The Round Hill Aquatic Center at Woodgrove Park opened last week, almost 24 years after it was proffered to Loudoun County in a rezoning that allowed development of the Villages of Round Hill, Mountain Valley and Lake Point.
The opening was the culmination of a decades-long process that included public meetings, shifting plans for the facility, an appeal by the developer and rulings by the county’s zoning administrator.
The indoor facility has drawn criticism because of its size and operational costs. With four 25-yard lap lanes, it will provide space for swim team practices but is too small to host meets. The facility was built with private funds, but it will cost the county about $400,000 annually to operate. About one-third of the cost will be recovered by user fees in the first year, county officials said.
“It is kind of galling that we’ve ended up with a proffer that’s ultimately going to cost us [$400,000] a year that we can’t recover for a facility that really isn’t what anybody wanted and is really not what we wanted to build in the first place,” Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said last year at a finance committee meeting.
When the Board of Supervisors accepted the proffer in July 1991, the developer, Oak Hill Properties, agreed to build a community center with an outdoor pool, according to county documents. A second outdoor pool was to be built later in another location.
The problem with the proffer, former supervisor Jim Burton said, is that area residents did not want the outdoor pools, which would have been too small for swim teams to use.
“The community wanted an indoor pool large enough for swim teams to practice year-round,” said Burton, who represented western Loudoun districts on the Board of Supervisors from 1996 through 2011.
“The developer refused to change the proffer to accommodate the community’s desire,” he said in an e-mail. “They insisted on building the proffered pool, which was not long enough nor wide enough for team use and was not enclosed.”
“People really wanted an Ida Lee Park, or Claude Moore [Park] . . . something of that scale,” Burton said in a later interview. “And the developer was not going to do it.”
In 2001, the county began holding a series of public meetings to gather input about community needs, after which the Board of Supervisors directed county staff members to renegotiate the proffer, according to county documents.
Burton said the developer eventually agreed to build an indoor facility with four lap lanes — enough for two teams to hold practices simultaneously.
“That was all I could get from them,” he said. “They did not have to agree to that, since they had an approved proffer for far less.” He added that the county “didn’t have to put a penny of taxpayers’ money” into the facility.
A 2006 ruling by the zoning administrator, in response to the developer’s appeal of an earlier ruling, affirmed that the four-lane pool satisfied the requirements of the proffer.
Michele Song, coach of the boys’ and girls’ swim teams at Woodgrove High School, said she welcomed the new facility, although it was “a shame that they could not put in a full-size pool.”
Teams from Woodgrove and Loudoun Valley high schools in Purcellville have been traveling to the Ida Lee Park Recreation Center in Leesburg for swim practice, Song said. In the past, the teams have had to go as far as the Claude Moore Recreation Center in Sterling to practice.
Because the teams had low priority at Ida Lee, they had to schedule practices late in the evening, Song said, and some of her students would not get home until almost midnight.
“What I’m most excited about is that it looks like our two high school teams will be able to get in shortly after school and be able to run our practices,” she said.
Barnes is a freelance writer.