Leesburg Town Council narrowly approved an assisted living facility for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients Tuesday night.
Leesburg Cottages, developed by HHHunt, will sit on a 1.5-acre property along Morven Park Road near Heritage Hall. The three proposed buildings, one for staff and two secured buildings for residents, will house 48 beds, and the property will preserve 60 percent of the original trees.
“As LC has continued to have exponential growth in the senior community … one need that we have identified is memory care,” said Packie Crown, a representative of HHHunt. “It de-institutionalizes memory care … [Residents will] feel like they’re still living at home … and continue to live as normal a life as possible as long as possible.”
While most agreed that an Alzheimer’s facility would benefit Leesburg, neighbors of Leesburg Cottages expressed mixed feelings about the location. Out of eight speakers during the public hearing, five opposed the development, citing concerns about traffic, encroaching commercial development and seniors’ ability to contribute to the community.
“We have Heritage Hall, and now we have this,” neighbor Nancy Morgan said. “The traffic will increase; the noise will of course increase … I think it makes new families think twice about living in this neighborhood.”
Crown countered that Leesburg Cottages would contribute less traffic and preserve more nature than a developer could currently build by right. Without asking council’s permission, a builder could construct 14 units on the land. Residents won’t have cars, and with fewer than 20 employees for the entire facility, Crown said, neighbors would see less of an impact.
“The best place you can put a memory care community is in the center of town,” said Andrew Carle, a professor for George Mason University’s Department of Health Administration and Policy. “They are parts of the community.”
Council echoed citizens’ arguments for and against the development.
“The problem that I’m having is we’re turning a residential neighborhood into a commercial area,” Councilman Josh Thiel said. “I’ll be voting with the community on this one.”
Councilman Ron Campbell joined Thiel in voting against Leesburg Cottages. Councilman Tom Dunn was unable to attend the meeting because of illness.
The rest of council favored the special exception rezoning request, citing the need for such a facility and how it would be better than a crowded subdivision.
“I am generally not very fond of special exceptions,” Mayor Kelly Burk said, adding that as she’s spoken to residents she’s heard a roughly equal number of individuals for and against the development. “In this case, to me, the fact that 60 percent of the space is going to stay green is a phenomenal number.”
Leesburg Cottages has yet to receive final approval from the Board of Architectural Review and will begin construction once the process is complete.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of the school where Andrew Carle works.