With the potential of adding the ION International Training Center as a town-based business, the Town Council this week swiftly approved changes to its industrial district zoning regulations.
On Tuesday night, the council unanimously deleted a limitation that confines recreation uses to existing buildings in the I-1 district, and added auditoriums as a permitted use in the district. Under conditions adopted by the council, an auditorium with up to 5,500 seats would have to be located on lot of at least 10 acres and the space must be fully enclosed and soundproofed. A building approved for an auditorium use must be primarily used for spectator sports, sports tournaments, athletic training, and recreation. Allowable ancillary uses include public assembly, special events, food concessions, and retail sales. If minimum use standards can’t be met, an applicant would have to pursue a special exception with the Town Council.
The application was just before the Planning Commission last week, which also unanimously endorsed the changes. Although the town staff did not reveal the source of the “economic development opportunity” that triggered the proposed changes, ION representatives confirmed this week they were the ones behind it.
COO Mitra Setayesh confirmed Tuesday that the ice skating facility, planned to house auditorium seating for tournaments and special events, is looking to move within the town’s boundaries. The 100,000-square-foot facility broke ground for construction in November at the Peterson Companies’ Compass Creek development on a parcel located just outside the town’s boundaries. That was a bit of a letdown for Setayesh and husband Luiz Taifas, ION’s CEO, who from day one had identified Leesburg as the prime market to locate their facility.
“For us at the beginning it didn’t matter if we were inside or outside town, but the way [town staff] treated us … we came from nowhere, nobody knew us. But they took us so seriously,” Setayesh said.
Following the groundbreaking, Setayesh said Peterson Companies representatives from the offered to switch their site within the development to the sole parcel located within the town’s boundaries. But, to proceed to site plan, the Zoning Ordinance amendments needed to be approved by the council.
Some of the required parking for ION will fall on the Loudoun County side of the town boundary, but Setayesh said so far both the town and county staff have worked together “beautifully” to move the project toward site plan review. She said construction is expected to begin in earnest after the winter, with a targeted fall 2018 opening.