With a potential vote tonight on a major rezoning application in Leesburg, many town residents have been on the receiving end of some unsolicited calls the past few days.
The Town Council is expected to again discuss the 53-acre Crescent Parke development tonight. 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 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 to the town.
The application has been before the council for review since the spring, and optimism appears to be high that a vote could come tonight.
In the meantime, reports surfaced last week that calls originating from caller ID sandbox.com had been going out to residents asking them to support the construction jobs and new road links that would result if the project was approved. According to Althea Spence-Pavacic, a Tavistock Farms resident, the person speaking on the phone asked Spence-Pavacic to tell Vice Mayor Kelly Burk to support the project. Other residents were also reportedly urged to tell Councilman Marty Martinez to throw support behind the project.
Spence-Pavacic said she began receiving the calls on July 20 and they continued for three days until she finally grew frustrated and picked up the call. She said she was not told any specifics about the project, only that it would create construction jobs, that the developer had promised to pay “good wages” to local residents to work construction for the development, and that it would contribute much needed road improvements to the town. She was asked if they could count on her to support the project and tell Burk to support it. When she responded in the affirmative, the caller responded that she would transfer the call to Burk’s voicemail, but Burk picked up the call.
“She started telling me the truth about the project,” she said of Burk. “If she hadn’t answered the phone I wouldn’t have known what I was asking her to support because of the lie I was told by the person who was calling me. It seems like planned misinformation.”
Burk said she received about 20 calls that were transferred directly to her, and was able to speak with 18 of the 20 callers. She said all the residents she spoke to, whom she informed about the project details, immediately changed their opinions on the matter and said they were not in support of it. The general takeaway from those who spoke to her was that the project was not what it appeared to be as previously presented by the sandbox.com caller.
Reached Monday, Hobie Mitchel, the developer behind Crescent Parke, denied any involvement in the phone campaign and said he did not know who was behind it. While some have speculated that the calls are coming from a labor union, Mitchel said he has made no promises to hire union help should the project be approved.
“We’re always hoping that someone is getting good wage and benefits, but [hiring contractors] has to be based on the best prices available there on the market,” he said. “Virginia is a right to work state and I’m not going to tie myself.”