Delay for Creekside

Delay for Creekside

Proposal that would move Bolen Park gets pushed back another month before submitting rezoning request.

Creekside, a controversial development proposal that includes $200 million worth of road improvements and the full construction of Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park in exchange for building rights for 4,200 homes, received a minor setback Monday as the county decided to delay allowing the developer permission to file a rezoning request at least another 30 days.

While developer Leonard "Hobie" Mitchel has yet to submit the rezoning request, the Creekside idea has been cooking since last year. The proposal was one of 20 comprehensive plan amendments presented to the county in September, but it had an intriguing twist: the developer would relocate the under funded Bolen Park to a slightly more eastern 420 acres than the current 460-acre location south of Leesburg.

IN EXCHANGE, Mitchel wanted building rights on the current Bolen Park location. He already owns land north and south of the park site.

In December, County Attorney John Roberts warned the county against accepting Michel's deal in a confidential memo that became public in a Washington Post story; in February, the board voted unanimously to halt discussion on Creekside until after a full joint planning process between the county and Leesburg.

While unofficial talks have taken place between the jurisdictions, no official public planning process has taken place despite the board's resolution. A January meeting between the county and town was snowed out. Leesburg Town Council passed a resolution opposing Creekside and another Mitchel development, Crosstrail, in February.

In March, Mitchel left his governor-appointed position on the Commonwealth Transportation Board amid criticism that he had a conflict of interest as both a private developer and a member of the body that decides where transportation funds are spent in the state.

The snowed-out January meeting has been rescheduled for June 6, but for some, that's not soon enough.

"THIS IS A LONG process," said Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), who presented a motion at a Transportation/Land Use meeting Monday to allow Mitchel to submit a rezoning request for Creekside. "If at any time we don't like the way it's going, we can withdraw and it will go away."

Staton was referring to a letter drafted by the county attorney in January that would allow the county to withdraw a rezoning application during the process. But in the slew of developer-initiated litigation that has plagued the county in the last year, some supervisors are cagey about getting into a process with Creekside's so-far vague proposal.

So is County Attorney Roberts.

"It's no secret some of the concerns I have about the whole package," Roberts said.

Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said it was "premature" to accept Creekside's rezoning application for review.

"I believe we should do the community work first, not have a detailed application drive the work," she said. "It's going to the people and asking, 'What do you want?'"

Waters has done just that with another developer-initiated comprehensive plan amendment from last fall, One Loudoun Center, which would have placed a town center at the intersection of Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway. The amendment was rejected and in its place, Waters has begun a series of community input meetings to ask citizens about the possibility of a town center in Ashburn.

THE COMMITTEE ultimately voted to delay considering accepting Creekside's rezoning material until its May 23 meeting. While the Transportation/Land Use committee has five supervisors on it, in a show of just how hot this application is, eight of the county's nine supervisors were in attendance.

Leesburg Mayor Kristin Umstattd expressed her relief that a public planning process between the town and the county could begin. The Creekside proposal is located in the joint land management area covered by both the county and town. An informal public input meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 10.

But Umstattd noted the town's official opposition to the proposal.

"Our feeling has been it would be beneficial to both the county and the town to have space for offices as opposed to residential," she said.

If approved, the Creekside development would end any potential land annexation by Leesburg, which is already surrounded on the west, north and east by development.

Chairman Scott York was steadfast in his opposition to the project. "I feel like we just pulled up a shotgun and we're holding it up to the town of Leesburg's head," he said.

Despite the month-long delay, developer Mitchel is still moving along. The public/private partnership to build $200 million worth of roads has already been filed with the state. The road building, however, is contingent upon Creekside's approval.

"The longer this takes, the longer it will take to get things done," Mitchel said. "The town, frankly, needs to make a decision on what they want to do."