The Loudoun County Planning Commission has recommended the county cut the Town of Leesburg out of planning traffic management around a future soccer stadium at Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park on Leesburg’s southern border until the town opens Kincaid Boulevard nearby.
Commissioners voted 5-4 to recommend editing a proffer agreement that would require a traffic management plan for events around the future Loudoun United stadium and gives the town an opportunity to review and comment on a proposed traffic management plan. Some commissioners argued the town has helped create the traffic problem by refusing to open Kincaid Boulevard. Commission Chairman Cliff Keirce (Broad Run) said he questioned the “productivity” of working with the town.
“If the town wants to be part of the whole traffic management plan, the single thing that could have the greatest benefit to solving the traffic problem, they have steadfastly done nothing about,” Keirce said.
The county’s plans to put a second-division professional soccer team and the D.C. United headquarters at Bolen Park has met opposition from residents of neighboring Kincaid Forest. They are concerned the project will drive stadium traffic onto Kincaid Boulevard, which bisects their neighborhood.
The Leesburg Town Council has resisted opening Kincaid Boulevard, which ends at a barricade, to connect to an unfinished Crosstrail Boulevard. Creating the link would provide a route from Bolen Park to Battlefield Parkway, and possibly lead traffic through that neighborhood; however, once Crosstrail Boulevard is complete that traffic could flow to Rt. 7. Currently, the only other access to the park is on Sycolin Road or a winding route from Cochran Mill Road.
County planners have accelerated construction plans for the Crosstrail extension, but it is still not expected to be ready by the time the stadium opens in early 2019.
Commissioner Jeff Salmon (Dulles) recommended sending the agreement with D.C. United to the Board of Supervisors recommending approval, but moved to take Leesburg out of the traffic management plan.
“Frankly, being involved in the traffic management plan when you’re a hindrance to traffic management at all seems like a useless activity,” Salmon said. He said the Town of Leesburg is being unreasonable: “It’s designed for the region, it’s not designed for the Town of Leesburg to hold the rest of the county hostage for a road that can be used to alleviate traffic and provide additional safety for people.”
Commissioner Jim Sisley (At Large), a Leesburg resident and business owner, said “for this commission or the Board of Supervisors to ignore the input of the largest jurisdiction in the county is a bad move.”
“I don’t think it’s in the county’s interest to bully an independent jurisdiction,” Sisley said. “There’s been a problem between the county and the town since they were born, and it has to do with size and will, and believe that it is in the best interest of the county to respect the town and find a way to work with them.”
And Deputy County Attorney Courtney Sydnor pointed out that with the traffic lights in that area owned by the town of Leesburg, the county will probably be unable to make any traffic improvements without the town’s agreement.
“I think as a practical matter, we couldn’t make signal timing changes in Leesburg without them agreeing to it,” Sydnor said. She said under Salmon’s proposal, the county and team would not need the town’s approval to make changes, “but as a practical matter I don’t see how we could do it without their approval.”
Commissioner narrowly approved Salmon’s proposal, 5-4. Commissioner Sisley, Tom Priscilla (Blue Ridge), Ad Barnes (Leesburg), and Eugene Scheel (Catoctin) voted against.
Keirce also recommended a variety of other traffic measures in the area, such as limiting the size of special events at the stadium to its seating capacity until Kincade or Crosstrail is open, and that supervisors should consider moving up funding to widen Sycolin Road to four lanes. He also suggested that when Crosstrail is eventually widened to six lanes, pedestrian crossing should be by other means than a crosswalk—such as a pedestrian bridge or tunnel. Commissioner supported those recommendations unanimously.
Some commissioners also expressed confusion or resignation about the deal county leaders cut with D.C. United in secret before unveiling it to the public with an accelerated planning and zoning process. They have previously expressed concern that they were asked to approve zoning and comprehensive plan changes without all the information they often demand to make those decisions.
“I have full faith in the Board of Supervisors that they have made a decision for some reasons, that I haven’t the slightest idea why they made it, but they made it,” Catoctin commissioner Scheel said. “… A lease has been signed, they’re going to be playing soccer sometime in 2019 in a stadium that hasn’t been built. I think we the planning commission and the planning staff have added a great deal to make this application better than it would be had they completely bypassed us.”
And Commissioner Ad Barnes (Leesburg) commented that there seems to be no stopping the application.
When the application first came to the Planning Commission, it was double-advertised—a way to accelerate the approval process, advertising a public hearing at the Board of Supervisors before the Planning Commission has made a decision. That would allow the county to bring the application to the Board of Supervisors within days of a Planning Commission vote and still meet legal requirements for advance notice of public hearings.
It’s not an uncommon tactic for uncontroversial applications, but the Planning Commission did not approve the rezoning and comprehensive plan applications at its first meeting with them.
The zoning and planning changes now go back to the Board of Supervisors, most of whom have expressed a commitment to making the deal with D.C. United happen and bring Loudoun United to Bolen Park.