Leesburg’s southern gateway slammed shut Tuesday night when Leesburg Town Council narrowly voted to deny an application for Meadowbrook’s proposed commercial center.
“This is the gateway to our community, and we want to make sure that the gateway is one that we want,” Mayor Kelly Burk said.
In the council chamber, opponents of the development applauded after council voted 4-1-2 against developer Van Metre’s plan to rezone about 24 acres in southeast Leesburg for a 16-pump gas station and three drive-thru restaurants, along with other retail buildings. Councilman Fernando Martinez and Councilwoman Vanessa Maddox abstained from the vote, and Councilman Ron Campbell voted nay.
At the beginning of the meeting, Van Metre representative Molly Novotny requested that council defer a vote until December so the developer could reach out to the community and make changes to the application.
A handful of residents also advocated for deferment during the public hearing. While proponents and opponents of the development have been the most vocal, a majority holds a middle view, two speakers said. They would support “upscale commercial” uses but are opposed to the traffic and potential crime a bustling convenience center might bring.
However, according to council members, Van Metre has said that for the shopping center to be viable, it needs to at least have the gas station and one drive-thru.
Seven of the 10 speakers Tuesday night opposed the development.
“I dream of building a house near a 16-pump gas station, a car wash, and three drive-thrus, said no homeowner ever,” said resident Kim Berkey.
When council closed the public hearing, it had several options. It could vote immediately for or against the development, defer the vote until December, or defer it to another date. Some council members supported the deferment because Van Metre has yet to finish holding community meetings—one was scheduled for the day after Tuesday’s council meeting.
“There is a huge population of people that we have not heard from. I am very, very eager to hear from those people,” Maddox said.
Councilman Tom Dunn proposed the motion to deny the development. “For me, it’s not about counting yes and no noses,” he said. “For me, it’s about bringing in commercial into a community that doesn’t want it … We are not able to support the commercial base we already have.”
By law, Van Metre will have to wait a year to present a new application to the town, though it can seek community support in the meantime.