Leesburg Council Rejects Crescent Parke Development Plan

The Leesburg Town Council on Tuesday night rejected plans to rezone 53 acres of vacant commercial land to build a mixed-use community in the town’s Crescent District redevelopment zone.

A vote to approve the 53-acre Crescent Parke development failed on a 3-4 vote, with council members Katie Hammler and Suzanne Fox and Mayor David Butler in support.

Crescent Parke developer Hobie Mitchell speaks to the Leesburg Town Council Tuesday, July 26. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Crescent Parke developer Hobie Mitchell speaks to the Leesburg Town Council Tuesday, July 26.
(Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

The council first considered the application in November when the applicant, Lansdowne Development Group, narrowly won a council vote for a Town Plan amendment to allow residential development in the area. The rezoning application had been before the council for review since the spring, but a vote had been previously delayed at the applicant’s request to better integrate recommended changes.

The application sought approval for 198 townhouses, 96 stacked townhouses and 96 multifamily dwelling units. Nonresidential uses would have included a maximum of 110,550 square feet of office space, 137,175 square feet of retail, an area for a future hotel, and a 2,000-square-foot community room. The land stretches from the terminus of Gateway Drive to Davis Drive along the edge of the Leesburg Bypass. The land assemblage also includes the Olde Izaak Walton Park, land currently leased by the town but which the developers offered to donate to the town.

In a packed Council Chamber on Tuesday night almost a dozen audience members wearing some shade of red to show their opposition to the development. Some of these same residents spoke during the petitioner’s section of the meeting, when they called on council members to vote down the development.

Town resident Scott Billigmeier presented the council with a petition with signatures from more than 300 opponents. Billigmeier, who had more than a decade ago been involved in encouraging the town to explore a way to lease or purchase Olde Izaak Walton Park, said that while positive changes have been made by the developer, the project remained too dense for the area.

“Proffers really can’t fix that to me,” he said.

The proffers offered by the developer were often cited during resident and council member comments, both positive and negative. In addition to purchasing the park for the town, millions of dollars in capital facility contributions were offered, along with the upfront construction of road networks throughout the property and a $75,000 cash contribution to study to remove from the Town Plan an option to extend the Dulles Greenway through the property, to name but a few.

Leesburg council member Katie Sheldon Hammler listens to fellow council member Suzanne Fox. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Leesburg council member Katie Sheldon Hammler listens to fellow council member Suzanne Fox.
(Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

Councilwoman Katie Hammler, who made the initial motion to approve the project, pointed to the proffers as a reason for her support of the project.

“I believe that accepting projects with significant proffers is a much better deal for the town than any other subsequent by-right development that wouldn’t mitigate its impacts,” she said.

Butler also noted the types of use—ranging from banks to factories—that could be built on the property without any council approval and without any proffers to improve roads or address other town needs. He said inevitably more houses would be built to house the region’s growing workforce and “urban infill is the best way to develop.” He said the proposed development was the “least impactful” to nearby residences. Crescent Parke “doesn’t destroy the neighborhood, it protects it,” he said.

But those on the majority side said despite the strides the developer had made with the project, it was just not the right fit for Leesburg.

Leesburg Vice Mayor Kelly Burk. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Leesburg Vice Mayor Kelly Burk.
(Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

Burk said the development did not mix uses well, and is not the pedestrian-friendly, walkable development envisioned in the Crescent District, where Crescent Parke would lie. She also pointed to the phasing of the project, which would only require 5 percent of non-residential uses to be built before the 214th housing occupancy permit was issued.

Councilman Tom Dunn said he felt that the inclusion of Olde Izaak Walton Park had been too great of a focus in the application.

“There was an effort to look for reasons to approve [the project] because the park was being thrown into the mix. I really felt this application should stand on its own merits and not be something that is bargained with citizens’ quality of life issues in an effort to get a park that we already have,” he said.

It had been an interesting week leading up to Tuesday night’s vote. Reports initially surfaced late last week that calls originating from caller ID sandbox.com had been going out to residents asking them to support the construction jobs and new road links that would result if the project was approved. One town resident, who asked not to be named, said the caller ID number that showed up on his phone was registered to a political election coordinator from the Mid-Atlantic region of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. According to reports, residents receiving the calls were asked to tell Burk or Councilman Marty Martinez to support the project.

Hobie Mitchel, the developer behind Crescent Parke, on Monday denied any involvement in the phone campaign and said he did not know who was behind it. Mitchel said he made no promises to hire union help should the project be approved.

5 thoughts on “Leesburg Council Rejects Crescent Parke Development Plan

  • 2016-07-27 at 8:04 pm

    So, Kelly Burk led an effort to eliminate the possibility of the Town being given the Isaac Walton Park, leading the charge last night to deny the Crescent Park Development. She led the effort to insure that a by right project will be built on this land — by right means no rezoning, no proffers, no citizen input. The owner could submit a plan tomorrow for a commercial project — pawn shops, tattoo parlors, banks with multiple lanes, four lane road and the possibility that the Greenway could still be extended. Of course, we remember during the budget process, Burk wanted to end the lease on the Isaac Walton Park and end the wonderful programs that have been offered there. Another reminder why she should be never be in elected office. Her primary reason for voting against this — who knows — what we do know is when the bulldozers start be sure to thank Kelly Burk. And the other no votes – Dunn , Martinez and the appointed guy.

    Oh yes, one more thing — the two Democrats claimed that they were getting calls generated by a Labor Union to support the project. Which Political Party has the Unions in their pocket — the Democrats — interesting that no one was asked to call Fox, Butler, or Hammler.

  • 2016-07-29 at 5:30 pm

    Thank you to LsbgMom above for seeing right through the sham of a vote Tuesday night. I’ve been following this on the webcasts. I can’t see the reason for the no votes at all. The other development on Harrison Street by this same guy is beautiful! A far cry from that old broken down window factory we all had to look at for years. The article in Loudoun Now wasn’t even truthful. I had friends who attended the meeting. There were 3 people wearing “some shade of red” and my friend wasn’t even sure they were related. And that petition of 300 so-called names. I live in one of the communities right next to where this would have been built. That guy tried to get the people who live here to sign that thing and I don’t think 5 people signed it. When I looked at it (albeit only the one page I could look at) NONE of the signatures were even from people in Leesburg!!!! Totally deceptive for a newspaper not to report how many signatures were from local residents!!!!

    Go and watch the webcast. Listen to the ridiculous reasons for the no votes. None of them make any sense at all. Listen to Kelly Burke carry on about 2 acres in the old izaak park and how if they are removed the park will have less value or something. The town attorney and the guy from leesburg staff had no clue what she was talking about. I don’t think she knew what she was talking about either. Now what? We all wait to find out what gets built there and by the time we do our houses will be worth nothing because of it. Thanks a lot to the Leesburg Town Council ! Once again you show the people who live here they don’t matter one bit. Have fun trying to get elected. David Butler has my vote for mayor he made sense of the whole thing in his statement right before the vote.

  • 2016-07-31 at 2:18 pm

    If by right was going to happen so fast it would already be there. The owner is not Mitchel yet. The current owner has been trying to do something at this location for over 10 years. It is a dog of a property without counting the dog park. NO ONE IS BUILDING THERE BY RIGHT! That is a scare tactic used by Butler and Hammler and Fox and the Developer.

    Quick lesson for the less informed. Developers come up with ideas and seek funding from investors. Investors want a return on their investments based on what the market will bare and how long it takes for a return. NO INVESTOR will fund what is BY RIGHT at this location because there are to few homes to pay for all the needed infrastructure and to much commercial which there is no market for today.

    NO ONE wants more houses unless they are scared into taking them over the “by right” option or they are promised all kinds of goodies from the developer. Oh yes these goodies cost money also which means more home sales to cover that increased cost to the developer. This means even stricter requirements from investors. NO VIRGINIA there is no santa on this deal.

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