It was a somewhat reluctant Leesburg Town Council that gave the green light Tuesday to construction of a new townhouse community behind the Leesburg Plaza shopping center.
By a 4-2 vote, applicant Andre Inc. received approval for the rezoning of just more than eight acres to Planned Residential Neighborhood to allow for the construction of 59 townhouses, called the Brickyard. Twenty of those units are designated as “live/work” unit and will include ground floor office space. The property is behind the Leesburg Plaza Shopping Center and in the rear of the Leesburg Police Department and the Fields apartments, between Plaza Street and Catoctin Circle.
While part of the property lies within the town’s Crescent Design District, the application was accepted for review by the town before those policies were adopted, meaning it is exempt from those regulations. Prior to that, the area was targeted for commercial development. In 2004, the town approved a preliminary site plan that envisioned construction of almost 100,000 square feet of development including a restaurant, bank, and offices. But that site plan has expired.
The application was accepted for review prior to the enactment of new proffer limitations imposed by the General Assembly, and the developer has offered to contribute $15,619 per unit to the School Board for construction; $2,205 per unit to the town for off-site transportation improvements; $120 per unit to support fire/rescue operations; as well as a central green and open play area.
Council members on either side of the vote agreed that the attractive design of the community, plus its inclusion of a commercial component in the ground floor office space, would be a better fit for the area than what could be developed by right. But concerns were raised about the “process” the application followed, as it left the Planning Commission—which recommended approval of the application although some outstanding issues, including land acquisition that has yet to be resolved, remained at that time.
“I like the concept of this project as opposed to what we would have by right; I like the transition from commercial to residential,” Vice Mayor Suzanne Fox said. “I am very concerned about some of the unresolved issues that we would be delegating to staff. I think they’re big ones.”
But both town staff members and Christine Gleckner of Walsh Colucci, the land use planner representing the applicant, assured the council that the outstanding issues would be resolved prior to the development’s site plan approval, the final step before construction. They pointed out it was not uncommon for an application to leave the Planning Commission with some details yet to be worked out.
“We’re not voting on the process,” Councilman Tom Dunn said. “We’re voting on ‘does the application meet the town’s plans and goals’.”
Mayor Kelly Burk and Fox were the lone dissenters on the application.