The establishment of a board of trustees to maintain and protect a long-abandoned slave cemetery in Ashburn moved a small step closer during a Circuit Court hearing Wednesday.
Judge Thomas D. Horne heard from Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman and an attorney representing a group of residents who have been leading the restoration effort of the burial ground.
The appointment of trustees is among the final steps needed for Toll Brothers to transfer ownership of the 2.75-acre site at the southeast quadrant of the Rt. 7/Rt. 659 interchange, part of the Belmont County Club property. However, the process of making those appointments is the subject of competing court filings.
The citizen group, led by the Rev. Michelle Thomas, has worked with Toll Brothers and county government representatives for more than a year to protect and restore the overgrown cemetery, where gravesites are marked with fieldstones. Under the plan, the developer will create a separate lot for the burial ground and transfer ownership to the trustees.
Plowman last month filed a petition asking the Circuit Court to appoint a trustee board of five to nine members. His motion asked that the appointees “represent a broad range of interests and that will serve to protect and preserve the cemetery parcel …”
Attorney Benjamin Leigh, representing Thomas’ group, then filed a motion asking the court to appoint 10 specific Ashburn-area residents, including representatives of the Loudoun Freedom Center, members of the Thomas Balch Library Black History Committee and a descendant of one of the people buried on the property.
In subsequent court filings and arguments before Horne today, Plowman and Leigh challenged the legal standing of the other to request the trustee appointments.
While denying a motion to have Leigh’s clients granted status as legal intervening parties in Plowman’s case and declining to formally merge the two cases, Horne agreed to publicly advertise for residents who want to serve as trustees and to include both Plowman and Leigh in the process of collecting those expressions of interest.
The parties will return to court Oct. 4 to review the applications.