Loudoun County supervisors have backed out of negotiations on a hoped-for sale of historic property in Aldie where the county once planned for a new fire house before being chased off by community opposition, and throwing back into uncertainty a years-long debate in the community thought to be resolved.
Aldie resident and Aldie Heritage Association member Guy Gerachis had offered to buy the six-acre property for $600,000, presenting a proposal to restore the Aldie Tavern and nearby Satterfield Cottage as residences and refurbish the 19th century cellar house, along with other renovations. Supervisors said at their Nov. 16 meeting Tuesday that the terms had changed. And they now say they want the tavern to be used for a business.
“At least we all believed, the community believed, he was going to buy these parcels and renovate the tavern, and so we were calling it the community-driven plan, and it turns out that it’s no longer the community-driven plan that we thought that we were entering into,” Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said.
“He would have had to maintain the property and renovate the tavern and start that within a two-year timeframe, and he just is not willing to do that, so we couldn’t come to a deal,” he added.
“This community doesn’t want to see the tavern sold out from under them, torn down, or used for a use that is not conforming with the character of the Aldie village,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “After all this time, it’s important to me that the tavern is used for a business, it is retained and or restored, and whatever business is the character of the Aldie village, and short of that happening, I don’t particularly see a reason to sell it to someone.”
But on Thursday Gerachis said county staff members had asked to put terms in the sale contract that didn’t belong there, and had been unresponsive during negotiations. And, he said, he still hadn’t heard from the county that supervisors had nixed the sale.
“They wanted to include my proposal in the sales contract, and my proposal was not a definitive proposal, and I told them that it wasn’t a definitive proposal, and it didn’t belong in a sales contract,” Gerachis said. He had presented an illustrative concept for the property before supervisors agreed to begin negotiations, but not an engineered plan. Many people involved in the village and the long fight over the tavern had urged supervisors take Gerachis up on his offer. Gerachis said members of the Aldie Heritage Association were upset to see negotiations ended.
And Gerachis said the property already has protections, marked off in county zoning with a steep mountainside district and the Aldie Historic District—to which the property was added after pressure in part from the Aldie Heritage Association.
“They never really would tell me what their goal was and give me a definitive position to put in the sales contract,” Gerachis said.
In the time since supervisors agreed to begin negotiations in July, Gerachis said, communication with the county staff has been rare and unproductive.
“They act like five months we were in negotiations. They sent me an initial contract, which I responded to. They sent a counter-offer, which was even worse than the original contract and added things like time limits and terms that don’t belong in a real estate contract, and then I counter-offered again in August, and they have never gotten back to me after that offer,” Gerachis said. “So they have not been on top of this, contrary to what they might say. It hasn’t been an intense negotiation.”
He also said there did not appear to be any single person in charge of negotiating the sale.
But, he said, his offer remains on the table.
“I stand ready. I pretty much told them exactly what I would accept, and I said if you can come up with a definitive goal to put in the sales contract, and if it’s acceptable, it’s acceptable, but they never did,” he said.
He said he was sorry to see the plans fall through.
“I’m very disappointed, because the community was behind me, they understood what my plan was,” Gerachis said. “I had people approach me about buying the particular properties to live in, and I really hadn’t decided how I was going to tackle the project. … I had some preliminary ideas, but the fact that I had people say we’d love to buy that, restore it and live in it was certainly an option for me, but it doesn’t seem to be an option for the county.”
The property was run down when the county acquired it, and has continued to sit unmaintained in the years the county has owned it. It will now stay in the county’s hands at least a while longer until county staff members return to supervisors again with new ideas for how to sell it.
Supervisors voted 8-0-1 to end negotiations and direct the county staff to return with new proposals for the property. Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) was absent.