The Middleburg Planning Commission hosted a public hearing March 25 to discuss a possible amendment to the comprehensive plan that would initiate the process to allow for development in the town's agricultural conservancy district.
Developer P. Daniel Orlich of Vienna has filed an application with the town to build approximately 100 units of independent senior living on 15 acres on the east side of Middleburg across from Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery.
Orlich, who spoke at the hearing, said he has had water and topographic studies done on the property, which found the slopes “manageable.” Additionally, a traffic study said the development would not be any burden to town streets, as the entrance and exit would be on Route 50.
About 70 local residents attended the hearing, many of whom spoke in opposition to the proposal.
Local resident Joseph Jabbour said he did not understand why Orlich purchased a property with the assumption that he could go forward with a major development.
“I feel that the mailing that was sent out was disingenuous. If you object to this project, then you are against seniors,” he said.
Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton said he is very concerned about the redefining of the agricultural conservancy area.
“This is about the type of development we want. It is a slippery slope in doing changes to the comprehensive plan at the instigation of an individual's desire to do a development. The overall drive and scope of this development is not in scope with our current plan or draft plan you are working on,” Littleton said.
The mayor added there is a senior living facility in Middleburg called Levis Hill House, which was constructed in 2009.
Middleburg has a population of around 850 residents.
Resident Brett Miller spoke in support of the project. He said he has collected over 80 signatures of people who are in support.
“Dan Orlich is willing to put an enormous investment in this community, and he should be applauded and thanked, not belittled. The other facility in town is full, and this is an incredible opportunity. The developer wants to make this beautiful for the town,” Miller said.
Heather Taylor agreed with Miller, saying the commission should “give it a chance.”
“I could see myself moving in there. I love this town, and there is nothing like this in town. We should give them a chance,” she said.
But Todd Phillips called the proposal a “Trojan horse.”
“We don't know what's inside that horse. We do have an idea what the impact could be. This is a recipe for disaster and changes the character of the community,” he said.
After about two dozen comments, the planning commissioners spoke with their thoughts on the issue.
Commissioner Ed Fleishman said he does not think the time is right to make amendments.
Town Councilman Kevin Hazard agreed.
“I want to retain the agricultural conservancy district. And while I feel like senior housing is a laudable goal, I don't think in this format it's the right plan,” Hazard said.
After some discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to recommend that the town not move forward in making changes to the comprehensive plan to accommodate the project.
Town Council will be briefed on the Planning Commission's recommendations, and council is expected to hold a public hearing of its own.