Leesburg Commission Backs More Housing in Village, Auditoriums in I-1

The Leesburg Planning Commission last week endorsed two applications that would permit more housing in the Village at Leesburg development and allow recreation and auditorium uses in the town’s industrial zoning district.

The first matter up for consideration Jan. 4 was a concept plan and proffer amendment put forward by the developers of the Village at Leesburg property. The final undeveloped lot in the project, referred to as Pad X, was previously approved for 55,440 square feet of office use. With the office market now considerably cold, Rappaport Companies now seeks to develop that parcel as a 60-unit apartment building. The side is located off Russell Branch Parkway in front of the parking garage. Last February, the Town Council approved the developer’s request for a Zoning Ordinance amendment that would provide flexibility in allowing other uses than originally planned if a certain amount of nonresidential development had been constructed. These changes would still require council approval.

Emily Struck, director of development at Rappaport, said office leasing at the development has been a challenge from day one, never reaching full occupancy. With not enough interest from restaurant or retail users in development of Pad X, they looked towards their successful residential market. The current occupancy on residential units at the Village hovers around 96 percent, she said. Across the street from Pad X, for-sale condominium units are under construction.

Commissioners also greenlighted changes to the I-1 industrial zoning district, recommending the removal of a limitation that confines recreation uses to existing buildings only, and also establishing auditoriums as a new use. To be approved for an auditorium use, a building must contain a maximum of 5,500 seats; have a minimum lot size of 10 acres; and the space must be fully enclosed and soundproofed. A building approved for an auditorium use must be primarily used for spectator sports, sports tournaments, athletic training, and recreation. Allowable ancillary uses are public assembly, special events, food concessions, and retail sales. If minimum use standards can’t be met, an applicant would have to pursue a special exception with the Town Council.

On that application, Zoning Administrator Chris Murphy said the town had been presented with an “economic development opportunity” for the possible development of an ice skating facility. He declined to provide specifics this week.

The commission unanimously recommended approval of both applications. Both matters will go to the Town Council for final approval.

Also, the council will be voting on a new member for the panel. Lyndsay Welsh Chamblin recently submitted her resignation. She had been a member of the commission since 2014, and chairwoman for the past two years, following five years on the Environmental Advisory Commission.

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