Leesburg residents who live near Westpark Golf Course are pushing back against a developer's plans to acquire the property and build homes on it.
Town officials announced late last year that the course is under contract to CalAtlantic, a land- development company that plans to build 27 homes there and donate most of the remaining property to the town. Since the sale's announcement, scores of residents have shown up at town council meetings and other community gatherings to object to the plan.
The sale is set to be discussed again Monday at a council working session.
"This is only benefiting the developer," Bruce Boyce said at a recent council meeting. "It does nothing for the citizens."
The area "used to be a real nice place to live," he said. "You've got to keep control . . . of the greenery and the open spaces and what it takes to feel like a nice place to live."
At a community meeting last month, David Rettew, vice president of Land for CalAtlantic, said the company will seek to cluster the homes on half-acre lots on two sections of the 142-acre property and donate 113 acres of open space to the town for use as parkland. Current zoning regulations allow the construction of up to 27 homes on three-acre lots across the property, he said.
Rettew did not disclose plans for a 7.5-acre portion of the property zoned for commercial development along Route 15. CalAtlantic is talking with "a couple of groups" about that parcel, he said, adding that "our goal is to sell it."
About 75 residents who live in neighborhoods surrounding the 50-year-old golf course filled town council chambers and voiced their concerns about how the development would affect their property values and the impact it could have on the flooding that occurs on the course and nearby during heavy rains.
"There's no way that you could really appreciate the extent of the flooding unless you live on the course and see it," Dan Hinchberger said. "Flood mitigation and storm drainage was done when the current homes were built, and yet there are still homes with yards and basements that flood."
"We spent 20,000 bucks a house . . . for a golf course view," said Judy McSpadden, who lives near one of the sites proposed for new homes. "What would you say to me to ease my concerns [that] now, instead of a deer in a forest, I'm looking at a big hairy dude with a fat belly drinking his coffee on the patio?"
"We've developed this plan . . . because we want to impact the existing residents as little as possible," Rettew said. Most of the existing homes would be separated from the new houses by green space or wooded areas, he said in an interview after the meeting.
Rettew said the sale is expected to close in February. The 18-hole, public golf course was built in 1968 at the southwest edge of Leesburg and is owned now by Dittmar Company of Vienna, Va.
Some speakers at a community meeting in November urged the town council to consider purchasing the property and operating it as a municipal golf course if the sale to CalAtlantic falls through. Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk said the town cannot afford to buy the property, which was listed for more than $6 million, and that Loudoun County and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority are not interested in partnering with the town to buy it.
If CalAtlantic donates open land to the town, it would be used as "a park of some sort," Burk said. "We most certainly will not build on it."
Council member Fernando "Marty" Martinez said he believes that the town would accept the donation of land "because it prevents further development."
"We want to keep as much open space as we possibly can," he said in an interview.
Joel Bodine said that he frequently played at Westpark when he was growing up, and that it had always been his goal to live on a golf course. In January, he and his wife, Kali, bought what they thought would be their "forever home" next to the 15th fairway, he said.
"The number one reason I moved to this location was because I thought this course would be here forever," Bodine said in an interview. "The homes are older and the neighborhood's settled, so we assumed that, at least until retirement age, this home would be here and this course would be here."
He said that if the new homes are approved, he and his wife would "take the loss" and move, "maybe on a lake somewhere."