After a brief working session Thursday on controversial plans to put a day care on Ashburn Road in Old Ashburn, the Planning Commission has recommended that application be denied.
Although traffic and parking studies provided by the applicant showed the site plans were adequate, county transportation staff decided that there was a chance parents picking up and dropping off their kids at The Learning Experience could cause a line of cars out onto Ashburn Road. They worried that the limited ingress and egress from the site would create problems not captured in the parking and traffic analyses, reversing their earlier recommendation to approve the application.
The applicant was asking for permission to build a two-story, 10,575-square-foot child care center in Old Ashburn with the capacity for 175 children, although that number was revised down to 144. The application faced criticism and opposition from residents of Old Ashburn, who worried about its effect on traffic in the area, among other problems that they said came with placing a multistory child care center on a lot less than one acre.
Commissioner Fred Jennings (Ashburn) said it was “probably the most difficult and vexing application” he’s dealt with.
“I will recommend that we forward this for denial, but it is not for the apparent reason,” Jennings said. “I haven’t seen a dearth of facts like I have in this application to this point. There have been profound inaccuracies, self-proclaimed expertise, misaligned and actually inaccurate analytics.”
He also said the decision by the Planning Commission is a “lose-lose-lose.” Not only is the applicant losing, but the residents also lose the leverage they had over what goes on that lot through the public process required for the day care, he said. If the site is developed according to what is allowed by current zoning on the site, residents and the county government will have no sway over what happens. He said Old Ashburn has moved further and further away from a vision of what it could be.
“This, I think, was an application that had an aesthetically attractive building that would have contributed to that vision,” Jennings said.
“I think a child care facility would be a good use in Old Ashburn,” said Chairman Cliff Keirce (Broad Run). “Just not this one with this size.”
Only Commissioner Kathy Blackburn (Algonkian) voted against recommending denial.
“A lot of things that Commissioner Jennings said were true,” Blackburn said. “This was such a messed-up deal. I think it became political. What happened at the community outreach meeting was totally wrong, and not fair to the applicant.”
Blackburn referred to a community outreach meeting about the child care center at Ashburn Presbyterian Church at which Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) falsely claimed he already had the votes to stop the application on the Board of Supervisors, to applause from the residents there.
But Blackburn said she could not support denying the application because she had not had a chance to review all the new information brought to that work session.
“It was a problem, but I believe that property owners have the right to reasonable use of their property,” Blackburn said. “And up until tonight I understood that staff and a traffic study said it was a reasonable use.”
The application will now go to the Board of Supervisors for another public hearing and a final vote. No date for the public hearing is yet set.