A month after the surprise announcement that the Loudoun Hounds minor league baseball team planned to build its stadium to the One Loudoun development, nearby residents are raising objections to the plan.
During a community meeting with County Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large), Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) and members of the county’s transportation staff last week, around 250 Potomac Green residents came out to express their displeasure with the stadium, which residents say was dropped in their backyards without any consideration for them.
In October, the Loudoun Hounds announced they had reached an impasse with the developers of their previous planned home in the Kincora mixed-use center off Rt. 28. To meet the opening date of 2014 needed to receive a final franchise from the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, the Hounds made a new deal with the developers of One Loudoun, about one mile west at the intersection of Rt. 7 and Loudoun County Parkway. The Hounds’ owners also recently announced a franchise deal with the North American Soccer League for a team that would share the stadium.
The facility is being planned for capacity for up to 10,000 fans including 5,500 fixed seats. Plans are to have the park host at least 72 baseball games per year as well as community events, concerts, festivals and additional sporting events.
The community meeting was full of passion, with York and Williams often getting booed for their comments that the county government would required the developer to mitigate the impact of the stadium to the greatest extent possible. At times the residents were at opposition with each other, as there was a faction of the audience that appeared in support of the application—although only a couple took to the podium to make comments or ask questions. Residents also tried to keep the discussion on track, telling those who accused supervisors of making money off the stadium and those who did not keep decorum to sit down.
Overall, it was the impact on their quality of life that most concerned, and at times angered, the residents.
Three-year resident Robert Daugherty spoke of the experience that drove him and his wife to Potomac Green. When the couple moved into their old home near Stone Bridge High School they were subjected to late-night partying, a continued presence from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and a feeling of constant threat from their neighbors. The Daugherty’s finally decided to move to Potomac Green for a better quality of life.
“What you’re proposing to do is the same thing we had to live through for two years,” Daugherty told the county representatives. “How can you justify that?”
Daughtery and many other speakers said plans that were in place for the stadium on the Kincora property—including fireworks, large events with up to 10,000 people and evening games—would create a situation from which they could not escape. One woman noted that while those who moved into the Kincora development could choose to live next to the baseball stadium, Potomac Green residents were not given that choice.
“We are not against baseball,” one man said, “many of us moved here after the Kincora stadium was approved. And we were fine with it. I just don’t want it in my backyard.”
Many Potomac Green residents said they had been pleased to learn of One Loudoun’s original plans for a mixed-use center—noting particularly they liked the idea of high-end retailers, including a grocery store, to improve their quality of life. Some queried One Loudoun developer Bill May whether they would be losing those amenities in the wake of gaining a baseball stadium. May said no changes were being planned as a result of the stadium, except for the loss of about 300,000 square feet of office space, or about 10 percent of the overall office space planned for the community.
But residents remained skeptical.
“Everyone here is kidding themselves if they think a baseball league and a soccer league is going to bring the type of restaurants and businesses we want,” one man said. “Even if it starts out with a group of restaurants and businesses that are more what we want, there will be ones that come to replace them because a different type of people will start coming to the [area].”
Noise and traffic were among the top concerns raised by the speakers, and statements from Williams and York did not alleviate those worries. The supervisors said full noise and traffic studies would be completed as part of the county’s review, and that the stadium was being repositioned on the site to face toward Rt. 7 and away from the existing residences to reduce the noise impacts. But many of the speakers called on their past experience to question the assertion that the noise would be “negligible.”
Resident Frank Helmes said he used to live near Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. “I was miles away and whenever there were events I had to close my doors to watch TV,” he said. “It was that loud.”
As for traffic, many people mentioned the long lines of cars that would be exiting the stadium, using roads directly in front of Potomac Green for hours—citing the traffic at Wolf Trap as an example of what they would likely see.
“What happens if there is an emergency in our community when all that traffic is there,” one woman asked. “We have one way in and out of our community. If we have a traffic jam, how are we going to get in?”
Williams and York agreed those were questions that need to be answered, and said they would be addressed during the review process.
While the transportation staff presented the future plans for roads to be built in the vicinity of One Loudoun—including the interchange at Ashburn Village Boulevard and Rt. 7 and the extension of Gloucester Parkway—some of the Potomac Green residents pointed out those improvements do not directly address the addition of thousands of people on the roads before and after events.
After receiving Board of Supervisors approval in 2009 for a baseball stadium at the Kincora project near the intersection of Rt. 28 and Rt. 7, but seeing no movement on the infrastructure needed to build its stadium, the Loudoun Hounds announced Oct. 1 that it was moving its operations and stadium to the One Loudoun project, located off Loudoun County Parkway. The stadium would be located on land near the interchange of Loudoun County Parkway and Rt. 7.
But One Loudoun was approved in 2007 without any allowances for a stadium-like facility on the property, so its developers must receive a Comprehensive Plan amendment from the Board of Supervisors before construction can begin. Zoned for a town center, the land will have to be rezoned to Planned Development-Special Activity, and One Loudoun will have to get a concept plan amendment approved by the Board of Supervisors as well. One Loudoun representatives hope to have the approval from the board by the spring, so the stadium can be built in time for an opening day in 2014.
To help the Hounds meet that deadline, the Board of Supervisors decided last month to move the One Loudoun application to the “top of the pile.” The application will receive the same reviews by the same referring agencies and experts, and will go through the full Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors public process, but that review has been accelerated.
Many of the speakers questioned whether they actually would have any say in what happened with the stadium—saying it felt like a “done deal.” When York and Williams repeatedly said it was far from a “done deal” many speakers said they were pleased to hear that, but still had doubts.
“It is alarming to hear, ‘we couldn’t come to an agreement with Kincora but we can with One Loudoun,’” resident Ed Schultz said. “It sounds like this is a done deal. It sounds like we are screwed no matter what we say here.”