It looks to be an uphill battle for the developer behind the Westpark Golf Club project.
Representatives of Lennar Homes were before the Leesburg Planning Commission March 7 for the first step in the legislative review process, hoping to win commissioners’ stamp of approval on a Town Plan amendment required before for a rezoning application they submitted can advance. They didn’t get what they hoped for, though, with the commission unanimously recommending denial of the amendment.
The proposed Town Plan amendment would convert just under 14 acres designated for community office development and open space to allow for medium-density residential development. Also proposed is an amendment to convert 4.39 acres from community office designation to open space.
It was a standing-room-only environment in Council Chambers on Thursday night as dozens of residents turned out, many with homes bordering the golf course. While opinions were split on whether the 96 townhomes proposed in the rezoning were the right fit for the property, they were united in a desire to see the golf course land preserved either as a golf course or as open space. As part of Lennar’s proposal in the rezoning, 125 acres that encompass much of the golf course land would be given to the town.
It was the proposal of the gift of land—although not part of the consideration for the Town Plan amendment—that made the proposed development easier to swallow for many.
“If that’s the price to save the rest of the golf course that’s great,” Chancellor Street resident Mike Sierra said. “As long as [the land] is empty and open something is going to go there.”
Paul Boyer, a Woodlea Manor resident and also an employee of the golf club, presented the commission with a petition with 270 signatures of residents who wanted to see the golf course saved. He said he supported the townhouse development and gift of land if the town continued to operate the property as a golf course.
Chris Reynolds, the listing agent for the property, noted that the preservation of the golf course land pleased the family that owns the golf club greatly and called it a “rare opportunity” to preserve such a large amount of open space.
Some of those who spoke during the lengthy public hearing questioned whether there were more compatible uses for the land that should be pursued, such as commercial development. Reynolds said the town would be looking at high-density office development, like a six- or eight-story building, to make that type of development financially feasible there. A portion of the property is zoned exclusively for a hotel, but Reynolds noted during the months the property was listed for sale no potential buyers looked at developing a hotel there. However, John Schneider, who identified himself as a developer from Ashburn, said he believed a hotel would be a viable option on the property.
With its recommendation of denial, the proposed Town Plan amendment now goes on to the Town Council for its final verdict. The Town Plan amendment would need to be approved by the council before it could consider the rezoning application, which town planner Rich Klusek said is under review by town staff.