County supervisors unanimously voted down a controversial application to expand soccer field operations on a roughly 4.5-acre parcel on Briarfield Lane off Evergreen Mills Road.
The project has garnered both strong support and strong opposition among Loudouners in the area. Those in favor of the project point to the need for more field space in the county.
Kevin McQuire pointed to a much larger project to bring the D.C. United professional soccer team’s headquarters, a second-division professional teams, a stadium and four fields to Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park south of Leesburg.
“D.C. United has a really strong program, and that’ll really help the boys of our county develop from a soccer standpoint,” McQuire said “Now, in terms of the girls, D.C. United doesn’t serve the girls.”
He said field space at Virginia Fusion Park would be “a really good opportunity,” especially for young female soccer players.
“It sounds counterintuitive, but having at private park helps drive costs down for families, because there’s more fields, more access,” McQuire said.
The project’s proponents included School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles), who also talked about the need for more field space, particularly for girls and women. Morse said he spoke not for the School Board but as a parent.
“But I have a more selfish motive,” Morse said. “I don’t want my daughter driving all the way up Evergreen Mills Road to the other fields in the middle of the night as a 16-year-old driver.”
But the project faced vocal opposition from residents in the nearby Briarfield Estates neighborhood, who came to the Board of Supervisors’ Feb. 22 meeting in droves to ask supervisors to vote it down. The only entrance to the park would have been on Briarfield Lane, a two-lane road that is the only non-emergency access to their neighborhood.
“You have to ask yourself whether the potential benefits of this park outweigh the safety concerns being raised here tonight, and also is in the best interest of the people living in Loudoun county,” said Joe Hidler, who lives in that neighborhood. “And as a resident of Loudoun County, I do not believe that these benefits outweigh the safety risk.”
During the application’s path through the county government to the Board of Supervisors, county planners and the public raised concerns about lighting on the field, parking, and other issues that Department of Planning and Zoning Project Manager Steve Barney told the Planning Commission “appear to be the result of the applicant perhaps trying to do too much on a small site.”
The applicant also appears to have been operating a commercial soccer field there without required permits from the county.
“The community, their number one concern about this, as was stated tonight, is safety—safety on the only entrance and exit from their community.” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge). His district encompasses the soccer fields and nearby neighborhood, and he made the motion to deny the application.
“I am very sympathetic to the arguments about the field deficit and about the need for soccer facilities, as well as the fact that you have somebody who’s trying to run a business that would be beneficial to the community,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “On the other hand, though, sometimes some land use applications are just sort of a square peg in a round hole.”
The property is zoned CR-1 (Countryside Residential), which allows 1-acre home sites. The owner also can legally use it for several things without a zoning change from the county, including agricultural uses, a bed and breakfast, a bus shelter, commuter parking, or sewer pumping station, among others.