County supervisors have agreed, tentatively, to sell the Aldie Assemblage after years of trying and multiple canceled deals.
It is the third attempt to sell the property, after Aldie residents chased the county board off of plans to build a new fire station on the property with sustained protest. Supervisors later backed out of a tentative agreement to swap the land for property near St. Louis that had been proposed for another unpopular development, and then another tentative agreement to sell it to Aldie resident and Aldie Heritage Association member Guy Gerachis.
Both potential buyers had proposed renovations to the property. Gerachis’s offer had enjoyed support in the village, but he said during negotiations the county was unresponsive and sought to put unreasonable conditions on timelines in the sales contract.
But pending a final review of a sales contract by attorneys, supervisors voted last week to sell the property to the Piedmont Environmental Council for $600,000, in another proposal with broad support among other conservation organizations.
Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) asked during a Sept. 14 public hearing whether more conditions on timeline could be put into the sales contract; Senior Deputy County Attorney Courtney Sydnor advised that would not be workable in the real estate sale.
But the Piedmont Environment Council has put forth a proposal to revitalize the property, which has long been out of use and has deteriorated in the years the county has owned it. The council has pitched renovating the older buildings on the property, removing a defunct garage, barn and in-ground pools. The tavern building would be examined for commercial or public uses, including possibly as office and meeting space for the PEC and the community; if the tavern is unsuitable for that, it may be restored for residential use. The PEC would also work toward having the restored tavern property listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.
A preliminary budget for restoration of the tavern building ranges from approximately $750,000 (residential) to $1.5 million (commercial / public use). This budget does not include additional expenses related to site work, ensuring potable water, removal of the swimming pool and non-contributing garage, restoration of the property’s garden, and any county permitting requirements.
The council also has plans to open a part of the property to the public as a green space with access for fishing and possibly kayaking or canoeing on the Little River. All of that work, wrote Director of Conservation Michael Kane to the county, would be done with an eye to preserve the village.
“Aldie stands as a critical entry point to Loudoun County’s nationally recognized historic and scenic rural landscape,” he wrote. “Any proposed renovation and productive reuse of the Tavern building and/or any other structures on the Property will be designed at a size, scale, and intensity of use that is consistent with the character and fabric of Aldie.”
“In seeking to acquire the Aldie Assemblage, we are responding to the public’s concerns about the sensitive location and potential future uses on the property,” Piedmont Environmental Council Field Officer Gem Bingol said during the public hearing. Representatives from the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area, Loudoun Historic Village Alliance and Aldie Heritage Association cheered the council’s proposal.
“This proposal lines up with what the community has said they wanted,” Aldie Heritage Association President Katie Johnson said. “I’m comfortable telling you that because I and a few other members of the AHA board knocked on doors throughout the village. We walked around, we talked to people, we asked what they wanted to see—this lines up with what they wanted to see.”
The PEC has been part of many environmental and preservation projects in Loudoun, including acquiring 239 acres at nearby Gilberts Corner and working with NOVA Parks to create the 150-acre Gilberts Corner Regional Park. They are also working toward plans to renovate the building at the Gilberts Corner farmers market which they acquired in 2019, Bingol said.
But some supervisors opposed selling the property to the PEC, which was not the highest bidder for the property—that came from Aldie residents Adam and Laura McBride, who offered $700,000 along with a detailed proposal to restore and preserve the assemblage.
“To me, that should be the first proposal that we give great scrutiny, too, and I did that going through this process and I was impressed with that proposal,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “I saw no reason why, as high bidders, they should be disqualified in favor of a lower bidder—it doesn’t matter who the lower bidder was.”
“We’ve been talking about this property for a very long time now. When we originally made the last offer, I went with the public opinion, with the gentleman [Gerachis], and unfortunately that deal kind of blew up in our face. And so with this, when we got these two offers, this time I went with the high bid,” said Vice Chair Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling).
But the majority voted to direct county staff members to bring a finalized contract with the PEC back to the county board for final approval. County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) pointed out the PEC has been involved in the Aldie Assemblage discussion for years.
“We’ve been having this discussion for, I mean, literally over 10 years. I don’t see a reason that PEC would put themselves forward at all if they didn’t have the capacity do what they say they’re going to do,” she said.
“I think that it would almost be irresponsible, after all the work we put into this as a board, to not take advantage of this opportunity to put our trust into the PEC who has clearly earned a lot of public trust, especially in this area,” said district Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).
Supervisors voted 7-0-2, Saines and Letourneau opposed,to bring a sale contract back for final approval at a future Board of Supervisors meeting.