Strong neighborhood opposition to the project did not deter the Leesburg Town Council on Tuesday from approving construction of a memory care assisted living facility on Morven Park Road.
The council voted 4-2-1, with Councilman Tom Dunn absent, to approve HHHunt’s Leesburg Cottages. The 5.52-acre site is zoned for residential development, but a special exception was needed to allow an assisted living facility on the land. The project will consist of three buildings, with two 14,150-square-foot structures with 24 beds for residents and a 1,600-square-foot office. Sixty-eight parking spaces will be included onsite.
While neighbors and council members agreed on the need for services to care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia, in Leesburg, the debate boiled down to location.
“At the end of the day these are commercial buildings buried in a residential neighborhood,” Ayr Street resident Dave Donald said.
Many Morven Park Road residents turned out to Tuesday’s council meeting, largely opposed to the project. They pointed to nearby Heritage Hall nursing home and Inova Loudoun’s Cornwall campus, both of which already produce significant amounts of 24/7 noise and traffic impacting their neighborhood. Allowing a commercial use next door to homes is less than ideal and could impact property values, some said.
“We feel the vibrancy of our community is worth preserving,” Morven Park Road resident Nancy Morgan said. “None of us feel this is the right place.”
The R-4 zoning on the property would allow for the by-right development of about 14 single-family homes, Scott Parker, town senior planning project manager, said. At least some of the neighbors voiced a preference for more houses over the memory care facility, despite studies that reflect the new homes would generate more traffic than the Leesburg Cottages project. The project also maintains 60 percent of the site as open space, something which would not occur with by-right development, HHHunt’s representative Packie Crown noted.
“[That’s] a phenomenal number,” Mayor Kelly Burk said.
Burk pointed to the Crescent Parke development, currently under construction, to underscore her point.
“Go look at the site behind the Food Lion and see what they’ve done. There isn’t a tree to be left. This is an opportunity to preserve and keep trees that will be the buffer you’re looking for. To me to put 14 homes there would be horrible for you all,” she said in addressing residents at the meeting.
David and Renee Pillor were two neighbors to speak up in support of the project. They noted their home shares a boundary with the Leesburg Cottages property and the commercial use would be less impactful than adding more than a dozen homes to the street. The two also pointed out that locating a memory care facility in Leesburg could save many families from having to travel far to visit loved ones.
“On many levels this is an improvement,” Renee Pillor said.
Councilmen Josh Thiel and Ron Campbell were the two dissenting votes on the application. Both cited the incompatible location of the facility and resident opposition to it.
“I do strongly believe this is something the town needs a facility for but the question is: Is the location correct? The problem I’m having is we’re turning a residential neighborhood into a commercial/residential facility,” Thiel said.