I write in support of keeping the Washington County Courthouse operational in Abingdon Historic District. Moving to the Kmart and leaving the 150-year-old building empty does not meet legal zoning ordinances and would, if legal, be bad aesthetically and economically.
Abingdon is the oldest and most prosperous county seat in far southwestern Virginia. As a shopping center, tourist destination and seat for federal and state courts with the attendant attorney base, it is the largest single economic engine in Washington County. There is no doubt that the collection of old homes and buildings that comprise the Historic District are indeed the Abingdon brand and a primary economic driver in the constellation of the county’s assets.
The undeniable beauty and charm of the district is a priceless asset. Businesses, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, the Martha Washington Inn and the Barter not only fuel the economy but are part of the town’s unique fingerprint and identity. The architectural capstone is of course the venerable and majestic courthouse.
The frustration with the overcrowding, security and parking issues are understandable, but all of those issues can be successfully dealt with and while keeping this historic asset in place. Consider this solution:
In 2016, Thompson and Litton offered the Board of Supervisors a $23 million project proposal to increase the existing courthouse to 86,051 square feet, addressing space and security. My solution is to move the juvenile and domestic relations courts to another location (there are several possible sites), freeing up space and parking, then use part of the proposal to upgrade the courthouse to better accommodate district and circuit courts. The rest of the $23 million would be for establishing the JDR Court site. For a county taxpayer such as I, this solution strikes the right balance of stewardship of Abingdon’s historic brand and economic future.