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DELGAUDIO ACTION ITEM

December 1, 2009

Thank you for your emails to the board and for many of you who signed the peition to restore Christmas or other displays at the courthouse.

Many citizens spoke tonight on the topic of restoring Nativity scenes and Menorahs to the courthouse grounds and Mayors of two towns offered to assist the county.

The citizens and Mayor's messages were all well received. Thank you to all of you who worked late at the public input session. Thank you for getting the word out. The petition now totals 970 signatures.

I distributed an advance copy to Supervisors and members of the news media of my proposed legislative action item for consideration today at the Tuesday December lst regular board meeting which starts at 9:00 a.m. I will need six votes to suspend the rules in order to get consideration. That is the big hurdle.

This may occur in the morning as we get through our regular agenda. This legislative item will be number 13, added on, and will be the last "action" item to be considered. It could be just before a 12 noon lunch. Or it could be right after that lunch is ended at 1:30 when we come back into session.

I will work with Supervisor Kelly Burke on several motions. We both agree the action of the citizens committee should be reversed (see "first motion" below).


Supervisor Kelly Burke will move the main motion and I will second it. I will move the 2nd motion and she will second that one. We shall see what happens from there.

I am am sending on an PLAIN TEXT copy of the Action item which is a recap of the summary page without the attachments.

It is very dry reading, but not for hundreds of citizens waiting and praying that we restore Christmas to Loudoun. I worked hard on writing it.

It is a Christmas miracle when Leesburg District and Sterling District are working together so closely. We shall see if we can muster the six votes to suspend the rules.

Eugene Delgaudio
Sterling District Supervisor
cell phone 703-901-2247

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Plain Text COPY of Action Item for Tuesday Board of Supervisors Meeting follows.

SUBJECT: Change to Courthouse Displays Policy

INITIATED BY: Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, Sterling District

BACKGROUND:

On November 24, 2009 the local Rotary Club was denied its application to place a Nativity scene on the courthouse property in Leesburg. The request was denied by the Facilities and Grounds Committee of Loudoun County Courthouse. By November 28th the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors had received over two hundred emails regarding the issue.

Previously, on September 15, 2009, the Board of Supervisors had voted to expand the purpose of the Facilities and Grounds Committee of Loudoun County Courthouse to include the following:

" (a) Make recommendations to the Court and the Board of Supervisors concerning the maintenance and improvement of the courthouse grounds and use of buildings for other than the administration of justice; and


(b) Administer the day-to-day use of the grounds in response to requests for use by the general public. The Committee is charged with establishing the rules for the use of grounds when requested by the public, as well as the review and resolution of requests for usage. Accordingly, these rules are established as a guide to the public of the permitted uses on the courthouse grounds. " (Attachment I: September 15, 2009, Board of Supervisors Business Meeting, Action Item #19).

The Facilities and Grounds Committee of Loudoun County Courthouse recently created and passed a new policy to (effectively) prohibit all displays on county courthouse property.

ISSUES:

The language of the motions passed by the Board on September 19, 2009 suggests that there was a presumption that requests for use of courthouse grounds would at least be considered. The Committee would have the authority to grant or deny such requests and also to set rules for use; however, authority to deny all applications for a specific use (e.g., displays) appears to be absent from this motion. Loudoun county has historically been committed to the allowance of seasonal displays as recognized by the 2005 Courts Landscape Master Plan which specifically noted seasonal displays in the Monuments and Memorials section of the study. The report states:

"Seasonal displays such as a Christmas nativity scene are located near the fence adjacent to the intersection of King and Market Streets. Other seasonal displays have included a Christmas tree located at the bottom of the Old Courthouse steps and a garland attached to the ornamental iron fence." (Attachment II: 2005 Courts Landscape Master Plan, page 13-14).

Therefore, it appears that displays, especially seasonal ones, have been considered a legitimate use of the Loudoun County courthouse grounds. The emphasis of the motion passed by the Board of Supervisors in September 2009 was to allow the Committee to process and make decisions on requests, not to create a policy to completely restrict certain requests. Based on these findings, it can be argued that the Committee lacked the proper authority to pass and implement said policy to prohibit all displays on courthouse grounds.

While there is no suggestion that such a potential overextension of authority by the Committee was deliberate or malicious, there appears to be a need for the Board of Supervisors to clarify its position regarding the specific authority granted to said Committee.

Even if the Committee had the authority to make this policy, to do so without any input from the public could be considered problematic. While the attached Leesburg Today article states that the committee has been working on this policy since February of this year, the first notification that the policy existed, in theory or reality, was in the form of a letter of denial to the Rotary Club on November 24, 2009 (Attachment III: November 25, 2009 Leesburg Today article).


Since seasonal displays have been allowed on the courthouse property for decades, as recognized by the 2005 Courts Landscape Master Plan, altering such a policy constitutes a significant change in direction. Based on precedent, it would seem appropriate to include the public in such a decision. For example, in May 2008, the Board of Supervisors considered an item to allow the erection of a Revolutionary War Memorial on the courthouse property. The item stated the following:


"The Board of Supervisors, as owner of the Court grounds, will need to receive public comment on the proposed design, location and memorial development timeline in order to make its final determination of the proposed memorial project" (Attachment IV: May 6, 2008, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Business Meeting, Item #19).


As such, the Revolutionary War Memorial item was placed on the upcoming public hearing agenda. It seems reasonable to conclude that if the Board of Supervisors was directed to bring the placement of a new memorial to public hearing, then it would follow the that Board of Supervisors, or any of its appointed bodies, should be required to bring a significant policy change, which essentially removes a seasonal memorial, before the public as well.

The public has already expressed its disapproval of the Committee's decision via hundreds of emails appealing to the Board of Supervisors and over eight hundred signatures on a petition regarding the issue.

FISCAL IMPACT: None.

DRAFT MOTIONS:

1. I move that the Board of Supervisors direct the Facilities and Grounds Committee of Loudoun County Courthouse to re-implement its original grounds use policy which allowed displays on courthouse property; and

2. I move that the Board of Supervisors direct the Facilities and Grounds Committee of Loudoun County Courthouse to bring any future recommended changes to current courthouse property use policy to the Board of Supervisors for review and that such recommendations may be sent to Public Hearing if necessary.

So thats the actual text of legislation to restore Christmas decorations to the Leesburg Courthouse. I will let you know how it develops.

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