Photo by Blue Ridge Leader

What a delightful time for some bipartisan solidarity. I have to applaud the crew at Too Conservative for shining a light on the obscenity now going on in Purcellville.

Last week, the Town started tearing out 250-300 year old oak trees to make more parking spaces for their new Town Hall (currently under renovation).

The building being renovated is expected to cost the town over $7 million (compared to an estimated $4.5 million for a new building). This structure was purchased from the Purcellville Baptist Church, which has constructed their own new building. According to many Purcellville folks (including deposed LCRC district chair Ben Belrose) it’s not only structurally in bad condition, but architecturally inappropriate for use as the Town Hall, hence the exorbitant price tag.

Then, on Monday morning the publisher of the Blue Ridge Leader got a call that the historic barn on the Cole Farm was being demolished. This property is currently being graded for the new “gateway” large commercial development at the intersection of 7 and 287, which is to be fed by the Southern Collector Road planned to bisect and severely damage the current successful business, working farm and home at that intersection, Crooked Run Orchard. Please read the linked article; it exposes the poorly disguised lie that this land grab (and where is “Citizens for (Some) Property Rights”?) was ever intended to “alleviate traffic on Main Street” as the Town has been claiming for years.

The plans for the barn and home on the Cole property are described here by Roadside Development:

With its history being tied to agriculture, this mixed-use development is being modeled after an old farm plantation. In keeping with the historic nature of the development, the existing farm house, barn and silo will be relocated and restored to become new exciting retail uses.

The hasty dissembling by the Town, the developer, and their sockpuppets has by now been shown to be ridiculous. This was not an “accident” in which a backhoe operator ran into the barn by mistake (the initial story). The demolition, which continued on for more than four hours before a stop-work order was finally issued, reduced half of the structure to rubble. Between the video and photos captured by the Blue Ridge Leader, who was first on the scene at 10:00 am, and the observations of Purcellville residents, it appears that either the developer made a cost/benefit analysis leading to the decision to pay a small fine instead of the higher cost of repurposing the building, or the Town is not competent to oversee a construction project of this magnitude – or both. There was no plan in the contract for the dismantling and restoration of the house and barn. When the Town was asked about this, “staff indicated they were ‘unaware of one but were asking for one, now.’”

I’m sure they are. The only piece of the puzzle left out over at TC is the role of Patrick Henry College and its increasingly snuggly relationship with the Town Council. At its December 8, 2009 meeting, the Council voted to annex the entire acreage of PHC into Purcellville, giving the college (which is exempt from paying property taxes) access to town water and sewer and paving the way for its planned expansion to a 1,600 student body. The administration of the college has long tried to downplay the active role played by its students and faculty in local politics by claiming, as did Graham Walker in the Purcellville Gazette, that “from a student body of 317, only 21 PHC students were registered to vote in Loudoun County.” That is dissembling, also. The issue isn’t students voting, the issue is students providing campaign labor. As early as 2004, Republicans elected to the Board of Supervisors were praising these students for their “activism.” Eugene Delgaudio said memorably (and was quoted by PHC in their own marketing materials) that “those students are the reason I won the election.” That same year, Lori Waters initiated a resolution of appreciation for the college and its founder Mike Farris, for much the same reason – and to his credit, Jim Burton saw exactly what was happening and left the board room during that presentation, with Mike Farris later angrily confronting him. Imagine how much greater the impact of 1,600 students tasked with the “transformation of American society” according to the vision of Mike Farris could be on our local communities.

To fully appreciate the hypocrisy on display here, remember that the Town delayed for years construction of the 1,600 student Woodgrove High School, “citing concerns over water, traffic and growth issues.”

And the purchase of the Purcellville Baptist Church building coincided so very neatly with the religious conversion of Mayor Lazaro (a former Catholic). The mayor conveniently started attending PBC (on the short list of PHC approved local churches, none of which, of course, are Catholic) in advance of his 2010 reelection campaign. The enmeshment reeks to high heaven, and there is nothing whatsoever to indicate that the presumptive Republican candidate for Blue Ridge will be anything other than a rubber stamp for Mayor Lazaro, bringing more of the same at the county level.

With all the excitement lately over changing the names of things, maybe they should just go ahead and change Purcellville’s name, too.

20 thoughts on “Patrickhenryville

  1. Elder Berry

    I’m actually amazed that they’d go off campus at all. They might be exposed to “ideas”.

  2. Epluribusunum Post author

    It’s worth revisiting this debacle with the Cole Farm in light of the several ethics issues already raised concerning Janet Clarke, after less than a month in office – the most egregious one directly related to the Town Council abuse of the Browns.

    And I heard this interesting story from someone volunteering at a polling place in the west. The several Patrick Henry Students who were volunteering for LCRC candidates were discussing shopping in Purcellville, and agreed that they never venture into what they call “old town.”

  3. Elder Berry

    It’s too bad that will be a Harris Teeter in that center, because I like their stores, but I will make a pledge to never shop there.

    Loudoun continues its insane march to destroy and demolish everything that made it special. Very soon it will look like every other homogenized piece of developer cr*p in every other homogenized developer suburb. Cheap trash construction made to become a slum in 20 years or so.

  4. madnell

    The wearisome con-struction continues at Harass Titter. I’d rather shop across the street at Crooked Run Orchard.

    ..What is the nature of luxury which enervates and destroys nations? Are we sure there is none in our lives?
    ..I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
    ..Henry David Thoreau

  5. Pingback: ‘Just say no’ in Purcellville – Loudoun Progress

  6. Molly Andrews

    Here is one Purcellville resident who will never

    grant the new SHOPPING MAUL patronage.

    I travel extensively but have called Loudoun my

    home for 49 years. I cherish the land, the trees,

    and the history here, not the malls and the traffic.

    The screaming symbology of the Cole Farm

    debacle strengthens and confirms my resolve

    to leave the bedroom community of Purcellville,

    and the ugly sprawl across the county, forever.

    The Loudoun I have known and loved no longer


  7. electrealeaders

    The political machine will just keep on destroying Western Loudoun unless they are removed from office.
    Can we please get Lazaro and his cronies out of office next year?!

  8. Loudoun Insider

    It would be very useful for dismantling the barn piece by piece as it should have been if they were really going to restore it properly, but what you see in the video and photos on the web is not a careful dismantling. As you can see, this piece of equipment is quite useul for wholesale destruction as well.

  9. Ref

    My neighbors live in a renovated barn much older than the Cole Farm barn. It sat in disuse for nearly half a century before they purchased it and converted it into a beautiful home. I’d venture to say you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

  10. Epluribusunum Post author

    So that’s why it looks so weird. Why would the contractor even have had such a machine on site? Is that typically used in excavation and grading work?

  11. Loudoun Insider

    BTW, that is no backhoe pictured there, it’s a telescoping forklift, a much larger and more powerful machine than the typical backhoe. Yet another falsehood in the official story. Disgusting. Where are all the historic preservation groups on this???

  12. Epluribusunum Post author

    The combination of the 4 hour backhoe assault and the preceding failure to protect the structures from weather says that demolition was the plan all along, with tacit approval by the TC. It’s significant that both of these facts were only thoroughly documented through the efforts of citizens, not professional investigative journalists. The two contractor employees who were supposedly fired need to be located and interviewed – I hope some citizen journalists are following up on that.

  13. Eric the 1/2 troll

    “Anyone who thought we could rennovate a 150 yr old barn without tearing all of the rain-rotted and termite-infested wood was fooling themselves.”

    Lauren, if this is the way it was supposed to go down (so to speak) why the $1000 a day fines and the 10 point plan (literally a day late and many dollars short)? Sorry, but “accidently” beating on a structure for 4 hours with a back hoe is decidely NOT the way historic structures are disassembled and relocated. It is the way historic buildings are razed and if they had not gotten caught that barn, the silo, and the house would have been carted offsite in the back of a tandem dumptruck by now.

  14. Epluribusunum Post author

    I second Elder Berry on being thankful for the Blue Ridge Leader. Can anyone imagine the facts of this incident coming to light if the Gazette were the only newspaper in town? The article and editorial that arrived yesterday are almost worthy of another post all by themselves.

    Thank you, Lauren, for providing this sampling of Town Council apologist talking points. These were no doubt generated during the closed session held to decide how to spin this travesty, and later disseminated to mere citizens like yourself. After all, you and I didn’t need to observe what was discussed at that meeting, did we?

    I don’t know much about the “cultural or political” symbolic significance of the site, but I do know that the July 2009 inspection report regarding the condition of the structures was entitled “History Matters,” so let’s go with historical significance.

    Oddly, that report was somehow “misfiled,” requiring further citizen effort and expense to locate it. The report makes no mention of rotted or termite-infested wood, and describes the condition of the buildings as “good.”

    However, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an effort to diminish that “good” condition, perhaps so that the claim could subsequently be made that the buildings were “falling apart in its [sic] own time anyway.”

    There is a provision in the controlling Historic Overlay District ordinance that prohibits Demolition by Neglect. Kelli Grim sent me a copy of the letter calling attention to the violations of that provision she presented to the Town back in January, to which the Town never responded. I reproduce it below in full.

    January 26, 2011
    Town of Purcellville
    130 East Main St.
    Purcellville, VA 20132

    Dear Town of Purcellville:

    This is to inform you that you are allowing the Developer to violate the Town of Purcellville’s Historic Overlay District Ordinance with regards to the farm house, and possibly the barn and silo as well that are located on the Cole Property, which you call and refer to as the Gateway Project.

    According to the Historic Overlay District Ordinance in Article 2.8 it addresses the specific subject of Demolition by Neglect. It states in part A that the “purpose of this subsection is to prevent demolition by neglect through permanent damage by weather . . . of any historic structure.” It also states in subsection B that “The owner of any historic structure …shall maintain the building . . . in good repair.” Under that same subsection number “ 5) the ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls . . . including broken windows and doors; and c) the zoning administrator shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the County Building Official to enforce the requirements of this section.”

    The upstairs or attic windows of the house have been without panes for who knows how long and this is allowing rain and snow to enter the building, damaging the wood. It is not remotely possible that none of the crew or inspectors failed to see this. And if they did, it is your duty to have made certain it was addressed according to our Town ordinance. Surely during the ribbon cutting party someone from the Town was close enough to have seen the condition of the structures; which would have been well before the weather moved into rain and now snow conditions “this year”. Of course, this does not include last year, and the year before when the Town also “did nothing.”

    You are required to protect and preserve these buildings/structures according to the written proffers between the Town and the Developer that states it will be moved and restored. Your visionary depiction of the finished project clearly shows all these buildings in the final site plan.

    One would think that the “now lost and destroyed” barn that was to remain in the Giant Shopping Center would be a recent enough experience to stay abreast of this much larger group of historic structures located in such a prime location of the entrance to the Town.

    I would like to know what the Town has done and communicated in all manners to the Developer regarding this matter over the past 6-12 months.

    I would appreciate your attention to this matter posthaste.


    Kelli Grim, Purcellville Resident and Business Owner

    All of the evidence suggests that there was never really a plan or intention to preserve these buildings, and that claims to the contrary were only pretty window-dressing. The hope of the Town is that with time, people will behave as Lauren instructs above, and admit that because they’ve “gone there or shopped at its stores” all of these silly complaints about an old barn were much ado about nothing.

    I suspect, though, that this is less about the barn itself, and more about the corruption, dissembling and greed that its “accidental” demolition represents – especially given that this very thing has happened before. Shopping at Harris Teeter ain’t going to fix that.

  15. Lauren Perez

    I’m a local, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is excited about progress in Pville. Everyone’s upset with the destruction of a barn and a house that was falling apart in its own time anyway. At least now, they’ll be restored and put to use. That corner wasn’t a cultural or political symbol of Purcellville at all, it was an abandoned lot, going to rot over time. I, for one, am excited that they’ll be restored to their former glory, that if a shopping center is going to go in (which will only increase property values, bring business and convenience to the residents of Pville) that it’s done classily and well. The same thing happened at Magnolia’s and look how beautiful it turned out! Anyone who thought we could rennovate a 150 yr old barn without tearing all of the rain-rotted and termite-infested wood was fooling themselves. Progress is never bad, as long as it’s done well, with the “feeling” of Purcellville being maintained. And I guarantee a year after it goes up not a single Pville resident is going to be able to say that they’ve never gone there or shopped at its stores.

  16. Matthew Osborn

    That video is really depressing. Wish I’d been hanging out in Purcellville that morning. I have an old barn that’s a perfect candidate for a hasty and clumsy demolition. And would have been happy to provide a home for that magnificent barn (now half barn).

  17. Elder Berry

    Purcellville politics have been stinking for some time. But it seems to have gotten worse over time, if that is possible. The sacrifice of the Brown Farm for the Purcellville beltway, Lazaro’s backstabbing of Jim Burton on the school issue, the ugly influence of the PHC “religious army” in Loudoun elections and town land use, the ongoing town water problems, the dying old shopping center, the mess of the new shopping center entrance and traffic flow, the equivalent of a subsidy to the Baptist church for the new town hall, the loss of the trees, and now the lax enforcement of developer destruction that looks a lot like a wink-wink-nudge-nudge.

    Smells bad. Really bad. Thanks to BRL for being on the ball and showing what’s going on.

  18. Epluribusunum Post author

    “..there is nothing whatsoever to indicate that the presumptive Republican candidate for Blue Ridge will be anything other than a rubber stamp for Mayor Lazaro, bringing more of the same at the county level.”

    From all accounts I’m hearing, Clarke is only running because of her relative lack of name recognition and Lazaro’s negatives, but she might as well be him in terms of policy. Sound right to you?

  19. Eric the 1/2 troll

    You forgot to mention that one of the P’ville TC members is running as the soon to be blessed Republican candidate for the Blue Ridge district. Cole Farm fiasco – coming to a neighborhood near you – that’s progress for ya.

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