An Aldie-based developer tried to win neighbors' support Tuesday night for his proposed residential community on the Crane Farm property south of Leesburg. But company officials said gaining approval for town water and sewer service might prove more difficult.
Bryan Brooks, of Dunlyn LLC, plans to build upscale houses and town houses on the 300-acre parcel, which is between Gleedsville and Evergreen Mills roads off Route 15. He has not filed a rezoning application for the parcel, which is zoned for agricultural use, but has held a preliminary meeting with county planning officials.
Meanwhile, in a move that is becoming increasingly common among developers, Brooks hired John Etcher, of the Centreville-based P&J Associates, a public relations company, to help sell the project to residents and the town and county officials who will have to approve it.
Etcher met with more than 30 families over four days this week to brief them on the project.
"We've had preliminary meetings with the county, and we now want to let the citizens know it's coming," Etcher told a group Tuesday at Simpson Middle School.
"We want to make neighbors involved and engaged in the process."
Several residents who live near the property, known as the Crane Farm, said they were disappointed -- if not surprised -- to hear about the proposed development.
"Obviously I know it's going to be developed, but I just wish they would preserve the old house," said Marilynn Davis, 50.
"You sit out on the veranda and it overlooks the pond and you think, `I never want to move.' "
Her husband, Adam Davis, said: "It's a spectacular piece of property. It's one of the last pieces of farms in that area. It's going to have to be developed, but the big question here is how will they get sewer and water?"
Etcher agreed that water and sewer will be the project's biggest obstacle.
He hopes to tap into town utilities, but Leesburg officials said they are reluctant to extend the services outside its boundaries.
"We're not geared to handle it," said Leesburg Mayor James E. Clem. "By not [providing utilities], we can manage growth a lot better."
Company officials said the number of houses they can build depends not only on water and sewer -- which would increase the number -- but also on how close they will be able to build to wetlands on the property.
The property is under contract, and no development plans have been submitted to the county, Etcher said.
If the project is approved, Etcher said, construction would begin within three years and be completed in 10 years.