HS 8 / Riverside High School: four years after

Four years ago, Loudoun Supervisor and Lansdowne resident Lori Waters announced a high school to be built in Lansdowne. Now the Sports Park is gone. And so is she.

HS8 Sports Park

The former Lansdowne Sports Park, not the National Conference Center, is the site of Riverside High School.

 

This document justifies shifting the cost of the National Conference Center'a parking deck to Loudoun taxpayers.

On March 18, 2011, Loudoun County Public Schools got an appraisal on 41.5 acres at the National Conference Center, where the Loudoun Board of Supervisors was considering building a new high school. The parcel appraised for $19,100,000, including “damages” of $6 million to replace 250 surface parking spaces with a garage.

On the morning of March 18, 2011, the market value of 41.5 acres mostly vacant acres at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, where the Loudoun Board of Supervisors was considering building a new high school, was placed at $12,650,000.

But by the end of the day, after an appraiser added $6 million in “damages” to replace 250 of 723 surface parking spaces with a  parking garage, the value of the 41.5-acre tract soared to $19,100.oo.

NCC_Contract

Three months later, in June, the NCC appealed its tax assessment, asking the Loudoun Board of Equalization to reduce it. After calling a deputy sheriff to remove a reporter from their public meeting room in the county government center, then-BOE Chairman J. Scott Littner, Secretary Ed Maurer, and two other BOE members closed the door and quickly voted to lower the NCC’s tax assessment by the same amount of the “damages” that had raised it in March. The seesawing value of the NCC resulted when a value of $900 was assigned each of 473 existing surface parking spaces on the parcel to be sold, while each of 250 spaces in the garage that did not exist was projected to be worth $24,000.

On June 28, the Loudoun Board of Equalization lowered the value of the NCC’s whole 112-acre parcel, together with buildings and improvements, from $49,871,900 to $44,000,000, exactly $5,871,900 below the value listed in the land book. The fair market value of the NCC’s parcel of 112 acres of land, without buildings and improvements, stayed the same, in the BOE’s opinion: $22,456,000.

So three months after the March appraisal had raised the value of the NCC property by $6 million for purposes of a pre-sale appraisal, the June assessment lowered it by the same amount for purposes of county taxation. Another three months later, in September, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors signed a sales contract to pay $20 million for 45.235 vacant acres: mathematically, 90 percent of the value of the NCC’s total acreage for just 40 percent of its open land. The contract was contingent on approval of a plan to build High School 8 (HS-8) on the property, pushing it ahead of HS-6 in the LCPS construction queue.

It meant destruction of the 15-acre Lansdowne Sports Park, a “proffered condition” from Lansdowne’s developer that after 10 years of expensive soil enhancement had finally yielded three grassy fields, bathrooms with running water, two picnic shelters, two age-appropriate tot lots, and ample parking at a sports park for public use. Ashburn Youth Football League spent $271,000 to upgrade two “home fields” at the Sports Park with an irrigation system to nurture Bermuda grass, and Kids from all over Loudoun County played there. Now, those fields have been bulldozed.

After an appraisal raised the value of the NCC property in March, the Board of Equalization reduced its assessed value three months later.

An appraiser raised the value of the NCC property by $6.5 million in March, 2011. Three months later, the Loudoun Board of Equalization reduced its assessed value by the same amount.

Instead, Lansdowne Sports Park is now the construction site for a high school that is under construction. Its 42 teams will have priority use of school fields during concurrent soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and football seasons beginning in the fall of 2015. According to a staff report from Loudoun County Parks and Recreation, matchups between youth leagues and high schools for field-sharing arrangements don’t work well, and the fields are not expected to be made available for league sports.

No fields have been identified to substitute for the ones lost, either for AYFL or for Lansdowne residents who relied on Lansdowne Development’s proffer when they bought townhomes on the private streets that surround the park. Residents bear all the costs for upkeep, repaving, and snow and ice removal through their HOA fees. VDOT performs such services for secondary streets like Riverside and Kipheart Drives in Lansdowne, where single family homes are located. Having lost the benefit of getting fields, grass, and open space in exchange for paying to maintain their own infrastructure, many residents have already moved including Kurt Krause, former manager of the NCC and chairman of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce in 2012, when the deal closed on the sale of the NCC.

On Sept. 19, 2012, when the Loudoun Planning Commission sent a proposal to abandon the Sports Park and rezone the NCC property to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, seven of its members said they had never seen the proposal before. It had been approved in the 11th hour of the elapsing term  of former Broad Run Supervisor Lori Waters (R) and present four-term Board Chairman Scott York (R). Waters did not seek re-election after completing one term of office. She sold her house in Lansdowne and moved with her family to Florida.

Waters’ successor, Ashburn Supervisor Ralph Buona (R) took office in 2012, and along with Krause, strongly supported the school construction at the NCC. Krause, who had lived in a Lansdowne neighborhood adjacent to the high school site and worked as General Manager of the National Conference Center, left that job and moved away in 2013.

In 2005, Oxford Communities, which owned the NCC, had borrowed $50 million to build the second-largest ballroom in Northern Virginia, after the Ritz Carlton’s ballroom in Arlington. But competition from trendier Lansdowne Resort had followed the precipitous collapse of the real estate bubble in 2008, and Oxford was 18 months past due on an unpaid loan balance of $37 million when it sold the NCC in March, 2014, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The acreage that the Board of Supervisors purchased for $20 million as a site for Riverside High School proved to be unbuildable, so the high school is instead being constructed on county land once used for the proffered sports fields. Baseball and football fields for the high school will be developed on the land purchased from the NCC.

for sale

Rather than live next to a high school, the owners are selling this 4633-square foot home in Lansdowne.

 

 

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