A developer proposing to build a mixed-use community on Lovettsville’s largest remaining tract of vacant land was again hit with resident’s objections last week.
About 40 residents filed into the Lovettsville Game Club last Thursday night to hear from the Metropolitan Development Group about its updated proposal to build 130 homes and 29,000 square feet of commercial space on the 35-acre Engle Tract. The developer’s second community input meeting yielded questions and concerns over the proposed development’s effects on town traffic, school overcrowding and the potential harm to Lovettsville’s small-town feel that residents have fought to retain for years.
Earlier this year, Metropolitan informed residents of its proposal.In August, it amended the initial plans to include one additional home and a different site plan that includes more green space buffering the area between its development and the New Town Meadows neighborhood.
In its drive to move forward with that project, Metropolitan on Aug. 6 submitted the town with a request for it to consider amending its comprehensive plan to prepare for the addition of a Traditional Neighborhood Development zoning district that would allow for a blend of commercial and residential development. Metropolitan would only be able to move forward with those plans if the Town Council approves a comprehensive plan amendment and a rezoning of the property from commercial/light industrial to the proposed new district.
In its request, Metropolitan has proposed that the town increase its plans for anticipated number of homes to be built in town between mid-2016 and mid-2026 from 173 to 303 and increase its anticipated population by mid-2026 from 539 to 945, considering it would plan for homes to be built at 2,400-2,700 square feet in size to house families of somewhere around three people.
It’s those potential extra 406 residents and the traffic they would bring that raised concerns among some at the community meeting.
But according to a July traffic impact study completed by Wells + Associates, the proposed development might generate 3,575 new daily vehicle trips less than what’s estimated in the town’s concept development plan for the property—which envisions 440,000 square feet of restaurant, retail, drug store, office and light industrial space.
The study also mentioned thatdevelopment of the site under the town’s concept plan “would result in increased delay and degradation of levels of service” at a few intersections in town, reducing the level of service rating to an “E” or “F” during morning and afternoon peak hours.
Residents were also concerned about the numbers Metropolitan presented in relation to the estimated number of students its proposed development might bring.
Metropolitan Director of Development Jack Reutemann presented those estimates, noting that the new students would be within Loudoun County Public Schools’ available capacity. Metropolitan’s estimates, however, were spread evenly across Lovettsville Elementary, Harmony Middle and Woodgrove High School, at 47 new students added to each. Reutemann noted that the estimated 141 new students wouldn’t come in all at once, but over the course of a few years as the development is built.
When a resident pointed out that the even 47 students per school estimate wasn’t realistic because there would most likely be an uneven spread of students across all three age groups, Ben Leigh, an attorney representing the Metropolitan Development Group, said that it would be “fair for us to go back and look at it.”
Another resident asked whether Metropolitan had taken into account that there would be residential growth outside the town that would also add new students to the three schools each year. Reutemann said the county school system could solve that by changing its school attendance boundaries to move students to different schools if they start to overcrowd.
Former Planning Commission ChairmanFrank McDonough reasserted his stance from the first community meeting in May, noting that he didn’t remember any residents asking the Planning Commission during its comprehensive plan review a few years ago to consider planning for the Engle Tract to be a place for “a bunch of new houses.”
“The town decided what they wanted the future to look like and it didn’t include that,” he said. “You’re trying to tell us that we were wrong in our own judgment of what we wanted our town to look like.”
Another resident said that Metropolitan’s perspective on what the town should plan for was “totally based on money.” “You’re telling the town what they should decide,” he said.
Leigh countered those arguments by saying that “plans are not static” and that Virginia law requires towns to review their comprehensive plans every five years. “I think that the town does need to think about some industrial capacity,” he said.
But it was Shirley Hale, the owner of the property, who settled the meeting down a bit by saying that the proposed plans aren’t solely about money, but about having managed development in the town.