Editor: Recently, there’s been a push made in favor of the Town of Leesburg acquiring the 130-acre golf course portion of the Westpark property in Southwest. However, most folks aren’t getting the whole story.
Other than the commercially zoned portion (about 8 acres), the rest of Westpark is largely considered floodplain, which makes that land essentially undevelopable. Just ask FEMA how many homes you can build on a floodplain. The answer: not many.
Early last year an application was filed with the town by a developer looking to put 96 townhomes on the 8 commercial acres, and “gift” the rest of the land to the town. Generous, right? Wrong. But we’ll get to that later.
Now, the property has a new potential buyer, who plans to put the non-commercial land in a conservation easement in return for a large 40 percent tax credit. Said buyer would then flip the floodplain acreage back to the town of Leesburg for a price of $3.4 million—despite independent studies that peg the land’s value at no more than half that.
In either scenario, a third party makes bank on the backs of Leesburg’s already struggling taxpayers, who would then be saddled with not only the cost of maintaining, but also restoring 130 flooded acres in order to create safe conditions for pedestrian access.
Like most folks, I want to see this property remain open and green. But at the moment, Leesburg is staring down a budget deficit for the coming year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fiscal irresponsibility aside, permitting a corporate entity to rip our residents off would be an act of gross moral bankruptcy, and do irreparable harm to the integrity of our small-town community.
I hope you, my friends and neighbors, will consider this situation with the gravity it deserves. I know we’re all busy doing back to school, and social distancing, and trying to put food on the table, but the wrong decision on Westpark could have serious long-term consequences for us and for our town.
As my father always said, “measure twice, cut once.”
Kari Nacy, Leesburg
[Editor’s Note: The writer is a candidate for the Leesburg Town Council on November’s ballot.]