The developer behind a halted St. Louis project and a redevelopment proposal at the Aldie Tavern has won a long legal battle against the Land Trust of Virginia around the parkland behind the Aldie property.
Supervisors are mulling over a proposal to give developer Jack Andrews the Aldie Tavern property, $1.5 million, and $600,000 in escrow for matching funds to work on the tavern building and install an access road to a private park behind it. In exchange, they would get the 16-acre St. Louis property, where developer MOJAX LLC had planned a 30-home subdivision, a deal is meant to forestall the development near St. Louis and provide a path to restoring the Aldie Tavern.
Andrews also owns Mt. Aldie LLC, which owns 60 acres behind the Aldie Tavern and is protected by a conservation easement. Part of the proposal would include access to that 60 acres, which people already commonly stroll for leisure, as parkland.
From 2013 until Feb. 25 this year, Mt. Aldie and the holders of the easement, the Land Trust of Virginia, had been in a legal battle over alleged construction work on the protected land, with the Loudoun Circuit Court issuing an injunction against Mt. Aldie and awarding the Land Trust more than $2.2 million in fees and costs.
But the Supreme Court of Virginia overturned that decision, finding that the disturbance that led to the Circuit Court ruling was not the disturbance named in the Land Trust’s complaint, and citing precedent that “[t]he issues in a case are made by the pleadings, and not by the testimony of witnesses or other evidence.”
The Circuit Court had ruled in favor of the Land Trust after finding that Mt. Aldie had violated the terms of the easement by installing brick paving stones on the Indian Spring Trail to allow water from the Indian Spring to drain across the trail.
But because that was not raised in the Land Trust’s complaint, the state Supreme Court decided the lower court should not have ruled based on that finding. The Land Trust’s complaint instead referenced construction of “what appeared to be a road” inside the riparian buffer around the Little River, which the Indian Spring drains into, including clearing plants, removing rock outcrops, and grading.
“My family has always wanted to preserve Mt. Aldie, so that the public might enjoy it forever,” Andrews stated in a press release from his attorneys. “It is disappointing that others claim that ‘development’ is the goal when the real goal is preservation, much like our recent work on the Aldie River Walk and Aldie Dam Millrace Trail. I am pleased with the Supreme Court’s confirmation that Mt. Aldie acted within its reserved rights under the Conservation Easement.”
The Supreme Court did not decide whether Mt. Aldie had violated the terms of the easement with the paving stones, as the Circuit Court had.
“[T]he citizens of Aldie have been visiting the Indian Spring for more than 200 years,” stated attorney James P. Campbell. “Consistent with the recent proposal to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Mr. Andrews and Mt. Aldie hope that the beautiful Indian Spring Trail and historic spring will be a natural wonder that the citizens of Aldie might enjoy in perpetuity.”
Andrews has been at the center of objections to the proposed Aldie Tavern deal, which is now with the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee awaiting further discussion. The proposal includes a restored tavern, shops in the two other buildings on the property, a brewery, and a bed-and-breakfast. It would also serve as the entrance and park office for the private parkland.
The supervisor who first made the motion to first launch that debate, Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), has since indicated he no longer supports the deal.
“Since making the original motion out of Closed Session, I have been contacted by many constituents, organizations and Towns,” Buffington emailed his colleagues. “All had the same message of—we don’t trust the individual making the offer and we don’t want the County coupling the Aldie Assemblage to any deal related to the Saint Louis property. Not one person who has contacted me has been in favor of selling the Aldie Assemblage to the individual Invol[v]ed in the current offer.”