Leesburg Council, Developer Move Closer to Town Expansion

The Leesburg Town Council moved a step closer to completing a significant municipal boundary line adjustment Tuesday night after granting new development approvals to the Compass Creek developers.

The council approved both a rezoning and four special exception applications for a project put forward by the Peterson Companies. The applicant was requesting permission to rezone 4.6 acres of land just south of the Battlefield Parkway/Compass Creek Parkway intersection from I-1 (Industrial) to B-3 (Business), and for four special exceptions to allow four drive-through eating establishments.

The four restaurants will include two proposed fast-casual restaurants, at nearly 2,325 and 3,000 square feet, respectively; a 2,200-square-foot restaurant with outdoor seating eyed for a high-end coffee shop; and an additional two-story, 3,000-square-foot fast casual establishment, according to Cooley LLP attorney Colleen Gillis, who is representing the applicant. In addressing the council, Gillis noted the Compass Creek development’s convenience and proximity to sports entertainment venues, including the nearby ION International Training Center, Evergreen Sportsplex, the DC United soccer complex, and Freedom Park, making the drive-through options an ideal neighbor. Other commercial uses, not part of these applications, that are planned for near the drive-throughs include multi-tenant office and retail space and a hotel.

The approval of the applications was one of the conditions Peterson Companies had placed on its acceptance of incorporation into the town. The council is hoping to complete a boundary line adjustment with Loudoun County that would bring hundreds of acres—all mostly planned for commercial uses and including the rest of the Compass Creek property—into the town limits. The majority of the expansion area is eyed for a Microsoft data center campus.

While many council members acknowledged that the applications were unusual in that they were directly tied to the desired BLA approval, they took Peterson Companies to task a bit for what was perceived as a change of conditions for consenting to the BLA. Several council members said the developer had, at first, only requested approval of zoning changes for its Russell Branch Parkway retail development, and then later added another request to the applications before the council Tuesday. Taylor Chess, president of development for Peterson, said that was not the case.

“It was the plan the whole time,” he said. “If you were not told that …. that was the plan from the very beginning.”

Council members also urged Peterson to reconsider the design of some of the restaurants, which some bluntly called ugly.

Councilman Neil Steinberg referred to one of the planned restaurants as “one of the least attractive buildings I think I’ve ever seen anywhere.”

“This whole area of Compass Creek is going to be an extraordinary benefit to the town. I believe the Compass Creek area is going to be quite a revenue generator to the town. I think one of the things that will make this is the look of the area,” he said.

The council unanimously approved the rezonings and the special exceptions for two commercial buildings, with the stipulation that those buildings go before the Board of Architectural Review for referral comments on design. The special exceptions for the other two drive-through restaurants passed 6-1, with Councilman Tom Dunn dissenting.

Town Attorney Barbara Notar said Tuesday that, with the application approvals, the Board of Supervisors is expected to have approval of the BLA in early February. Peterson Companies must still send a letter of consent to the county board, completing the final step the town needs for BLA consideration. Notar said she expects it will take the Circuit Court no more than two weeks to approve the BLA following the board’s approval meaning Leesburg could grow in size before the end of February.

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