Leesburg Council Rejects South King St. Commercial Center

The Leesburg Town Council on Tuesday night followed the sentiments of Greenway Farms residents in opposing plans for a new retail and office development along South King Street. 

Efforts to develop the property near the intersection of South King Street and Greenway Drive, have been navigating the legislative process over the past dozen years. In 2008, two adjacent property owners joined forces to file a concept plan and proffer amendment application that increased the allowable commercial density on both properties and updated a previous 1990 approval when the property was rezoned to B-1 (Business) that added to the H-1 historic district, applying architectural oversight to the property.

A new application filed with town staff in 2017 sought to sever the two properties and establish a commercial center on the four-acre Allman property. The development envisioned a 10,300-square-foot CVS Pharmacy with drive-through, and a separate 22,500-square-foot, two-story commercial building with office and retail uses, along with a fast food restaurant. 

The Planning Commission recommended denial of the application in April 2019. Commissioners cited the strong opposition to the project, with 48 emails from expressing disapproval, and none submitted in favor. 

The project proved to be no more popular when it came to the Town Council this week, despite some tweaks made by the applicant to the project’s design and other non-use-related changes. 

“We feel like we have tried to hear the concerns about architecture, about viewsheds by increasing landscaping. We’re happy to continue working with the council and the community to try to improve this project to a place where everyone can be happy with it. That’s been our goal all along,” said Matt Leslie, land use coordinator for Walsh Colucci, which was representing the applicant, 

However, he said much of the feedback indicated residents did not want the site to be developed at all. 

An architectural rendering of the proposed office/retail center on the 4-acre Allman property along South King Street near Greenway Farm.

He emphasized that the plan for the CVS Pharmacy was “the driving force behind the application.” He also suggested that having a pharmacy within walking distance could be a bit more attractive now that residents are navigating a global pandemic and times of quarantine.

Although many council members applauded the project’s attractive architecture, they too were not swayed. 

“Residents aren’t saying we don’t want this because of the architecture. They’re just saying we don’t want this,” Councilman Tom Dunn said. 

Both residents who spoke during Tuesday’s public hearing and members of the council also pointed out the more than dozen other pharmacies within town limits and questioned whether there was a need for another.

“To me this is not about the architecture, which is absolutely beautiful. It is about the use ultimately,” Councilwoman Suzanne Fox said. “This is more of the same that we have, and some of our businesses are struggling right now.”

“I agree that the architecture is a huge improvement, but it’s still a strip mall,” Mayor Kelly Burk said. “And it’s got a long ways to go to incorporate into the historic aspect and into the community.”

The council voted 5-0-1 to deny the application, with Vice Mayor Marty Martinez abstaining. Martinez said he would have preferred for the application to go back to the Planning Commission for additional review before a council vote. 

krodriguez@loudounnow.com 

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