After Lawsuits, Negotiations and Plan Changes, Construction Begins at Leesburg South

There appears to be life for a proposed development that at one time was the subject of debate before the Virginia Supreme Court.

Now referred to as the Leesburg South development, many more local residents will recall the development by its former name, Meadowbrook. The 228-acre property, along Rt. 15 and Evergreen Mill Road, began its journey to groundbreaking more than a decade ago.

The initial Meadowbrook application sought approval for more than 1,200 housing units—including single family attached, detached, and multi-family units—as well as 165,000 square feet of retail space and 110,000 square feet of office space in a submission to rezone the property from R-1 (residential) to PRC (planned residential community). The Planning Commission recommended denial, and the applicant withdrew the request. Months later, the Town Council voted to change the Town Plan to restrict development to the by-right development density of one house per acre.

A subsequent subdivision submission was made by Centex Homes in January 2006. Town staff members informed the applicant that they deemed the application incomplete when submitted and Centex later took the town to court to challenge the town’s assertion. A July 2006 Circuit Court ruling determined that the application was acceptable for review and instructed the town to proceed. One month after the town accepted the submission, the planning staff recommended denial of the application to the Planning Commission. Meanwhile, the town’s appeal to the state Supreme Court was successful in overturning the Circuit Court ruling.

It would not be the only lawsuit related to the property. New property owner, Washington-VA Traditional Sites, submitted several development plans—all of which were recommended denial by town staff—before settling on a proposed 184-lot, by-right subdivision in June 2008. That proposal did not include for right of way for the planned extension of Battlefield Parkway. After the Planning Commission denied the subdivision application, the developer filed a lawsuit against the town, charging it was not required to provide the road right of way under state law. The lawsuit was to be heard in court in early 2009, but was shelved for the two sides to find a compromise.

The compromise turned out to be the creation of a new zoning designation, the Traditional Design Option. The parameters of the TDO, which encourage residential development with a mix of housing types, an interconnected street system and active and passive recreation space, also require the developer to provide rights of way and easements for town roads. Only three properties in town, including Meadowbrook, meet the criteria to be developed under a TDO. The property owner withdrew the lawsuit following approval of the TDO. Just this July, the Town Council approved an agreement for the right-of-way and easements needed for the Evergreen Mill Road alongside the community. That is part of the settlement agreement resulting from the 2009 action, and clears the way for the residential portion of the development to begin construction.

While the rooftops are on the horizon, further Town Council action will be required on the commercial development portion of the project. The applicant recently submitted revised plans that envision up to 150,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, including a proposed grocery store.

According to Colleen Gillis, an attorney from Cooley LLP that is representing the applicant, the proposed commercial development is “putting much-needed commercial uses in the southwest portion of town.”

“You don’t have anything to speak of substance between that location and all the way out to western Loudoun along the bypass. All the retail is concentrated on the eastern side of town,” she said. “This is adding something necessary and needed.”

In addition to an “appropriately scaled grocery store,” the applicant is proposing a mix of space to accommodate both sit-down and drive-through restaurants, and even possibly a gas station, Gillis said.

“It’s been the long-term vision by the town to develop [the land] with the commercial uses we’re proposing,” Cooley Senior Planner Molly Novotny added.

The application will get an initial airing before the Board of Architectural Review on Sept. 19. The board will not be considering the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness for the proposed architecture as of yet, just giving initial comments and feedback in advance of the applicant’s appearances before the Planning Commission and Town Council. According to Novotny, the applicant is hoping to go before the Planning Commission for an initial public hearing in late October or November.

In this occasional series, Loudoun Now takes a close look at key properties in the Town of Leesburg. Many of these properties have the potential, some with active plan review applications, to be the site of some major development, or redevelopment, projects in the town.

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