Construction has begun on the long-debated Meadowbrook development in south Leesburg, but neighbors continue to raise concerns about its impact on traffic and schools.
Almost 100 residents gathered in the auditorium of J.L. Simpson Middle School on Monday night to hear an update on the project, at the southeast quadrant of South King Street and Evergreen Mill Road. Construction on the 400-home residential development began in February and the first 70 units are expected to be ready for occupancy later this year, according to representatives from Van Metre Homes.
Monday’s meeting was organized by Mayor Kelly Burk after residents reached out with concerns about the development’s impacts and confusion over what the project would entail. Along with the residential portion of the project, a separate rezoning application seeks approval of plans of 199,000 square feet of commercial development. The Planning Commission will take up that application this summer.
Denise Harrover, vice president at Van Metre Companies, briefed residents on the upcoming application, which she made a point to emphasize had not yet been approved. The property is zoned R-1, allowing for low-density residential development. The proposed commercial center envisions a mix of office, retail, restaurant, and pad site space. Hopes are to have the commercial development anchored by a grocer, and the developer has already received interest in the space. Responding to questions from residents, Harrover ruled out Trader Joe’s, as she said the grocer told her the population surrounding the site was not dense enough for them.
There are also four pad sites proposed for the development, and special exception applications are planned to allow for drive-throughs. The pad sites would be for fast food restaurants or pharmacies, she said. Audible groans, sighs, and head shakes could be seen when audience members learned about the possibility of fast food restaurants.
The developer also envisions some inline units near a pedestrian plaza and pond feature that could be enticing for some restaurants with outdoor seating. A gas station also is planned. Harrover noted that many grocers “are now in the gas business” so the gas station site is an attempt to lure a good grocer to the development. But there has already been serious interest from gas station providers, although Harrover said Sheetz and Wawa have not been players in those discussions.
In terms of office space, the development calls for three 20,000-square-foot office buildings, but an option exists to allow for first floor retail space, Harrover said.
Harrover noted that since the development lies in Leesburg’s H-2 Overlay District it also would undergo review by the Board of Architectural Review. But she assured residents that Van Metre strives to build attractive products and pointed to the company’s commercial centers in Stone Ridge and Broadlands as examples of what to expect.
“We don’t build typical, we build quality,” she said.
Noting that it would be a long process to get through legislative review, site plan approval, and initial buildout of the development, Harrover said it could be 2020 before any commercial is open for business.
Many of residents’ questions focused on the impacts on area roads and how transportation improvements would help relieve congestion. Renee LaFollette, director of the town’s Public Works and Capital Projects Department, noted that the Battlefield Parkway extension that will link South King Street, near its intersection with Meade Drive, to the Dulles Greenway is expected to be complete by summer 2018. Harrover noted that when that connection is open it will help to relieve congestion on Evergreen Mill Road, as those commuters who do not need to drive by the schools to drop off children will avoid that area by taking Battlefield Parkway. Calvin Grow, town transportation engineer, also noted that the town staff will request cash contributions from the developer to help pay for transportation improvements.
Meadowbrook property owner Peter Kalaris was in the audience during Monday night’s meeting and gave a brief history the years of legal wrangling that has surrounded the property. As there was some confusion about why there would be no financial contributions to schools as part of the project, Kalaris noted that, as part of the lawsuit over the development plans, millions of dollars worth of land was given to the town as right of way for road improvements. He noted the development was originally planned for 1,300 units, but the final product is only 400.
“There was a give and take,” he said.