The Leesburg Town Council has a clearer understanding of the steps required to consider a request for increased municipal sewer service to feed a proposed development at Graydon Manor west of town.
The Town Council on Monday night continued its discussions on whether the town should, or could, provide the Graydon Manor property with additional sewer service to support property owner Dave Gregory’s proposed development. At the end of their 45-minute discussion, council members largely agreed that the matter right now falls in the hands of the town staff and that the Town Council will soon need to determine if Leesburg has enough sewer capacity for the proposed development, and subsequently take a vote on that.
“Ultimately you have the power,” Interim Town Attorney Martin Crim told the Town Council.
Gregory has proposed building 239 co-housing units, a brewery and a winery on the 131-acre property, which abuts the town corporate limits to the west. The town has provided the property, the former home to a children’s psychiatric hospital, with sewer service since 1963, but Gregory’s proposed development would require more sewer service than ever—about 100,000 gallons of sewer flow each day, according to Gregory’s projections. The property’s current permitted sewer flow is 882 daily gallons.
“This is going to be a significant extension of the service,” Crim said, noting that there would need to be three pump stations installed on the property, which could pose problems for the town’s existing sewer pipe that serves the property.
Gregory hasn’t officially requested additional sewer service from the town just yet, but Crim said he has submitted site plans—one on Feb. 14 for the brewery and winery and one on Feb. 21 for the co-housing village.
Crim on Monday informed the Town Council of the town’s obligations moving forward. He emphasized that the Town Code would require the Town Council to vote on whether to allow the sewer extension because Graydon Manor is an existing sewer customer located outside the town limits in the county’s Rural Policy Area, and because Gregory would be requesting greater sewer service than what’s already served on the property.
But Crim said Gregory’s attorney, David Culbert, told him on Monday that Gregory will not submit a sewer extension request to the Town Council because he feels the council does not have a say in the matter.
“They specifically said they did not want to ask the Town Council for approval,” Crim said.
Knowing that, Councilman Ron Campbell said council members’ discussions Monday night were almost unnecessary, since they were simply “making a lot of opinions” on the matter with no vote on the table.
Campbell said that the question before the Town Council and staff is not whether the town should serve Graydon Manor with additional sewer service, but if it has the sewer capacity to do so.
Crim confirmed that position. “That’s what it comes down to” Crim said.
According to a semi-annual report detailing the capacity of the town’s water and sewer plants, the sewer plant’s average daily flow in calendar year 2019 reached 56 percent of its permitted capacity, at 4.19 of 7.5 million gallons per day.
Councilman Neil Steinberg voiced his concern about Gregory’s proposed project, noting that Graydon Manor is not in town or the Joint Land Management Area—an area surrounding the town where county policies allow the town to provide water and sewer service. He added that co-housing is inconsistent with the county’s Rural Policy Area and Agricultural Rural zoning district regulations.
“This applicant has decided that his interpretation is … ‘because the zoning doesn’t specifically prohibit a certain use, I am therefore entitled by right,’” Steinberg said. “The town is in no way obligated to provide this extension.”
Gregory has argued in the past that his development would not require an extension of sewer service, but an expansion—since he wouldn’t be asking the town to extend sewer to another property, but increase the service capacity on the same site.
Regardless of the council’s views on Gregory’s proposal, Crim said the proposed development would be inconsistent with the county’s 2019 Comprehensive Plan and the Town Plan, both of which establish that extending municipal utilities into the Rural Policy Area is acceptable only if the extension were to address a potential public health risk from an existing failing on-site treatment system or serve public facilities, like schools and firehouses.
Crim said a sewer extension to Graydon also would be inconsistent with a resolution the Town Council adopted in 1998, which establishes that policy contained in the 1997 Town Plan, the Water and Wastewater Master Plans and the 1984 Annexation Agreement and Annexation Area Development Policies “discourage the extension of water and wastewater facilities west of Leesburg’s corporate limits.”
While current Town Plan policy touches on utility extensions outside the town limits, those extensions are limited to the JLMA, according to a staff report.
Crim also noted that even if Gregory submitted a sewer extension request and the council voted to approve it, that vote would be premature because Gregory is engaged in a legal battle with the county government over what he is permitted to build on the property. “That would then potentially tie up your sewer capacity with a project that can’t be built,” Crim said.
The town staff is expected to continue its review of Gregory’s site plans.