Leesburg Council Delays Decisions on 2 Developments

Two separate applications that seek to add more rooftops and retail to the town will await their fates at a future Leesburg Town Council meeting.

On Tuesday night, council members deferred decisions on a rezoning application and Town Plan amendment for a proposed townhouse project adjacent to Costco along Edwards Ferry Road, as well as a requested Town Plan amendment for the vacant parcel next to the Lowe’s Home Improvement Store.

The first application, River Creek Village by Kettler, proposes a 64-unit townhouse community between the Costco and Edwards Landing neighborhood. The almost 14-acre property is zoned for commercial development, but Kettler is seeking a change to a Planned Residential Neighborhood (PRN) designation. A Town Plan amendment to allow medium-density residential development on the parcel of land is also proposed.

There is a previously approved site plan on the land in question for B-3 commercial development, but Christine Gleckner, land use planner with Walsh Colucci who is representing the applicant, said Kettler is the contract purchaser on the property and seeks to develop residential. Mayor Kelly Burk said she wished that the commercial zoning, which could be a “job creator,” would not be swapped out for more rooftops. Councilman Ron Campbell, who abstained on the motion to defer, expressed his disappointment that affordable housing was not integrated into the proposal.

The council ultimately voted to defer a vote on the application upon suggestion of town planner Rich Klusek, who said an updated proffer conditions statement was warranted. This was after Gleckner noted that the applicant would erect a fence for aesthetic purposes to provide some separation between the homes and Costco. She also noted that noise studies conducted by the applicant showed that the noise generated by surrounding traffic as well as Costco do not rise to the level of needing mitigation.

Council members Josh Thiel and Tom Dunn voted against the motion to defer.

An application that seeks flexibility to allow for retail development on vacant land off Russell Branch Parkway and Battlefield Parkway will also make a return trip to the council in July. Council members deferred a decision on whether to allow a Town Plan amendment to allow retail use on land designated for regional office on a 10-acre vacant site adjacent to the Lowe’s Home Improvement Store.

The applicant, Peterson Companies, has also submitted special exception and rezoning applications for the site, which are currently under staff review. According to a staff report, the applications envision a site that contains a niche grocery store; a service station with convenience food sales and vehicle service facility; sit-down eating establishments; and additional retail and service uses.

The Town Council recently passed changes that require applicants seeking a Town Plan amendment to come forward for that review before a rezoning or special exception application is considered. Those changes were passed after the River Creek Village application was filed, and hence due not apply to that application.

Molly Novotony, senior urban planner for Cooley, LLP, representing the applicant, said the language in the Town Plan amendment was consistent with what was envisioned in the draft Eastern Gateway District plan, currently under commission review. However, the developer needs to move forward with its plans ahead of the Eastern Gateway District review due to contractual obligations.

The council decision to defer on the retail application was primarily driven by a desire to see the Eastern Gateway District plan and how it matches up before deciding on approval. The council is expected to get its first glimpse of that plan at its July 10 meeting.

“I’d like to see Eastern Gateway District plan so that I can feel good about saying let’s change it,” Vice Mayor Suzanne Fox said. “I just don’t feel like we have all the information to do so yet.”

While several council members, including Campbell, Thiel and Councilman Marty Martinez expressed support for the change, Burk said she was “disappointed” with the application and its choice to pursue retail, rather than office, development. She pointed to the plans for the Leegate development across from the site, the Marketplace at Potomac Station shopping center across Rt. 7, and the Village at Leesburg development as three nearby shopping centers that already provide a variety of retail offerings.

“How many shopping centers do we need,” she questioned. “We have the opportunity here to have office combined with retail but you have no intentions of doing that. You want complete retail. That’s not what I envision there … for the entrance to the Town of Leesburg.”

The motion to defer passed unanimously.

Both applications are expected to be back before the council in July.

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