Community is divided as Loudoun stadium review moves forward

February 27, 2013

As a controversial plan to build a baseball stadium in Ashburn is considered by Loudoun County officials, divided community members are going all out to make their opinions heard.

Last week, dozens of residents addressed the county Planning Commission at a standing-room-only public hearing about the proposed rezoning applications. If approved, the applications would allow for the construction of a 5,500-seat stadium in the One Loudoun development at Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway.

In response to concerns raised by a county staff report, Planning Commission members decided at the Feb. 19 hearing to send the developers’ applications to future work sessions to address lingering questions about traffic, the stadium design, potential crowd size and public transit issues before making a final recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

As the deliberations proceed, opponents and supporters are continuing to rally. Members of an opposition group, No Stadium on Route 7, have sent copious e-mails to the Planning Commission reiterating their concerns, group organizers said.

Also making their voices heard are the owners of the Loudoun Hounds, an Atlantic League baseball team that would play at the stadium. They have encouraged the team’s fans to continue to show their support for the project.

The Hounds’ Web site said that more than 100 supporters attended the hearing and also participated in the preceding “Rally for the Ballpark,” sponsored by the team’s owners outside the Loudoun Government Center.

The stadium, which in addition to the Loudoun Hounds would be home to the Virginia Cavalry, a professional soccer team — both teams are owned by VIP Sports and Entertainment — was initially approved as part of the Kincora mixed-use development at routes 7 and 28 in Ashburn.

But in October, after repeated delays as Kincora’s developers worked to address funding issues, VIP announced that the stadium would instead move about a mile west along Route 7, to One Loudoun.

Many Loudoun residents have said they are eager to see the long-awaited baseball stadium become a reality. But others, especially residents of neighborhoods adjacent to One Loudoun, including Potomac Green and Ashbrook, have expressed concerns about light pollution, noise and the effects of increased traffic on roads that are already congested.

Jim Klock, an Ashburn resident and president of Dulles Little League baseball, was the first to approach the podium at last week’s hearing. He told the commission that he fully supports bringing a ballpark to Loudoun.

“I’m very excited to have a safe, fun, family-friendly venue nearby,” he said. He asked supporters of the stadium to show their support, and across the packed boardroom, dozens of hands were raised, about half the sizable crowd.

“We are the majority of Loudoun County,” Klock said, a statement that was met with a chorus of sighs and groans from the stadium’s opponents.

Jean Beres, one of the organizers of the group No Stadium on 7, addressed the commission shortly after Klock. She told commissioners that she was holding a petition listing 300 names of neighbors who were also opposed to the stadium location.

Beres said that the Potomac Green community is in the flight path for Dulles Airport and that residents have had to adjust to the loud but fleeting sound of passing jets. She compared this inconvenience with the potential noise from ballgames, concerts and other events at the stadium.

“Noise from the events will not be temporary,” she said. “It will last for hours, not seconds.
. . . It will alter lives permanently.”

The Planning Commission was scheduled to discuss the stadium proposal at a Tuesday work session, county staff members said.

The commission will work with developers to address remaining issues cited by project manager Ginny Rowan’s report, including questions about crowd size limitations, design guidelines, and transportation and traffic plans to accommodate stadium events.

A recommendation to supervisors is expected to be made soon: The Planning Commission is scheduled to take up the One Loudoun applications again at a work session Tuesday. The commission could forward the item to the Board of Supervisors then or decide to take additional time to discuss the matter at another work session March 12.

As opponents to the stadium continue to air their concerns about the application in e-mails to officials and on the “No Stadium” Web site, the Loudoun Hounds are looking ahead to the next step in the process. The team’s Web site issued a call to supporters to rally once again, this time before a Board of Supervisors’ public hearing March 25, at Farmwell Middle School in Ashburn.

Caitlin Gibson is a local news and features writer for The Washington Post.
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