Residents of Middleburg and the surrounding area would like Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, to develop the in-town portion of her Salamander property as little as possible, if at all, according to a report released last week.
A committee charged with assessing community sentiment on preferred land uses for the property reported that many people wished the property could remain undeveloped. They did, however, express support for a nature preserve, village greens, assisted living facilities or a smaller inn than the upscale Salamander Inn and Spa being built on the Loudoun County portion of the land. Other development possibilities brought up at public workshops, including a winery, grocery store or medevac helicopter pad, received little support.
Overall, the report said, people expressed concerns "most often related to retaining the character and scale of the town, preserving green space around the town and keeping the town the same."
Nearly 90 acres of the 340-acre property are in town. Johnson had asked Middleburg for its input on how that land, bounded by Stonewall Avenue and West Market Street, should be used. The town, in turn, appointed a committee of residents to gather community comments and contracted with a consulting firm, paid for by Johnson, to help the committee.
Johnson's plans to build the upscale 58-room inn just outside town have prompted concern among nearby residents who say the inn will generate too much traffic and alter the face of Middleburg. Most of the in-town portion of Johnson's property is zoned as an "agricultural conservancy district." Residential development is permitted on that land.
Committee Chairman George Lengauer said it was important to gather community opinion on development of the in-town portion of the Salamander property.
"I think you'll find that people in the Middleburg area for a number of years have always taken an interest in preserving the fine qualities that the community has," Lengauer said. "They had never been without opinion or comment in the past, so we felt it very important" they were able to express their opinions now.
A spokeswoman for Johnson said the BET co-founder had not yet reviewed the committee report but was eager to do so. Now, she said, Johnson is focused on completing the permitting process with the county for Salamander Inn and Spa.