As Leesburg grows, town government must balance the limits of current infrastructure with the opportunity to gain revenue.
This came to the forefront Monday night when Leesburg Town Council refused to hold a closed session about threatened litigation from the owners of Graydon Manor, a proposed brewery, winery and co-housing development outside town that wants additional sewer service from Leesburg.
The motion to hold a closed session died after council’s vote evenly split. Mayor Kelly Burk, Councilman Neil Steinberg and Councilman Ron Campbell voted to go into closed session to discuss the town’s response, while Councilman Josh Thiel, Councilman Tom Dunn and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox opposed. Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez was absent for the vote.
The current proposal for Graydon Manor first emerged in 2018, when developer David Gregory approached Loudoun County with an application. The county has responded that the co-housing aspect is not a correct use of the Rural Policy Area, where the property sits. Gregory, disagreeing, has filed five active lawsuits against the county. The status of the development is still unresolved.
Because it is west of Leesburg and in the Rural Policy Area, Graydon normally would not get sewer service from the town. However, Graydon Manor has a unique loophole: Leesburg provided sewer to the property in 1963 when it was a hospital and school for children with epilepsy.
For Leesburg staff, the main issue is sewage system capacity. According to a site plan that Leesburg staff rejected, saying it was submitted incorrectly, a fully developed Graydon would use about 111,000 gallons a day.
Gregory has claimed that Leesburg is purposefully blocking his development, saying in October that the pipes handled 13,000 gallons a day when it was a mental health facility in the early 2000s and could take tens of thousands more.
According to town staff and a Freedom of Information Act request obtained by the Times-Mirror, the property used an average of 4,200 gallons a day at that time.
While the developer would pay for any new sewage pipes, the town must also consider the capacity of its treatment plant. Currently, it can handle 7.5 million gallons a day.
Director of Utilities Amy Wyks said that with the potential addition of Joint Land Management Area properties and the Microsoft data center project at Compass Creek, the town would near full capacity—not counting Graydon.
Steinberg and Burk seemed to agree with staff, adding that the county’s policy about the RPA should govern the town’s decision.
“We have a fixed resource and a very expensive infrastructure,” Steinberg said. “Our obligation first and foremost is to serve within the town limits ... We are not obligated to serve the RPA, nor is the county particularly asking us to.”
Other council members said that getting additional revenue from a property that already has town sewer service could be beneficial.
Councilwoman Fox noted that council could approve an expansion of the sewer plant so it could handle 10 million gallons a day. Wyks agreed that this could be possible if the town got funding and went through a permit process with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
“I don’t see that we are right on the cusp of being at 7.5 million gallons per day,” Fox said. “This is a longstanding current customer that we are ostensibly denying service to.”
Gregory has given Fox more than $23,000 for her political campaigns, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
When it came time for the vote for a closed hearing, Councilman Dunn suggested that in lieu of a private meeting, staff arrange an additional work session to discuss the town’s sewer policy and give the developer time to submit an official application.
Leesburg Town Council can’t vote about Graydon Manor until the developer submits a sewer expansion application to the town manager’s office, staff said.