The county Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure has appealed a decision not to allow the demolition of an historic building in Aldie to make room for a new firehouse. But at the same time, supervisors are still looking for other options.
Controversial plans to knock over historic buildings known as the Dry Goods Store and the Smokehouse to make room for a new fire station were dealt a setback on Feb. 11, when the county’s Historic District Review Committee denied that application. The county had applied for permission to demolish a non-historic garage and a cellar house that is deemed historically significant in the village’s historic district as part of its plans to build a 18,900-square-foot fire and rescue station on the south side of Rt. 50 in the center of the village.
Originally, a third building called the Tavern had also been slated for demolition, but the site plan was redesigned.
On March 6, the county Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure appealed the committee’s decision. Appeals of Historic District Review Committee decisions are heard by the Board of Supervisors. The board has 90 days from the date of the appeal to hold a public hearing, after which supervisors could vote to overturn the committee’s decision. A public hearing is scheduled May 15, with a vote expected on June 4.
According to the department’s appeal, the county has looked at eight different sites for the new firehouse, but only the tavern location was suitable. The current firehouse is too small, outdated, and prone to flooding. Personnel and equipment have been evacuated more than 20 times in the building’s lifetime because of flooding. But after 10 years of evaluating alternative sites—and even buying a property east of the village before neighbor opposition and a lawsuit derailed the project there—fire department leaders and county staffers say there’s no better option.
The proposal has faced sustained opposition from Aldie residents and drawn the attention of history and preservation organizations like the Mosby Heritage Area Association, the Civil War Trust, the Aldie Heritage Association and the Lovettsville Historical Society. The historic district committee’s public hearing drew 10 speakers, all opposed.
Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said he is “supportive” of the appeal, but indicated he is still looking for other sites.
“I’m working with my colleagues in hopes of identifying a suitable alternate location outside the village that would allow the fire department to meet all federally-mandated response times for the station’s first due area,” Buffington wrote. “Unfortunately, but for good reason, the county’s land purchasing discussions are held in closed session; therefore, I’m unable to provide details at this time. However; as soon as possible to do so, I will provide a public update.”
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act allows, but does not require, elected officials to hold real estate transaction discussions in secret. Most exemptions to Virginia’s government transparency laws are voluntary.