A Leesburg Town Council vote to effectively kill plans for a new residential community along the Leesburg Bypass failed Tuesday night, giving new life to the Crescent Parke project.
One vote made the difference.
Councilman Marty Martinez and Vice Mayor Kelly Burk made the motion to deny developer Leonard S. “Hobie” Mitchel’s request for Town Plan changes to allow residential construction on a portion the 53-acre property planned for commercial development. Only Mayor Kristen Umstattd joined them.
Four others agreed to let the project advance, even if it was taking a backward step to have another round of review by the Planning Commission. That panel recommended denial of the project because it ran afoul of the Town Plan policies and because of a list of more than 50 outstanding staff concerns.
Overall, the Crescent Parke application seeks approval for 198 townhouses, 96 stacked townhouses and 96 multifamily dwelling units. Nonresidential uses would include a maximum of 110,550 square feet of office space, 137,175 square feet for retail, an area for a future hotel, and a 2,000-square-foot community room.
The land stretches from the terminus of Gateway Drive to Davis Drive along the edge of the Leesburg Bypass. The land assemblage also includes the Olde Izaak Walton Park, land currently leased by the town but which the developers would donate.
The council members who support the possibility of the residential development said they were swayed by the wishes of residents along Gateway Drive and in the Virginia Knolls neighborhood. They said they didn’t want commercial development next door and opposed the town’s plans to require the developers to build a four-lane extension of Davis Drive between South King Street and Gateway Drive. The council voted unanimously to delete the latter requirement.
The future of Mitchel’s project remains uncertain.
Councilmembers, and neighbors, have concerns about the high density requested, tree preservation and buffering, among other issues.
In leading the charge to keep negotiations going, Councilmen David Butler said the policies requiring commercial development at the site were unreasonable given market conditions and did not protect existing neighborhoods. Butler was joined by Council members Suzanne Fox, Katie Sheldon Hammler and Tom Dunn in changing that policy.
Umstattd warned that the council’s actions could derail years of planning work.
“Do you want to scrap the Crescent District plan and go to residential? That is the fundamental question of the evening,” she said.
“We spent 10 years creating the Crescent District plan,” Burk said. “We worked on it. We created what we wanted on it. And the first application that comes down, we’re going to change it.”
Mitchel said he was confident he could address the council’s and public’s concerns while working with the Planning Commission during the next two months. The applications are expected to return to the Town Council for review in January.