County supervisors have accepted a $600,000 offer to buy the county’s property around the Aldie Tavern, bringing to a close a tumultuous stewardship.
Supervisors on July 6 voted to accept the offer from Aldie resident and Aldie Heritage Association member Guy Gerachis, who proposed buying the property, restoring the Aldie Tavern and nearby Satterfield Cottage as residences, and refurbishing the 19th century cellar house, along with other renovations. The property is comprised of three parcels together just over 6 acres and includes floodplain and sloping terrain. The county government purchased the property as part of a now-abandoned plan to build a fire station there.
Gerachis’s proposal enjoyed broad support from the community around Aldie, which had organized and fought against the fire station plan. It was a long fight; the previous county board shouldered aside objections from both the community and their own Historic District Review Committee, seeking to take the property out of the Aldie Historic and Cultural Conservation District before finally reversing course and actually expanding the district.
Supervisors found another site for the station at Gilbert’s Corner, the intersection of Rt. 15 and Rt. 50, and is expected to be finished in the winter of 2022-23.
Gerachis’ was not the highest offer. Aldie Community Development Company LLC—a development firm comprised of the same developers behind the Mojax project in St. Louis, which has left village residents pleading with supervisors for protection from those plans—has offered $750,000 plus a 50-acre easement on the property behind it for use as a public park.
Hobie Mitchel, one of the partners in the company, told supervisors before their vote about the company’s plans, which include the parkland, restoring the buildings, an artist studio he likened to the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, and a forge.
“I tell you that we are extremely committed to do the right thing here,” Mitchel said. “We’ve really started on this project, even working on it for a long, long time, before the county even owned it. There’s many things we want to preserve there.”
An attorney for Aldie Community Development Company, Jim Campbell also again asked the board to accept their proposal.
“We know that we’re not the most popular kids on the block, you know, that’s the way it is,” Campbell said. “If you ever wore the hat of a developer that’s the scarlet letter for you for a period of time.”
He said the decision is an issue of equal protection under the law, arguing the government cannot reject a better offer because the populace doesn’t like it.
“If we’re thinking about what’s fair and who should be treated alike, yes, we understand that some citizens of Aldie don’t like us, but they don’t disagree with our project,” Campbell said. “We’re offering more substantially in money and benefits to the public interest.”
It is not the first time the group tried to acquire the property. Supervisors previously negotiated a tentative land swap of the Aldie property for the St. Louis property, plus money to help with restoring the Aldie property. Those plans also faced opposition from people around Aldie, but those plans falling through left people in St. Louis still worried that development nearby could damage their village’s character and already-unreliable water supply.
Supervisors’ 8-0-1 vote, Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) absent, came ahead of the schedule they approved in June, when they had voted to discuss the offers in closed session on July 6 but not vote until July 20.