The Town of Purcellville is asking the county government for $700,000 to purchase a 2-acre property adjacent to Fireman’s Field to preserve it from residential development and use it for recreation.
The Town Council voted unanimously last month, with Mayor Kwasi Fraser and Councilmen Ted Greenly and Joel Grewe absent, to approve the funding request, citing a need to ensure that the property, owned by the Nichols family, is not developed into a three- to five-home subdivision. While the town’s appraisal of the property estimated it to be worth $575,000, the Nichols family’s appraisal turned up a value of $700,000.
Although the funding request was submitted a day after the county’s Sept. 30 deadline for towns to file requests for funding from its Fiscal Year 2021 budget, County Public Affairs and Communications Officer Glen Barbour said the county would accept the request.
If it’s approved, Town Attorney Sally Hankins said the town could purchase and use the property to expand the Fireman’s Field complex and provide the town with land for unscheduled recreational use that it currently doesn’t have.
Parks and Recreation Division Manager Amie Ware said the town could use the property for a splash pad, outdoor fitness stations, gazebos, benches, bike racks or a pollinator garden. She also suggested that the town could convert the existing 2,728-square-foot house there into a recreation and nature center or an overflow location for the Loudoun Valley Community Center.
Councilman Ryan Cool said that, while he wasn’t opposed to purchasing the property, he was concerned about the town’s habit of purchasing property and “doing nothing with it.” He pointed to the town’s 2009 purchase of the 189-acre Aberdeen Property for nearly $2.2 million and 2011 purchase of the Pullen House for $175,000. The town is not actively using either property. “We tend to spend money and it sits,” he said.
Cool also mentioned the town’s inclusion of $600,000 in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget for a proposed bike park at the Basham Simms Wastewater Facility—a proposal that has gained little traction since its inception in February 2018.
He said that if the county grants the town the funding, or a portion of the requested amount, the town would need to be cognizant of other projects residents are still pushing for.
“People complain a lot more about traffic than a need for a splash pad,” he said. “I think our priorities should be focused on the traffic stuff first.”
Town Manager David Mekarski said the town is additionally requesting county funding for two pedestrian improvement projects and a project that would install 14 LED streetlights along Maple Avenue.
If the funding request is aligned with county funding guidelines, it will be considered for inclusion in the county administrator’s proposedFiscal Year 2021 Capital Improvement Program. Once the Board of Supervisors receives the program in February, its Finance Committee will then deliberate on it through March and make a recommendation back to the full board, which will adopt the plan in April, with or without a $700,000 inclusion for the Town of Purcellville.
The vote to request county funding to purchase the Nichols property comes a little more than two months after the council voted to release the town’s right of first refusal on the property—a right the town reserved in a 2008 agreement with the Nichols family at a cost of $1,000.
That July vote came at the recommendation of the town staff, who emphasized that the town did not have the necessary funding set aside in its Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the purchase and suggested that the town would have needed to complete a strategic recreational master plan before making the purchase to validate a future need for the property.
Hankins said that following that vote, the Nichols family informed the town that they were interested in seeing the property go toward a public use.