County supervisors have signed off on plans to operate a kennel and animal hospital on the Graydon Manor property just west of Leesburg.
The property’s owners plan to care for up to 150 dogs and 60 cats. The kennel would have a 30,000-square-foot indoor space and a 32,000-square-foot outdoor exercise area. The applicant has committed to noise mitigation on the building, maintaining the trees along the roadside, only using the outdoor kennel from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and to locating the outdoor kennel back from the road.
The proposal faced opposition from residents in the Foxridge neighborhood on the east side of the Leesburg Bypass, who worried about the noise from the outdoor kennel.
But supervisors in favor of the application have argued any noise from the dogs would be less than that of traffic on Rt. 7, and that there are other, noisier things the property owner could put on that spot without any special approvals.
The kennel operation will use less than an acre of the 131-acre property.
“As I’ve reminded some the residents at our last meeting, there are a whole lot of more intensive uses that can be applied to this property,” said Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin).
Some supervisors attempted a last-minute revision to the application’s conditions of approval to require the county zoning enforcement staff to measure the noise from the property every six months for two years. Typically, noise metering and enforcement of zoning ordinances is done only when a specific complaint is made.
“I think it’s pretty clear this is going to make life in the neighboring communities worse than it is now, because there will be noticeable emission of noise,” said Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg), who lives in Foxridge. “And rather than the traffic in the bypass masking it, this will just be added onto the traffic noise, so I would like to see us do what we can to ensure that that disruption to people’s lives is as minimal as possible.” She was joined by Supervisors Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) and Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling).
However a majority of supervisors voted that down.
“My concern here is that we are setting a precedent, or we could be setting a precedent … that even after you open, even if there are no complaints, we are still going to spend our time and resources to send zoning out to check on you four times over the course of two years,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge). “That’s a precedent that I don’t want to set.”
And board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) pointed out it may be difficult or impossible for the zoning enforcement staff to distinguish between the noise of Rt. 7 from the noise of the kennel with their noise metering equipment. County planners confirmed the do not have the capability to do that.
Buona and Higgins also publicly rebuked Meyer for reaching out to the applicant and trying to negotiate conditions for approval without notifying the district supervisor. The property sits in Higgins’ Catoctin District, bordering Umstattd’s Leesburg District across the bypass.
“It is OK when applicants contact you to go talk to applicant—we all do that,” Buona said. “It’s not OK if you contact the applicant in somebody else’s district, and you go without the knowledge of the supervisor, and that supervisor finds out the day of the board meeting.”
“I will not do that to you,” Higgins said. “If I was talking to an applicant about something in your district, you would know about it, and you would know what my concerns were, and you would know about it ahead of time.”
Meyer said he contacted the applicant because he had heard “very reasonable asks” regarding the application. He said that it was not appropriate to be lectured by other supervisors.
Umstattd agreed. “I don’t have an objection if another supervisor wants to come in and defend my constituents, as he has done a wonderful job of doing.”
Starting in 1957, Graydon Manor property was the home of a children’s psychiatric hospital and treatment center. It closed in 2016 and was sold to Graydon Manor LLC for $5.5 million, county records show.