Round Hill Residents Oppose Utility Expansion, Rural Development

Nearly 30 residents crammed into the Round Hill Town Office on Thursday night to voice their opinions on a proposal crafted by the Planning Commission that would permit the town to extend its municipal utility service to three additional properties outside the town limits—a 20-acre property along Airmont Road, the abandoned 7-acre Weona Villa Motel property and a 12-acre property across East Loudoun Street from the motel.

Of the 18 area residents who spoke during the public hearing, a majority opposed the change and the potential for increased development. Only a handful spoke in favor of it, citing a need to provide housing geared toward the less fortunate.

On Feb. 7, Tree of Life Ministries Executive Director Paul Smith proposed to build a 32-micro-cottage community for low-income residents, specifically seniors, on the Weona Villa motel property. A month later, developer John Clark proposed to build 20 energy-efficient homes for seniors and first-time homebuyers on his 20-acre property along Airmont Road.

Those proposals prompted the Town Council on March 28 to direct the Planning Commission to review and consider amending the comprehensive plan to possibly make way for extending utility service to those properties. Five months later, the commission finalized a draft plan amendment and recommended sending it to a joint public hearing with the Town Council.

That draft includes new language to support the development of town-, county- or state-owned community recreation centers; housing for area workforce, seniors, infirmed or disabled residents; and nursing homes, residential care or assisted living centers on the three properties.

Many residents were put off by the amendment, and, even more so, the development proposals. During the Feb. 21 Town Council meeting, they spoke out against Smith’s proposed development and continued their opposition Thursday night.

Area resident Andy Rider told the council and commission that he hoped the town hadn’t already made promises to developers before the comprehensive plan amendment has even been approved. “I hope this isn’t a sham,” he said, noting that building at a density of 3-5 homes per acre in rural Loudoun would be “preposterous.”

He asked the Town Council to think the proposed amendment through methodically and not exploit the area’s “precious resources” for Smith’s or Clark’s benefit. “Let us not make their lives enriched, let us enrich our own lives,” he said.

Area resident Jeremy Kendall said he “ran away from Purcellville” after more than 22 years when a developer started building 180 homes on the property behind him and that he now finds himself in a similar situation in Round Hill with the Airmont Road property.

Lakepoint Village resident Bob Kemnerechoed Kendall, noting that he moved to Round Hill last year from Leesburg because the town was getting too large for his liking. He said the Weona Villa property is home to bear and deer and that developers “shouldn’t tear it up.”

“I moved out here for a reason,” he said.

Another resident pointed out that while the Town Council and town staff have emphasized that the comprehensive plan amendment would merely give the town the ability to supply new properties with utility service, and that no developer has submitted an application for development yet, there’s no other reason for the town to consider a plan amendment other than to prepare the land for development. “If we’re making an amendment to the plan, I’m not sure how comprehensive it is,” he said.

Among those speaking in favor of the amendment were Smith and Tree of Life’s chief operations officer. Smith thanked the town for its efforts to achieve unmet housing needs in the area. He said his development plans call for affordable cottages that foster relationships, are community centric, are designed to complement the surrounding landscape and are built with sustainable materials.

According to the Town Council’s intent to amend document that it forwarded to the Planning Commission, the Housing & Community Development Chapter of the town’s comprehensive planestablishes an objective to permit cluster subdivisions in the Greater Round Hill Area “to encourage the development of smaller homes on smaller lots as alternative housing choices for multiple population groups.” The cluster subdivision option “is a good example of what affordable housing or workforce housing could look like in Round Hill,” the comprehensive plan reads.

Town Administrator Melissa Hynes said the town wants to encourage development that emphasizes quality over quantity and is built thoughtfully and carefully. She said the town doesn’t need more single-family homes that are 4,000 square feet in size or larger. “We want a new home to look like it’s always belonged here,” she said.

According to the draft amendment, five conditions would apply to development on the three properties being considered—it would have to align with the town’s comprehensive plan; not impact the integrity or authenticity of the town’s historic character and match, to some extent, buildings in the town’s Historic District; not include townhomes; and minimally disturb surrounding properties. The final condition would be up to the town to determine whether it has sufficient water and sewer capacity to serve any proposed developments.

If the Town Council signs off on the comprehensive plan amendment, the town could then serve them with water and sewer, which also would provide additional revenue in the forms of one-time tap fees and ongoing water and sewer fees.

The Planning Commission did not take further action on the draft comprehensive plan amendment Thursday night, but it could recommend it to the Town Council for review and a vote at its November meeting.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

About 30 Round Hill area residents attended an Oct. 10 public hearing to learn about, and voice their opinions on, a proposed comprehensive plan amendment that, if approved, would allow the town to supply three properties outside the town limits with utility service. [Patrick Szabo/Loudoun Now]

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