In the midst of resident uproar over a developer’s tentative plans to build a 129-home subdivision with thousands of square feet of commercial space in Lovettsville, the trustees of another large tract are working to preserve their open space for years to come.
The Planning Commission last week voted 4-0-2-1 to recommend a comprehensive plan amendment to the Town Council that would change the planned land use designation of the 5.5-acre Lovettsville Game Protective Association property from low-density residential to general commercial and open space. Planning Commissioners Stacey Evans and Greg Ratner abstained from the vote and Adam Baumgardner was absent.
Town Planner Josh Bateman said the commission’s recommendation comes now because the town’s 2011 Comprehensive Plan “probably over-planned for residential” and didn’t touch on the Game Club property at all.
Bateman said town leaders at that time felt a need to plan for increased residential growth to attract more commercial uses in town, which ultimately led to a change in the Game Club property’s land use designation from commercial to residential. It’s also zoned for residential use.
Bateman said the recommendation is also a result of the Planning Commission’s job—to plan for the town’s future.
“Planning is iterative and it’s active and it’s living,” he said. “Our comprehensive plan doesn’t sit on a shelf—we constantly review our plan.”
The Planning Commission is recommending that the Town Council approve a comprehensive plan amendment to plan for the property as “general commercial” where the 8,000-square-foot event hall sits and as “open space” where the little league baseball field is located.
It will continue to be zoned residentially until the Game Club applies for a rezoning to commercial.
Bateman said that if the council approves the recommendation, the new planning designation will save the Game Club $2,500 in fees associated with applying for a comprehensive plan amendment—if it ever wanted to do so.
He said that plans for the property are up to club members, but that the events they’re holding to raise money, like the carnival that wrapped up last weekend after nine days of operation, are becoming more “commercial-like.”
Game Club President Fred George said the designation change, if the Town Council votes to approve it, isn’t a big deal for the club because its members have no plans to develop the property commercially or residentially. Instead, they plan to continue using the land for civic events like dances, carnivals, baseball and softball games, and other outdoor recreation and private event uses.
Club members also tout the wildlife sanctuary along the rear property line that is home to deer and wild turkey, among other animals.
“We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Game Club trustee Chuck Wyant. “We have no plans to go anywhere.”
George said that rumors of the club bringing in a developer to build 25 homes on the property are unfounded.
In fact, the only major project the club has planned is a renovation to the façade, including the installation of handicap-accessible bathrooms and upgrade the front entrance’s handicap ramp.
George and Wyant said the club needs the renovation because the façade isn’t attractive to passersby who might be looking for a location to host a private event.
Bateman said the town would allow those renovations to be made without a site plan as long as they’re kept below 750 square feet.
The next step in the comprehensive plan amendment process will be for the Town Council to hold a public hearing on the Planning Commission’s recommendation. Bateman said that could happen as early as June 13.
The Lovettsville Game Protective Association was organized in 1947 to teach residents about wildlife and to provide the community with sports and recreation activities. It was incorporated in 1954, when it purchased the property to build its event hall, which George and Wyant said is home to Virginia’s largest hardwood dance floor.
Today, the Game Club operates events all year round, including a Christkindlmarkt in December, an Oktoberfest on the same weekend as the town’s celebration, the American Ferret Association’s winter competition, an annual carnival, and dozens of other private events like wedding receptions and meetings. “We’re a real benefit to the community,” George said.
The commission’s recommendation comes on the tails of a few other comprehensive plan reviews in western Loudoun. Conversely, those reviews either looked, or are looking, at amending the towns’ plans to prepare for increased residential development.
In Middleburg, the Town Council April 25 voted to not adopt a comprehensive plan amendment that would have added independent living senior housing as an allowable use in the town’s Agricultural Conservancy zoning district and given real estate developer Dan Orlich the ability to apply for a special exception permit to build a 100-unit independent living center on 15 acres of undeveloped land.
The Round Hill Planning Commission also is amending the town’s 2017-2037 Comprehensive Plan to possibly plan for an extension of utility service to two properties outside the town limits, which could give Tree of Life Ministries the ability to build a 32-micro-cottage community and developer John Clark the ability to build a 20-home energy-efficient housing community.
And in Lovettsville, the Metropolitan Development Group could soon apply for a comprehensive plan amendment to prepare for a rezoning from light industrial to mixed-use on the 35-acre Engle Tract to build 129 single-family homes and 29,000 square feet of retail space.