County supervisors will consider a program to allow private organizations to run—or even live in—county-owned historic properties in exchange for commitments to maintain, preserve and improve those properties.
Supervisors on July 2 approved Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge)’s proposal to explore the program. County staff members said the Heritage Commission would consult with other counties that have started a similar program to develop a detailed proposal.
Buffington called it a way to get preservation work done on long-held but often long-dormant historic sites, “to begin to leverage some of the private money via public-private partnerships to allow us to enter into leases and agreements with private entities to better manage, preserve, maintain and operate some of our own historic properties.”
“Such a program could even include the option of allowing private entities to actually live in the buildings in our historic properties in exchange for an agreement or a lease that they would be required to improve the property,” Buffington said. “… So I think this is a good way for us to get some private dollars into better maintaining and improving some of our historic properties.”
Those renters would pay reduced or even no rent and no taxes in exchange for doing specific work on the property.
Other supervisors agreed with the concept—and added it could be a good chance to look into what the county should do with those properties, which are historic, and which are simply old.
“I do think we need to have a conversation at some point about all of these properties and what our intent is, because I think there are some that would probably be better served with other organizations running them,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). He also added that there are some properties held by the county that he does not believe are historically significant.
“As long as they’re going to do this, let’s really kind of dive into these questions and talk about some of these things and talk about what things were important to Loudoun County and different communities in Loudoun County and why, and talk about the difference between what the Commonwealth [of Virginia] calls an historic piece of property versus what people in Loudoun might think is historic.”
Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) welcomed the opportunity for private citizens and organizations to step up, referencing the recent controversy over county plans to build a new fire station next to an old tavern building in Aldie.
“Some of these groups that are very vocal need to sometimes step up with some responsibility and say, ‘we can put together a foundation, we can do some fundraising,’” Buona said. “If it’s really that important to you to save it, then try to step up and be part of the solution, and not just complain to us that the taxpayers aren’t saving it.”
Supervisors voted 7-0-2, with supervisors Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) absent. A resident curator program proposal is due back to supervisors by November.