property to the County in exchange for:
payment of $1.5 million to Mojax for the St. Louis property
conveyance of three Aldie village properties to Jack Andrews’s Aldie Community Development Company LLC (ACDC): and
$600,000 for restoration of the abandoned Aldie Tavern on one parcel with a dollar-for-dollar match that would make possible a new road to 60 Andrews-controlled acres above the village.
The County paid $1.6 million for the three parcels called the Aldie Assemblage. That grouping was the second of three sites that the County purchased in and around Aldie for construction of a new fire station.
In 2009, the County acquired 7.6 acres of land off Rt. 50 in the Little River Farms subdivision, but a judicial finding prevented its use as a fire station.
In 2015, the County purchased the three village parcels totaling 6.3 acres. However, in 2019, due to community opposition, the County had to purchase a third site—11.7 acres on Rt. 50 at Gilbert’s Corner. Planning for the facility is underway.
Andrews wants to acquire the Aldie Assemblage for a development described as “Aldie Park.” He has provided a concept plan that is currently under staff review for its development.
In addition, He currently has control by
contract of the Aldie Mountain property located behind the Aldie Assemblage, and he says he wants to sell or donate it at some time to the County or NOVA Parks for a public park.
Andrews also has requested that the County initiate rezoning of the A3 Aldie Mountain property to Rural Commercial to allow Aldie Park to be developed per his concept plan. The rezoning of the property would require public input through a separate public hearing.
The proposed agreement contains terms that require ACDC to make the necessary improvements to the historic tavern and construct an entrance road to the back 60 acres. The County’s deposit of $600,000 in escrow would be used to reimburse ACDC dollar-for-dollar for its expenditures improving the tavern and road.
Another offer on the Aldie Assemblage
As we go to press, another offer for the Aldie Assemblage has just been made and sent to the Board of Supervisors. It comes from a member of the Aldie community who owns a successful commercial business in the village.
Active in several preservation and community organizations, the prospective purchaser would not seek rezoning, a monetary match, or a road. The new offeror’s intention is to restore the buildings to their previous conditions and to appropriate rural village uses.
Aldie and St. Louis in tough situations
This new offer and Andrews’s proposed deal put Aldie and St. Louis residents and preservationists once again in difficult situations, as they are left to weigh the options, the County’s stance, and what these could mean for the future of both historic villages and the Rural Policy Area.
The Friends of St. Louis wrote the following to the BOS, “… The citizens of St. Louis have lived in fear and uncertainty because of the devastating impact the Mojax development will have on our community, chiefly our water supply, our tax base, and our fragile eco-system. It is not our wish nor our intention that Aldie be adversely affected by the new agreement with the developer, and its citizenry has every right to want to protect their village just as we have …”
In an email to the Blue Ridge Leader, Aldie resident Katie Johnson wrote, “We recognize that the objective here is not to assist one village by seriously impacting another, but we’re concerned that Aldie might experience collateral damage if detailed professional analysis and strong community involvement are not maintained. Ideally, we’d like to see independent solutions for both villages. We want a positive outcome that preserves historic structures, and is sympathetic to the historic nature of both St. Louis and Aldie.
“We believe the County shares this goal—of a strong and vibrant future for our communities—and we’re concerned that this proposal jeopardizes that future for Aldie,” continued Johnson. “We’re ready and willing to work with the County to reach a mutually desirable solution for the properties it owns in Aldie Village, and we ask that sufficient time, transparency, and opportunity for public input be allowed to achieve this objective.”
Since the proposed conveyance would be part of the agreement for the County to purchase the St. Louis property, the Board must first hold a public hearing and approve the conveyance of the Aldie Assemblage. Approval of an interim lease would allow Andrews’s company to begin investigations and work on the property prior to closing.
Meanwhile, the County has time to consider the new offer by the Aldie resident.
Andrews’s Aldie plan will be available online 72 hours prior to the Jan. 13 public meeting. For further details and instructions for remote participation in the meeting, visit loudoun.gov.