Two weeks after Tree of Life Ministries presented the Round Hill Town Council with a plan to build 32 micro cottages for low-income residents on a former motel property near town, neighbors are making their opposition to the proposal known.
More than a dozen residents attended the Round Hill Town Council meeting Thursday night to voice their opinions on a development proposal for the 7-acre Weona Villa Motel property, which sits just outside the town’s corporate limits. Many homeowners in the Lakepoint Village neighborhood, which abuts the motel property, made it clear that they were opposed to the project and concerned about increased traffic and the people who might move in.
Paul Smith, the nonprofit’s founder and executive director, on Feb. 7 requested the Town Council extend municipal utility service to the property so that he could set up a micro-cottage community for low-income residents, with an initial focus on the elderly. To do that, the town and county governments would need to agree to update their comprehensive plans to include the property in the Joint Land Management Area—an area outside the town limits where the town provides water and sewer service, as it does Lakepoint.
Michael Lannon said that he was worried the project for low-income residents could increase crime rates in the area. He said that was a concern because of the property’s location near Franklin Park, where many youth activities take place. “We would be quite concerned about how that community would be established and what that property would be used for,” he said.
Tim Newman, a homeowner on Lakefield Road, said that he’s concerned about increased traffic that could make pulling onto and off of East Loudoun Street even more of a hassle than it currently is, noting that it’s gotten worse during the three years he’s lived there.
Marlene Shaffer said she sees the micro cottages as “unsafe” and “detrimental to our community in more than one way.”
“It’s going to affect this community greatly,” she said.
P.J. Weber requested the Town Council not extend utility service to the property until Tree of Life identifies exactly which types of people would live in the micro-cottage community. He said that while the Round Hill community is “gracious” and “giving,” he wants to know more about the proposal. “I think the standard has to be set in stone—we have to know what this is going to be,” he said.
On the other end of the debate were a few residents who felt that the nonprofit’s proposal should be given consideration.
Eric Herschsaid that, while he would like to see more information on the proposal, he likes what the nonprofit is doing. He said that it makes sense for senior-housing to be located close to towns because it gives the them access to amenities and tend to be less confining than nursing homes. “They need independence and want independence,” he said.
Jeff Fitzgerald, a member of the Round Hill Owners Association board of directors and a friend of Smith’s, said that while he’s not yet in favor of or opposed to the micro-cottages, Tree of Life lends more help to those in need than what meets the eye.
“People who are in need don’t look like the thug that you think they are,” he said. “Regardless of what happens with this … we have an opportunity as a community to do something here that may be a model for what we should be doing anyway.”
Also present at the meeting to speak in favor of Tree of Life were the nonprofit’s chief program officer, its communications manager and the leader of its special needs ministry, all of whom urged residents to take a closer look at what the nonprofit does to help the community.
Smith addressed the residents once they had all said their piece. He said that the project is still in the “very preliminary stages” and that the micro cottages would not be structured as a group home, but as an independent living buildings.
He also mentioned that there are small, single-family homes along Tedler Circle in Lakepoint Village that somewhat resemble what the cottages might look like. “I want to listen to the points that are being made,” he told the residents.
The Town Council also discussed directing the Planning Commission to consider reviewing the town’s Comprehensive Plan to “consider whether [the area where Weona Villa is located] could be planned for residential uses to achieve the Housing and Community Development goals to serve the aging population, persons with disabilities and/or special needs.”
Councilwoman Amy Evers cautioned that a Comprehensive Plan amendment shouldn’t be tied to one specific organization out of fear that it might be perceived as being approved solely because council members like that the organization does good in the community.
The council moved a vote to refer a Comprehensive Plan amendment to the Planning Commission to its first meeting in March.