The transfer of cemetery land from the Town of Leesburg to the Loudoun Freedom Center is expected to take a few more months, and will cost the town $73,000.
Town Attorney Barbara Notar briefed the Town Council Monday on the progress of the land transfer. In February, following a process that at times had generated controversy, the council directed the staff to coordinate with Loudoun County and the Federal Aviation Administration on subdividing the land that includes the Sycolin Cemetery so that ownership of the burial areas could be transferred to the Loudoun Freedom Center. The council had previously considered a town staff suggestion to create a master plan for the cemetery land after several community advocates, including Loudoun Freedom Center founder Pastor Michelle C. Thomas, had criticized the town’s maintenance efforts on the property. The council had also previously directed staff members to look into leasing the land, but was strongly criticized by Thomas and others for that idea, before ultimately settling on transferring the land to the Loudoun Freedom Center.
In meetings between town and county staff, it has been determined that an “outlot” can be created under the county’s Zoning Ordinance, which could then be conveyed to the Freedom Center. To create an outlot, a staff report notes, a land development application must be submitted to Loudoun County that includes a survey plat combining the three town-owned parcels with the outlot created. County building, zoning, and preservation officials also advised the town staff that a cemetery delineation study is necessary to confirm the borders of the burial areas. Town staff intends to combine the two burial areas, and the land between the two areas, to create one outlot. This area would include approximately 44,000 square feet, or a little over one acre.
Notar also informed the council of the news that the FAA has agreed to release the cemetery areas to the town to convey to the Loudoun Freedom Center at no cost to the town. According to a staff report, FAA grant assurances typically require the town to re-pay the FAA apportionment of net proceeds from the sale of airport land. However, in this case, the cost to complete the donation will exceed the fair market value of the cemetery land and the FAA will not require repayment. The town purchased the property in 1989, and in 1990 expanding the Runway Protection Zone, but the burial areas were not discovered until 2007.
Notar said the cost of the cemetery delineation study and the plat is just under $73,000.
The cemetery delineation study is expected to take about 10 days and will likely occur in the fall when weather conditions are more favorable. Once the survey plat is drawn and sent to the county the process is expected to take another three months. The conveyance of the land can occur after an advertised public hearing, Notar said.
The council voted Tuesday on endorsing the staff’s recommended next steps and executing related contracts.