Lansdowne Development: Still Brewing

Lansdowne Development: Still Brewing

The addition of housing units to Lansdowne Village Greens adjacent to a mixed-use town center sparks concern among residents.

If the Sept. 20 Planning Commission public hearing is any indication, the proposed Lansdowne Village Greens will be both a blessing and a curse.

Lansdowne and Leisure World residents turned out before the commission to voice their opinions on the proposed development, which would add 971 residential units plus a mixed-use town center on over 100 acres. The town center is proposed to contain 284,700 square feet of offices and commercial retail.

Lansdowne Town Center LLC presents the plan as one that would fulfill the community's vision as a self-sufficient area, replete with easily-accessible retail for what will be 3,100 housing units total in Lansdowne, including those already built. That's if the rezonings for the residential and commercial areas receive approval from the county.

The county is slated to receive $17.5 million in proffers for its cooperation.

"We do mean to really situate something between a neighborhood center and a town center," said Rob Goodall, an architect with Torti Gallas & Partners.

No one who spoke about the proposed development had a major problem with the village green concept with its easy-access shopping, outside some concerns about viewshed. The theme of the night? The children.

"MY CONCERN is that if you add 1,000 units, and if each resident has one child, that's enough kids for another school," said Sonya Kalian, who spoke for the neighborhood of West Goose Creek in Lansdowne. "Consider that Seldens Landing [Elementary School] is almost at capacity."

The West Goose Creek neighborhood attended the public hearing because residents were concerned that due to its location at the western edge of Lansdowne — and the fact that it's in the Catoctin, not Broad Run, district — would make it the most likely choice to have to send its students to alternative schools once its new neighbors in Lansdowne Village Greens moved in.

Nearly everyone who has been approached to sign a petition voicing concern about the proposal has agreed, according to Marc Zampetti, a founding member of Lansdowne Civic Association. So far, the group has collected nearly 300 signatures.

"The current plan just doesn't go far enough to meet requirements," Zampetti said, expanding his fears beyond schools to transportation and open space considerations. "What's this going to mean to Loudoun in five years in terms of budget, of maintenance cost, of taxes?"

Other Lansdowne residents alluded to a feeling of being duped by the developer — no one had mentioned when homes were bought a year or more ago that 1,000 more houses were coming in next door.

"When we bought our home a year ago, it was never mentioned that it would be 3,100 units, not 2,100 units," said Melanie Fondaco.

NOT ALL SPEAKERS were against the proposal. Residents of Leisure World, a 1,000-strong senior community, supported the application because it would offer an alternative to shopping in Ashburn or Leesburg.

"The location of this attractively-designed village green is much more accessible," said Jack E. Freeman. He did add his concerns about some design aspects, including the new housing units, which would be comprised of townhouses and multifamily units.

Francis Gros Louis, a former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development employee, echoed Freeman's support and added a caution that by continually delaying the developer's process, costs of development would increase by 35 percent.

"I believe this project will be the crown jewel of this campus," Louis said.

Hobie Mitchel, president of Lansdowne Community Development LLC, took a moment at the end of the night to salve residents' concerns.

"I've been working in the community for 20 years, and I think the residents know I take pride in what I do," Mitchel said. "I do listen. There's a lot of good suggestions here tonight. We'll be glad to work with the Planning Commission and the citizens in the audience."

The commissioners voted to send the application to committee, where further work on the details will take place.