Your Views: Black House is in compliance with easement

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Your Views: Black House is in compliance  with easement
619 S. Lee St. has been owned by former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, former Alexandria mayor Edgar Snowden and Thomas Vowell, a prominent Alexandria merchant. (Courtesy Photo)
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To the editor:

A great deal has been said about the easement governing 619 S. Lee St. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has provided a letter to the Alexandria City Council out- lining the easement program and process. This letter, printed below, demonstrates that VDHR is enforcing the easement and is fully aware and supportive of the project under the terms of the easement. I am submitting this letter to provide clarity and transparency about the status of compliance with the easement held by VDHR.

-Paige Pollard, Commonwealth Preservation Group

(A civil fight over an Old Town landmark)

Dear Mr. Jinks:

As you may know, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Board of Historic Resources (Board) holds a historic preservation easement on the Vowell-Snowden-Black House property at 619 South Lee Street in Alexandria. The professional staff of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Historic Resources (DHR) administers the easement program on behalf of the Board.

Although the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Alexandria share similar goals, the terms, conditions, and restrictions set forth in a historic preservation easement held by the Board constitute a contract between the Board and the property owner and are separate and distinct from the ordinances and restrictions imposed by the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review (BAR). Because these processes are separate and distinct, the BAR has no ability to enforce the terms of such an easement and is not bound by those terms. Further, regardless of what the BAR may allow with respect to a property encumbered by an easement held by the Board, the property owner must still comply with the terms of the easement.

Any approvals or disapprovals made by DHR with respect to the easement on the Vowell-Snowden-Black House should have no determinative bearing on decisions made by the BAR, and any decision made by the BAR will have no determinative bearing on DHR’s administration of the easement.

We remain confident in DHR’s administration of the easement program and in DHR’s ability to steward the Commonwealth’s historic assets. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Julie V. Langan Director [Virginia Department of Historic Resources]

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