One of the last vestiges of rural living in Leesburg is proposed for development and it’s left Leesburg leaders scrambling for ways to protect what they believe are historic structures.
Over the summer, plans by Stanley Martin Homes to acquire the 63-acre Rogers Farm property and develop it into a single-family home development spurred a strong reaction from both Leesburg Town Council members and area residents. The property, across Dry Mill Road from Loudoun County High School, is the largest undeveloped tract inside the Leesburg Bypass. It has long operated as a horse farm. The owner, Samuel H. Rogers, died in 2015, and the property is under contract from the family’s estate.
A preliminary subdivision plat under review by the town staff proposes 162 single-family homes in a cluster option under R-4 zoning, or four units per acre. As presented, it is a by-right application that would not require review by the Town Council.
In June, the town’s Board of Architectural Review called a special meeting where it adopted an updated list of properties worthy of inclusion in the town’s H-1 Overlay Old & Historic District. Including properties in the historic district would require an extra layer of review for the demolition, or changes to, any structures deemed to be contributing historic resources. It could also impact the layout of any proposed development on the property, as the current development plans show new single-family homes impeding on some of these structures.
Three parcels on the Rogers Farm property were among them, including the main house at 440 Dry Mill Road, the stone building on 114 Davis Avenue, and the white frame house at 118 Davis Avenue. In all, the BAR specifically pointed out six contributing resources on the Rogers Farm property, including the main stone house, the 1950 one-story addition, the main house separate garage building, the pool house, the main barn and stables, and other landscape features dated 1937 to 1950.
To include the property in the H-1 would require Town Council adoption of the BAR’s recommendation. Then, if the council does adopt the recommendation, any demolition of historic structures on the property would require a Certificate of Appropriateness from the BAR. Otherwise, Stanley Martin would be able to remove the structures as needed for the development.
Initially, the Town Council was expected to consider initiation of a zoning map change for the property during its meeting Tuesday night. However, a technicality will have it instead return to the BAR. Brian Boucher, deputy director of the Planning and Zoning Department, said one of the tax map numbers in the BAR’s recommendation was incorrect. Town Attorney Barbara Notar recommended that the council send the matter back to the BAR for a corrected recommendation before deciding how to proceed.
“In zoning, procedure is paramount,” she said.
While the council awaits next steps, it appears its desire to protect some of the property may be against the Rogers family’s wishes. In a letter sent to the Town Council in June, Lyn Rainbow, Sam Rogers and Susan Parks—children of the late Samuel Rogers—requested the council allow the family to proceed with the sale.
The three said that, while they grew up on the property and “cherish it dearly,” none are in the position to buy out the other two heirs, nor do they wish to live there. They said over the years as they pondered the farm property’s future, their father counseled them to sell it. They said they were taken aback that the future of the property was the subject of both Town Council and BAR discussions in May and June, without the family’s involvement.
“After the May 14thTown Council work session, the Town Attorney made inquiries as to whether the family had any interest in preserving the homes, barns and any other buildings on the property. We never felt these buildings had any historical or architectural significance because, frankly, our parents had not continued to keep them up in expectation of eventual development,” the letter reads.
The siblings note that keeping horses on the property has also become problematic from a safety standpoint with all the development that has sprung up around the farm. Many of the mature trees on the property are dying, they add. Therefore, they said they “reluctantly” made the decision to sell it.
“While the family appreciates the Town’s interest in this property, please do not think that placing historic overlay district zoning on the buildings is being done in the interest of our family,” the letter ends.