Commission Defers Russell Branch Retail Application

An application to develop more retail space off a key Leesburg intersection will return to the town’s Planning Commission for a second visit.

Commissioners voted May 16 to defer a vote on concept plan changes and special exceptions for a retail development located off the intersection of Russell Branch Parkway and Battlefield Parkway, on vacant land in front of the Lowe’s Home Improvement Store.

As proposed, the applicant, Russell Branch LC, is asking for support for a concept plan and proffer amendment that would change the layout and eliminate use restrictions on the property, which would be developed under the current B-3 zoning. The applicant also is seeking special exceptions to allow the development of a 24-hour, eight-pump service station with a convenience store and self-service car wash; a 7,550-square-foot, 12-bay vehicle service facility; and a 6,000-square-foot car wash with an additional 5,000 square feet under a canopy area. The latter car wash would be similar in operation to Station Auto Wash on Catoctin Circle, Town Planner Rich Klusek noted.

Four other buildings will be developed under the existing zoning and do not require any special exceptions. Uses in these buildings can include restaurant, retail and other commercial uses, according to Molly Novotny, the Cooley LLP senior urban planner representing the applicant. One of those four buildings will be a grocery store anchor, with Aldi currently working on a lease for the site. Virginia Tire & Auto is also planned to open a location at the development.

Klusek commended the applicant on its diligent work with the staff, which is recommending approval of the application. He said the application “makes good use of a challenging site,” noting that one of its neighbors—the town’s wastewater treatment plant—does not make for the most attractive neighbor.

Commission Chairman Doris Kidder expressed her desire to have an additional meeting on the application, noting changes that had been made to some of the renderings presented at the meeting, as well as some lingering concerns about architectural elements of the development. Novotny noted that the application had just recently been before the Board of Architectural Review, which will still have to issue a Certificate of Appropriateness for the application prior to moving to site plan review. Commissioner David Faliskie also said he did not see a need for a deferral, and noted that some of the business community’s frustration with the town comes when it delay its path to approval with return meetings.

The application will return to the commission for its June 6 meeting, when a final recommendation is expected. It will then move on to the Town Council, which has final approval authority.

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