Friday, October 24, 2014

Town of Purcellville Settlement with Crooked Run Orchard

There has been some chatter about the Crooked Run Orchard Settlement of this past week and I was a bit dismayed by the quotes, by previous Town Council members, in the print version of the Leesburg Today Article, which was quite different than the online version. I want to clarify my position, even though it appears overwhelming that the citizens of Purcellville are very pleased with our vote. 

From the article, Tom Priscilla "questioned the wisdom of dipping into the town reserves. "So the cushion you'd be setting aside in the regular order of business is gone.  Where will the money come from, what now won't you do? What won't be available for whatever purpose you might have planned for it?"    Jim Wiley called it “unprecedented” and a “rip-off.”  I find this rhetoric hypocritical when you consider it was their litigious actions, under the direction of former Mayor Bob Lazaro, which directly led to the increase in the town’s meals tax. 

On June 12, 2012, the Purcellville Town Council voted to increase the meals tax to 5 percent, making it the highest meals tax rate in the county. According to a Leesburg TodayArticle, “council members pointed to a need for increased revenue to recover legal costs of approximately $1.5 million, some dating back to 2000, incurred in pursuing bonding companies over unfulfilled public infrastructure improvements at Hirst Farm and Locust Grove; costs the town incurred in legal battles with the previous Board of Supervisors over issues related to annexation and the Southern Collector Road; and additional design and construction costs relating to that road. They put the price tag of those items at $1.5 million.” 

Councilwoman Joan Lehr was opposed to the tax increase and offered an amended motion for the town to track revenue from the 1 percent increase separately and dedicate those funds specifically to pay off the $1.5 million total, which the council voted 6-1 to approve, and her rationale for that was valid. Mrs. Lehr was still opposed to the increase.    

The decision to settle was born out of a desire to end the constant legal battles between the Browns and the Town and to avoid the potential liability if we went to trial and lost, and the potential endless back and forth appeals process. The Browns did not get the $4.5 million dollars they were seeking and even though some past members of council felt the million dollar settlement was too high, the town would have likely spent that or more if we had gone to trial and won, which would still leave the town open to future appeals and additional cost.  With the guidance and recommendations of our attorneys and the town manager, this was the right thing to do for the town. 

In an effort to not increase the burden on residents and businesses, we have sought a solution that we can afford to pay for without adding debt or increased taxes and does not hurt the town's operations.  We also close the door to the acrimonious relationship between Crooked Run Orchard and the Town and that in the end, is good for everyone.