Courthouse location and connection explained

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Attorney E. Ford Stephens — a lawyer representing the commonwealth of Virginia — wrote a letter to Charlotte County Attorney Russell Slayton to clarify the judge’s position regarding the new proposed courthouse.

“I am writing to confirm that the Commonwealth of Virginia is not opposed to an extension of the deadline for Charlotte County to provide final design drawings from February 28, 2016 to April 30, 2016,” Stephens stated in the letter.

“I understand that this extension is not for the purpose of changing the floor plans of the new courthouse. We complement the county on the quality of the work done by its architects at Glave Holmes.”

Stephens said the purpose of the letter was to address two main points of interest that have continuously risen to the forefront of the courthouse debate — the location of the proposed courthouse and the connection between the new courthouse and the current existing circuit court clerk’s office.

“As to the first issue, the Commonwealth requested that there be a connection between the existing clerk’s office and the new courthouse,” Stephens said.

He said that the request was reflective of security tenets found in the “Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines.”

According to Stephens, the guidelines maintain that the requirements for all courthouses include a single public entry point into the building and an entry screening point for weapons at each public entrance into the building — providing protection for all individuals, property and information within the facilities.

Additionally, guidelines state that the location and appearance of a courthouse “should present a bold but dignified and appropriate judicial appearance that reflects the community’s traditions and culture.”

Stephens said in light of 100-percent design development drawings that were received from the architectural firm Glave Holmes in December, the proposed design for the new courthouse would be appropriate.

“The building elevations and location of the new courthouse chosen by the county and its architects would be in keeping with the architectural design referenced in the ‘Virginia Courthouse Facility Guidelines.’”

Stephens said architectural consultant Baxter Bailey concurs with the site plans for the new courthouse.

He also said that the new courthouse would have a dignified appearance and would reflect the authority commanded by the judicial system. Additionally, the new courthouse will be of equal elevation to the existing clerk’s office.

“I do not see anything laid out in that excellent document that cannot be achieved, and in very great measure already has been by Glave Holmes, consistent with preservation principles as well,” said Executive Director of the Capitol Square Preservation Council Kathleen Kilpatrick in an email. 

“I recommend tweaking the entrance feature so as to meet court guidelines and preservation standards with dignity and grace. This can be done through minor adjustment to the size or detail of the entrance, or by using another form, in order to retain the features visual presence while, at the same time, slightly reducing its impact on the Jefferson courthouse in keeping with the court mandates.”

Kilpatrick said the mandates include to recognizing and assuming honor and local history.