The Leesburg Town Council on Tuesday selected its preferred design alternatives to East Market Street intersection upgrades.
The council voted 5-1-1 to select options for the future configurations of both Battlefield Parkway and Cardinal Park Drive’s intersections with Rt. 7. In both instances the council selected the staff-endorsed alternatives: a single-point urban interchange for Battlefield Parkway and right in/right out access at Cardinal Park Drive. The vote also requested that the project be constructed as a design-build contract with VDOT.
The $58 million project is still $25 million short of the needed funding to proceed with construction, but the council was under a tight deadline to select design options to be prepared for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s next round of funding requests. While there were options to retain a traffic signal at Cardinal Park Drive, but removing the light has been in the county and town plans for decades and NVTA representatives warned that funding might be delayed or withheld if the council sought to keep the stoplight.
Tuesday night, several business and property owners, pleaded with the council to delay its decision and consider other design options. Leslie Dunn, who owns property at 2 Cardinal Park Drive, said she was not even aware that the council was planning to select a design option until 3 p.m. that afternoon. She noted that in Florida, where she also owns commercial property, landowners are required to write letters to and meet with surrounding property owners anytime a business seeks to make a change to its property, even for an insignificant change like a new sign.
“The fact that we were not given a letter or notified I think is unfortunate and wrong,” she said.
“It would’ve been nice to be a part of the conversation,” fellow Cardinal Park property owner Joe Kumke said.
Leslie Dunn said the traffic signal provides direct access for her clients and, absent that, those coming to Cardinal Park Drive from points east would have to drive further into the Town of Leesburg and make a U-turn to be able to access her business.
Throughout its discussion on proposed designs, council members have pointed to a future extension of Russell Branch Parkway to Trailview Boulevard that will serve as another way to access the Cardinal Park Drive area. That road extension is to be built by the developers of the nearby Leegate property ahead of the construction of any nonresidential or residential development on the site. According to Capital Projects Manager Tom Brandon, the developer has submitted its first set of design plans to the town and appears to want to move quickly on the project.
Another developer, Taylor Chess of the Peterson Companies, also petitioned the council Tuesday night about the project. The Peterson Companies owns the Leesburg Gateway property on the northwest side of the Battlefield Parkway intersection. He said they were supportive of the interchange option ultimately chosen by the council, but asked the council to consider the construction of a graded ramp to provide access to the future development. Chess said the 100-acre property could be the site of a future mixed-use development, but no plans have been established quite yet.
Councilman Ken Reid was the lone opposition vote on the chosen designs. He said he felt like the council was ” having a gun put to its head” to make a quick decision on the design. Reid said he wished for a review process similar to the recent development of Edwards Ferry Road and Fort Evans Road intersection designs on the Leesburg Bypass, when there were two rounds of public input a year apart to gather as much feedback as possible. At the lone public input meeting on the project in May, 26 community members attended, with 10 submitting comment cards.
“In good conscience, even though I support this interchange, I don’t think I’ll be able to vote for this resolution tonight,” he said. “But that should not be construed as council not supporting this project and not wanting it funded.”
Councilman Marty Martinez also said he wished the council had more time to consider the designs, but said he hoped the next two to four years leading up to construction would give the needed time to work with the affected property owners.
“All of us on here understand your concern, understand your frustration, and really do want to work things out,” Mayor Kelly Burk said in addressing the property owners at the meeting.
Councilman Ron Campbell was absent for Tuesday’s vote.