Fate of land at entrance to Purcellville under discussion – Thinking outside the box
By Valerie Curry
The Purcellville Town Council held a joint meeting Oct. 6 with Purcellville’s Economic Development Advisory Committee to listen to a presentation by Chuck Kuhn of JK Land Holdings, LLC, along with developer Hobie Mitchel. The presentation addressed uses for the 118.81-acre Warner Brook property, located at 17110 Purcellville Road. Kuhn bought the property on July 31, for $3.25 million.
Kuhn has also purchased property – called Purcellville West – across from the Loudoun Golf and Country Club along Business 7 west of Town.
This parcel is not in the Town limits, and is zoned JLMA-3, one house per three acres. Kuhn and the County are considering putting a western recreation center on 20 acres of that 100-plus-acre parcel.
An individual named Magic Kayhan purchased part of the Warner Brook property – 12.48 acres – on Aug. 26, 2019, for $900,000. This property has the original Warner house, along with several old farm structures.
The 118-acre Warner Brook property is in the County, and is zoned JLMA-3, which allows for approximately 42 residential homes.
During the presentation, Kuhn said, “We don’t have a set agenda for the property,” pointing out that he has 511 acres that border the Town of Purcellville. “Tonight, we would like to talk about approximately 240 of that 511 acres, and we really come to you with a little bit of a blank canvas.” Kuhn said he didn’t want “to push more homes in Loudoun County.” Later reiterating, “We don’t need more rooftops in western Loudoun; we don’t need more rooftops in Loudoun.”
Continuing, he said he wanted to do what is in the best interest of the Town of Purcellville and the County. “Of course I am interested in my own interest, but I don’t have a driving agenda I am trying
to push down the Council’s throat.” He pointed out that the Town has inherited economic challenges. “We need to find ways to get more of a tax base into the Town of Purcellville” …
Commercial/light industrial opportunity?
Kuhn said there is “a real shortage of industrial ground; there is a shortage of commercial ground,” presenting a concept layout of the property consisting of 26 proposed industrial/commercial parcels.
Mitchel added, “There are not a lot of small opportunities around eastern Loudoun, even around Leesburg. There is a huge need for light industrial ground. How do we create a tax base that won’t overwhelm existing communities?”
Kuhn said that creating more industrial/commercial would also clean up Main Street – pointing out that Main Street is not the best use for industrial “as a whole.” Council member Chris Bertaut asked what kind of light industrial is on Main Street, and Kuhn said businesses such as “a gym, a tire repair shop, and a lawn mower repair shop.”
“It’s time for us to move forward,” said Kuhn. He said he could move forward with residential, but, “I’d like to look at other uses for this property.”
Mitchel pointed out that if they could get the commercial/industrial zoning for the Warner Brook property it would generate $101 million in assessed value, and would bring in $224,000 in annual income for the Town, to include an additional $140,000 in “sewer and water uses as well.”
Kuhn said the Town could say it was “not interested. And we’ll approach the normal procedures of going through the County for rezoning and moving forward.” Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser later said, “A note of assurance for the citizens in Purcellville and our neighbors in Wright Farm: it is not an easy process to go through a Comprehensive Plan amendment with the County to get light industrial development in that area … ” Fraser said it was rare that someone would come before Council “before they even think about development.” “What you are doing is asking us for our interest in partnering with you with an opportunity” …
“The challenges that we face can be summed up in our waste water treatment facility that was upgraded in 2010 … I do see the waste water treatment facility as an asset that can be monetized, and the way you monetize a waste water treatment facility is by getting more users. But, with more users comes more traffic, and more burden on our infrastructure,” said Fraser.
He pointed out that another option would be to get a user that “would not be a burden on our infrastructure. And those are ideas I would like us to start looking at.”
What it might look like
Council member Stan Milan asked what type of light industrial did they envision; and Kuhn said it could be warehousing, distribution, and manufacturing. Milan was concerned for the Mayfair community, and the traffic impact on that residential community. “How would you mitigate that traffic?” he asked. Kuhn said he could do a traffic study. “We would have to look at by-right housing [42 homes] versus light industrial … ” Kuhn said that land costs in eastern Loudoun “are getting so high … that it doesn’t make sense to have a moving company storing furniture in eastern Loudoun County with the price per acre … myself for example … there is nowhere for me to go in Loudoun.”
Kuhn said, “I am not introducing, asking, or proposing data centers in western Loudoun … the only thing we can’t do is leave it [Warner Brook] like it is today. That land is not good for conservation; the economics are such that it doesn’t work well on Warner Brook.”
He said he can move forward with light industrial/commercial in the County without annexation by the Town. Mitchel said that with commercial, onsite treatment could be done, if “that was permitted with the State.”
Wright Farm resident Lydia Clark asked Kuhn, “What data did you use to come up with the lack of commercial/industrial in western Loudoun?” She expressed concern with the potential light pollution, traffic, noise, and one entrance in and out of the proposed plan. “Western Loudoun, Purcellville specifically, has spoken very loudly over the last couple years about annexing property, whether residential or commercial.”
Kuhn said it was “purely land cost … land in eastern Loudoun can range for light industrial from $500,000 to $2 million an acre. So, it’s getting too expensive for services … A lot of rezoning from industrial/commercial to residential [Toll Brothers] further diminished” available land. “Kids are getting on school buses next to dump trucks, moving trucks, and tractor trailers.”
Clark said, “You just made my point. You talk about a Toll Brothers community being right next to industrial. They don’t want it in Ashburn or Sterling; I am pretty sure that people are not going to want it out here in Purcellville.”
Just a discussion
This is just a discussion, said Fraser. “There is no request for annexation … I know the folks hate the word data center. Ninety percent of the data in the world today was created in the last two years. There will come a day of reckoning on where the data centers go. Back in the 70s and 80s, AT&T and the Bell Atlantics of the world were able to put data centers in communities – whether they buried them or made them look like mansions … or homes … If you can make a data center look like a barn, and you can eliminate the issue with noise, pollution, and all of the other things, that makes folks not like data centers – I will say, look at it … again, it needs to look like a barn or a mansion, and we have to take care of the issues with lighting, pollution, and noise pollution.”
If it is light industrial, it needs to be a user that would not put a burden on our infrastructure; and a user that would drive a lot of revenue to the Town. Today, that user is a data center; tomorrow it may not be,” said Fraser.
Kuhn said that the Town and County can not continue to build residential growth. Every residential dwelling “costs the County, the State, the Town $33,000 in infrastructure costs.”
“Every time a toilet flushes in the Town of Purcellville, we are losing money … if this were a private business I owned, I would be scared to death, and I would be bracing for bankruptcy.”
Fraser disagreed and said the Town was strong financially; and he repeated this at the Oct. 13 Town Council meeting. In 2023, the Town has a payment due of $1.3 million, due to the increase in water treatment debt. “So, no, the Town is not on a fiscal cliff, and we are not close to bankruptcy. We have stellar ratings; we are managing our financial affairs well; and we are moving forward with initiatives to add to our revenue stream.”
Varying Points of View
Kuhn presented the same proposal to the Purcellville Planning Commission Oct. 15. Kuhn said that with the Warner Brook property – he didn’t need to use all the 118 acres for commercial/industrial, “We have a tremendous amount of land to create open space.” He also cautioned that one couldn’t say they don’t want commercial or industrial. “It is going to be something … it is not going to be open space.”
Planning Commissioner Stosh Kowalski said Kuhn’s proposed buffer was a problem, as well as moving trucks going in and out of the area.
Planning Commissioner Nedim Ogelman said in both the County and Town’s Comprehensive Plan – the vision for this part of the County is to retain its rural heritage. “The idea was for the eastern part of the County to accommodate this kind of industrial, more dense growth, and the west would … be more of a transition area.” He said the zoning in this area is “what the people of our Town and County want.”
“All I am saying about this, is that it needs to be much more imaginative than these options. We need to go to the citizens and say this is not a status quo solution, and not moving the vision of eastern Loudoun County into the western rural area … I am not sure citizens are opposed to one house for every three acres on that land. I think what the people are opposed to is the idea of putting density, tightly packed buildings in that area … I am not sure our Town wants industrial,” said Ogelman.