Tree of Life Ministries’ drive to build a micro-cottage community for low-income residents on the long-abandoned Weona Villa Motel property near Round Hill is looking bleaker by the day.
The Round Hill Town Council Thursday night decided to push back a vote that would have directed the Planning Commission to review and consider amending the town’s Comprehensive Plan to extend utility service to the 7-acre motel property, along with other land bays, by bringing them within the town’s Joint Land Management Area—an area outside the town limits that the town provides with water and sewer service.
The delay comes exactly four weeks after Tree of Life Ministries Executive Director Paul Smith asked the Town Council to consider extending municipal utility service to the motel property so that he could set up a 32 micro-cottage community to house low-income residents, specifically seniors. The council at that point told Smith that the town and county would need to update their Comprehensive Plans to include additional property in the JLMA to make that happen.
While Thursday’s Intent to Amend the Comprehensive Plan would have directed the Planning Commission to review the plan in regards to elderly, affordable and smaller-sized housing options within the JLMA, Vice Mayor Mary Anne Graham and Councilman Fred Lyne said the document was too vague.
Graham additionally said that the Planning Commission could take three years to make a recommendation on a Comprehensive Plan amendment without the proper guidance from the Town Council.
Mayor Scott Ramsey said that while there needs to be “another level of detail” in the Town Council’s direction for the Planning Commission, it’s not up to the council to outright draft the Comprehensive Plan amendment.
Councilwoman Amy Evers said she was concerned that the council might be rushing the process along too quickly. She said that just because Tree of Life has until June to prove to the motel property owner that a micro-cottage community would be feasible, doesn’t mean the town has to acquiesce.
“That shouldn’t be part of our consideration,” she said. “There is a clock ticking that is not our clock.”
Ramsey clarified that the nonprofit’s micro-cottage proposal was not the driving force behind the Town Council’s desire to direct the Planning Commission to review the Comprehensive Plan, but that it merely underscored a lack of language related to affordable housing in the JLMA in the plan. “I don’t want to think about this purely as a Tree of Life situation,” he said.
The Town Council directed staff to include additional details in the Intent to Amend to better guide the Planning Commission’s review. Town Administrator Melissa Hynes will present a new document to the council at its March 21 meeting.
The council at that point will also need to discuss the possibility of providing the Planning Commission with additional direction to review a separate housing development proposal.
Land developer John Clark told the Town Council Thursday night that he wants to build 20 1,000- to 2,800-square-foot homes on a 23-acre property at the corner of Yatton and Airmont Roads. Because the property is located in the county’s Agricultural Rural zoning district, which restricts residential development to one lot per 20 acres, Clark requested the council to consider bringing the property into the town limits within its Low Density Residential zoning district, which allows for homes to be built at a density of one unit per acre.
Clark said the houses would cost from $150,000 to $500,000 and would accommodate seniors and first-time homebuyers who can’t afford to live in Loudoun County. He said the houses would be built with energy-efficient materials and appliances to make them more affordable for prospective buyers.
“People will be able to live and reside where they work—that’s our intention,” he said.
Clark said that if the town decides to annex the property, he would work with staff and council members to develop the housing community in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan.
Ramsey said that if the council votes to refer a Comprehensive Plan review to the Planning Commission this month, it could take the commission up to 90 days to bring a recommendation back to the council.
Even if the Town Council could vote to approve a Comprehensive Plan amendment before June, Tree of Life’s attempt to be included in the town’s JLMA seems distant at this point, since the county won’t include language of a JLMA boundary adjustment in its Loudoun 2040 General Plan.
Alaina Ray, the county’s director of planning and zoning, said that because the town’s October 2018 request to change the JLMA boundary to align with its current utility service area did not include the area where the Weona Villa Motel property is located, the county’s Planning Commission did not include the property in the town’s JLMA boundary in Loudoun 2040.
Smith said that his nonprofit is respectful of the process that the town is following and that he understands proper procedures must be followed.
“We will continue in our efforts to work with both the town and the county as this procedure unfolds,” he said.