When residents step out the front door of their homes in Villages of Piedmont at Leopold’s Preserve, they will be in Aldo Leopold country.

He is the famous conservationist, forester, philosopher and author who implored the public to find harmony with nature.

Scott C. Plein, principal at Equinox Investments and developer of the property, had Aldo Leopold in mind as he designed a mix of comfortable living and outdoor recreation in a natural environment. “I’m a big believer in wise land use,” he said.

Comprising almost 500 acres, the Villages of Piedmont at Leopold’s Preserve is in the town of Haymarket, Va., about 30 miles west of Washington in northwestern Prince William County.

Eventually, 393 residences will be built — 132 single-family houses and 261 townhouses by Stanley Martin, Winchester Homes and Richmond American Homes — set in a cluster arrangement to maximize surrounding open space. The open space, called Leopold’s Preserve, will be 380 acres of old-growth hardwood forest, grass fields and wetland. House construction is just beginning.

The living area in the Sandhurst model at the Villages of Piedmont at Leopold's Preserve (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Villages of Piedmont at Leopold’s Preserve surrounds an existing community, Villages of Piedmont, a mix of 413
single-family houses and townhouses on 125 acres. The new development is deliberately designed to complement and enhance the existing community.

“We didn’t want to go in there and build totally different-looking houses. We wanted to fit in aesthetically,” Plein said.

“We believe overall the new houses will help the value of ours,” said Bob Scharrer, immediate past president of the Villages of Piedmont homeowners association and a four-year resident of the community.

The builders will follow architectural guidelines to ensure a uniform aesthetic in the new and existing homes and even the clubhouse. They’ll use the same roof materials and vinyl, brick, cementitious siding or stone to match exteriors.

Conservation easement: When Equinox acquired the 500-acre tract of land, it was commercially zoned. “We could have built a low-rise office complex with first-floor retail, but it would have abutted the existing community in a way I wasn’t comfortable with,” Plein said.

Scharrer said: “Basically we’re glad to have houses instead of the commercial properties the land was originally zoned for.”

“I’ve always believed the concept of mega clustering and mega open space can help maintain the integrity of natural land, and that’s what I wanted to do at the Villages,” Plein said.

Scharrer said that everybody who walks the trails enjoys them.

The kitchen in the Sandhurst model at the Villages of Piedmont at Leopold's Preserve (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Now Equinox is in the process of putting the Preserve into a conservation easement to be held by the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve environmentally important land. An easement means the land can never be developed.

Plein intends to create partnerships with local groups and schools to encourage use of the Preserve as a destination for field trips and botany classes.

Tribute to environmentalists: Shanda Sedalia bought a three-level single-family house sight unseen. “I picked the site and the construction process just began,” she said. “So I can watch it go up and create the home I envision.”

She likes the light in the kitchen and living area. The kitchen is big enough to eat in. There’s also a spacious dining room off the butler’s pantry so you don’t see the kitchen while you’re eating dinner. Four bedrooms with walk-in closets, generous master bathroom suite and laundry room complete the upstairs level.

Leopold’s Preserve will offer five miles of trails plus explanatory signs about plant and animal life, local history and the geology of the landscape. On a recent morning, Barbara Dews, a three-year resident of Villages of Piedmont, and her sons, Jesse, 19, and Matthew, 11 / 2, ambled along a 10-foot-wide asphalt trail. “We’re out here every day,” she said. “It’s cooler back in the trees. We all love it.”

The third floor loft in the Sandhurst model at the Villages of Piedmont at Leopold's Preserve (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

A two-story clubhouse, six-lane lap pool and toddler pool, playground, interpretive center and dog park will be built.

Streets are named for conservationists — (John) Muir Drive, Rachel (Carson) Place, (John James) Audubon Way, (Gifford) Pinchot Lane.

Retail and transit: Plentiful retail is available in nearby Haymarket and Gainesville — Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Wegmans, Home Depot, Harris Teeter and specialty shops for banking, pets, cosmetics, exercise and dining. “There’s a movie theater and lots of chains. You can get pretty much everything you need,” Sedalia said.

The community is close to the intersection of Route 15 and Interstate 66. A new interchange is being built there, and two lanes are being added to Route 15. The trip from Washington on I-66 to Exit 43B is about 35 minutes without traffic.

Virginia Railway Express is exploring an extension of service to the Gainesville-
Haymarket area.

A bridge along the trails at the Villages of Piedmont at Leopold's Preserve (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Schools: Buckland Mills Elementary; Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle; Battlefield High.

Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.

Villages of Piedmontat Leopold’s Preserve

6770 Leopold’s Trail, Haymarket, Va.

The single-family houses range from $499,990 to $619,990.

Builder: Stanley Martin.

Features: The kitchens have hardwood floors, birch cabinets, granite counters, recessed lighting and Kohler sink/faucet. The master bathroom includes a soaking tub and ceramic tile floors. The houses have nine-foot ceilings, upstairs laundry room and a security system.

Bedrooms/bathrooms: 4 to 6/2.5 to 6.5.

Square footage: 2,638 to 7,059.

Homeowner association fees: $300 per quarter.

View models: 1 to 6 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.

Sales: Beth Mitchell, 703-581-7804; or www.stanleymartin.com.

Winchester Homes and Richmond American Homes do not have models or sales offices yet. Winchester Homes can be reached at 571-982-2063 or www.winchesterhomes.com. Richmond American Homes can be reached at 703-348-0025 or www.richmondamerican.com .