Dry Clean Depot's moving into the future Augusta Center "spoils" the neighborhood shopping center for Gene Gaines, a director for the Westerley Homeowners Association.
County planners approved Dry Clean Depot's application to build a 6,599-square-foot discount dry cleaners in the shopping center. The shopping center, which is 19,000 square feet, is located near Route 7 and Augusta Drive in Sterling on the same property as the Westerley development.
Gaines, represented by Foust & Clark PC in McLean, appealed the building and zoning permits that planners approved on Aug. 5. Gaines, acting on behalf of residents in the Westerley development, contends that the size of Dry Clean Depot does not conform with the site's proffer requirements and that the business belongs in an industrial district.
"Dry Clean Depot claims they are a small neighborhood dry cleaner. That's a joke," Gaines said. "We're fearful that this place is going to be huge. It really is a big chemical processing plant ... under the windows of our townhouses."
DRY CLEAN DEPOT plans to install six checkout counters, half of the number in a grocery store or a Home Depot store, Gaines said, adding that a typical dry cleaner has one to two counters and is under 2,000-square-feet in size.
"One of the things that has me really concerned is they're [using] six cash registers, which clues me in how much business they expect," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York (R-At large).
"I, too, am concerned about the impact on the environment and the volume they are proposing to do," said Planning Commission Chairman Kathryn Miller (Leesburg). "It appears, based on what I read in the application, to exceed what would be a normal volume for a neighborhood dry cleaner."
Zoning Administrator Melinda Artman, who made the proffer determination, disagreed. "There is nothing in the concept plan that would preclude Dry Clean Depot from locating there," she said.
Dry Clean Depot met the requirements of the 1993 zoning ordinance and is proposed for a neighborhood center that allows, under the Concept Plan Amendment, personal service establishments including dry cleaners, Artman said in her position statement supporting the zoning and building permits.
BEFORE MAKING the approval, Artman requested additional information to address the neighborhood concerns brought up at a February Board of Supervisors meeting. Dry Clean Depot responded, stating that the business plans to serve walk-in customers and a one-mile market area.
"When this thing started, [Artman] told me Dry Clean Depot is going to go in over her dead body," said Planning Commissioner Jane Kirchner (Sugarland Run). "She is going to make a mistake in making this decision. ... Anyone can make a study say anything. There is no question this is an industrial use."
"We all thought we were going to have local neighborhood services we could walk to," Gaines said. "That shopping center doesn't have any access for medium car traffic. It was really planned for foot traffic from the neighborhood."
The appeal will be brought Nov. 21 before the Board of Zoning Appeals, which will consider whether the zoning permit violated the zoning ordinance, and before the Board of Supervisors Dec. 2 on consideration of any proffer violations.
"I hope the supervisors will do the right thing for the people in eastern Loudoun," Kirchner said, adding that the release of perc, a chemical used in the dry cleaning process, into the air is another concern, along with the effects the dry cleaner operation could have on the nearby Sugarland Run. "There is no question this is an inappropriate location. ... There are better spots in Loudoun County where they could go for an industrial use like this."
The attorney for Dry Clean Depot, Frances McDermott of Hunton & Williams in McLean, did not return phone calls by press time.