Residents living in the area of the Loudoun County Courthouse expansion project made their voices heard at last week’s Leesburg Planning Commission meeting, voicing concerns about the impact the final product will have on their day-to-day lives.
Concerns about traffic, parking and impact on surrounding property values were among the points raised at the Jan. 7 meeting. It was the Planning Commission’s first introduction to the project, with the commission being asked to give a recommendation on three separate, but related, applications.
The first, a Town Plan amendment, would change the land use designation of the 9.9-acre area including the Pennington parking lot, off North and Church streets, from Low-Density Residential to Downtown. The two other applications include a concept plan and proffer amendment to increase the square footage of the proposed courthouse structure at 2 North Church St. to 92,000 square feet, and to rezone the Pennington lot from R-6 (residential) to Government Center to allow for the construction of a structured parking facility.
While some spaces – including 16 handicap accessible spaces – will be added at the Semones parking lot off North and Church streets, the bulk of the new parking spaces will come from the structured facility at the Pennington lot. As currently proposed, the four-level facility will have 727 spaces in addition to 147 surface parking spaces.
It was evident shortly after the presentations began that there would be no vote from the Planning Commission at last week’s meeting, as commissioners indicated a desire to have the county’s project representatives take feedback from the public and commissioners and come back with some revisions. A final vote from the commission is eyed for Jan. 21, with the application pegged to go before the Town Council for a final public hearing and vote Feb. 9.
A popular refrain voiced by residents was the impact of the expansion on local roads and surrounding neighborhoods.
“It’s already become a racetrack and it’s becoming even more dangerous,” Harrison Street resident Damon Schaefer said, noting that the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the project have seen a boon in births with many toddlers already afoot.
There was also conflicting opinions on whether a traffic light at North and King streets – one of the proffers associated with the project – would be a boon to the area, or if instead a four-way stop would be sufficient. Commissioner Doris Kidder was among several to point out that, despite studies indicating a need for a signalized traffic light, the nearby intersection of Catoctin Circle and Edwards Ferry Road has survived just fine with a four-way stop.
“Just because the county proffered the money doesn’t mean it needs to be used to fix something that’s not broken,” she said.
Others have questioned the size of the proposed parking facility at the Pennington lot. North Street resident JD Norman this week started a petition online – NoPenningtonGarage.com – in protest to the location of the project, its size and the proposed egress point at the intersection of Harrison and North streets.
The discussion will continue at the commission’s Feb. 21 meeting, with a recommendation to the council anticipated for that time.
Read more coverage on this project: “Courthouse Parking Project Up for Review.”