A rezoning application for one of the largest remaining undeveloped tracts of land in Leesburg arrived before the Town Council for its review this week.
Prior to opening the public hearing Tuesday night, Mayor David Butler made it clear that the applicant, developer of the proposed Crescent Parke, should not expect a quick decision. He pointed to the council’s rules of procedure.
“Complex or controversial land use items, and I think this [application] applies to both, scheduled on the agenda for public hearing will be placed on the work session agenda,” at the subsequent set of council meetings, he said.
That would bring the rezoning application before the council at its June 13 work session, with a potential vote at the meeting the following evening.
The 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 of retail, an area for a future hotel, and a 2,000-square-foot community room. The 53-acre site 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 developer Lansdowne Development Group would donate to the town.
Tuesday, the public was given its first chance before the council to offer its feedback on the rezoning, and many urged caution or restraint in approving major facets of the project. Vanderbilt Terrace resident Doris Darnes pointed to the Planning Commission’s lengthy review of the application, which stretched into the months, with the applicant at one time taking some weeks to integrate recommended changes. Ultimately, the commission passed the application to the council with no recommendation, when a majority could not be found to support approval.
“Please heed the advice of the Leesburg Planning Commission,” Darnes said. “Don’t be swayed by myriad proffers from developers. Do what’s best for the Town of Leesburg.”
Neighbors like Darnes are concerned about the impact of the development on local traffic, the further loss of green space and the lack of a sufficient buffer between the property and its neighbors, not to mention Rt. 15 and land reserved for a future extension of the Dulles Greenway.
Bettina Guerre, also of Vanderbilt Terrace, questioned why the council would approve such an application with so many drawbacks.
“Shouldn’t we be more concerned with saving green space,” she questioned. “We need to keep Leesburg historic and charming and preserve the remaining green space for residents, wildlife and future generations.”
But Christine Gleckner, an attorney for Walsh Colucci representing the applicant, pointed to all the applicant has promised the town in terms of proffers to offset its impacts. In addition to the donation of Olde Izaak Walton Park, the applicant is pledging $9 million up front for the construction of a Davis Avenue road extension to Gateway Drive, including the construction of a bridge over Tuscarora Creek. This is in addition to $6.5 million in cash contributions, representing a contribution of more than $17,000 per residential unit.
“We’re presenting to you the idea that Crescent Parke is a well thought out, mixed-use community to enhance this end of the Crescent District and serve as a catalyst for development nearby,” she said.
But while the town’s own planning and zoning staff has concluded that the application is “technically compatible” with Leesburg’s zoning requirements, senior planner Michael Watkins said they are not swayed that it is the type of development envisioned when the Crescent District Master Plan was drawn up years ago.
“Staff does not agree that the application implements the intent of the Crescent District,” he said.