Fairfax developer James Steffey appeared before the Loudoun County Planning Commission last week with plans to build 76 houses on nearly 90 acres he owns in Lucketts.

More than 125 residents of Lucketts, a village of about 200 residents eight miles north of Leesburg on Rte. 15, told the commission that they oppose the development because of a sewage treatment plant that Steffey wants to build as part of the development. They fear contamination of their water supply by the plant.

The residents asked the county to come up with an area management plan, which would set guidelines for development in and around the village. The Board of Supervisors has approved their request.

Steffey told the planning commission last week that he might consider delaying development of his property until the planning staff completed the area management plan. But this week he said he has decided to go forward because the staff has several similar requests pending and at least one has been on the drawing board for five years.

Steffey told the planning commission that he will build a sewage treatment plant on his property that will be large enough to serve not only the new development but a nearby 18-resident trailer park that has, according to county officials, a malfunctioning sewer system.

Steffey said he is building the plant because state and county health officials told him the land in Lucketts is mostly clay and does not allow sewage adequately to disperse through the soil. The county ordinance requires that privately built sewage treatment plants must be turned over to the Loudoun County Service Authority for operation.

"The discharge will be treated according to standards that are higher than state standards," Steffey said. The water, which will discharge into a nearby stream, will be similar to tap water "with a slight tinge of chlorine," he said.

Mouncey Ferguson, one of the residents who attended the planning commission meeting last week, asked how the developers could pump treated sewage into a stream bed that does not always have water in it. "That stream usually runs only when there's been some rain," Ferguson said.

The property in question, which has been in the Steffey family for several decades, was zoned for residential use prior to 1974 when Steffey obtained title to it. In answer to residents' fears regarding the density of the proposed development, Steffey said he will build fewer houses on it than the maximum allowed. With R-1 zoning a builder may construct one house per acre. Steffey said he will build 76 instead of the 90 houses allowed; the houses will be in the $150,000 range, he said.

Another community concern, Ferguson said, is that residentially zoned open land surrounds the proposed development. "If this developer comes in, will others follow? Our nice quiet little village could be ruined."

According to Supervisor Frank Lambert, whose district includes Lucketts, the average age of farmers in and around the village is 67. "They got their residential zoning a long time ago when nobody was looking," he said. "There's no such thing as saving the family farm; the family farm is zoned residential and is going on the market."

Said Ferguson, "I know we can't stop progress. We plan to meet with Steffey and hope we can have some say in this development."

Besides the sewage treatment plant, Steffey said, his proposal includes a central water supply, a hard surface road and a plan to save as many of the existing walnut and oak trees as possible.

"This may be the best deal Lucketts can get," said Lambert. "As [Supervisor] Frank Raflo says, 'Development follows the flushed toilet.' "