We must address the booming data center growth in our state that is requiring unprecedented expansions of our energy grid and hindering our ability to get off of fossil fuels.
Last Thursday evening, Middleburg area residents came together in a remarkable demonstration of their collective love for Mickie Gordon Memorial Park and its history, sharing concerns about a County-driven special exception application (SPEX-2022-0020) to convert the multiuse community park to a more urban style sportsplex.
The proposal includes two new paved parking lots, accompanying as many as 1,681 vehicle trips projected on Saturdays, and several hundred more trips on weekdays. New lighting would dwarf the tree line of the quiet, rural park; specifically, 18 100-ft poles would be lit as late as 11 p.m. most nights. And counter to years of traffic calming efforts along the gateway corridor, new turn lanes would be added, widening Route 50.
The proposal had advanced without outreach to the community, the Town of Middleburg, or the County Board of Supervisors’ office, and was not in keeping with county policies for locating public facilities as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan.
Fortunately, thanks to extensive collaboration between nonprofits and the Middleburg community, including an effective sign and petition campaign, the proposal became a major topic of local conversation. Even more pivotal, as many as two hundred residents came out to the community meeting held by the County’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, which had been requested by Middleburg’s mayor and Town Council.
Many perspectives and heartfelt sentiments were expressed, providing critical context to decisionmakers and staff. Overall, residents seemed to share three main requests for the County:
- Withdraw the special exception application;
- Immediately proceed to find an alternate location for the much-needed championship tournament field in suburban Loudoun; and
- Come back and initiate a community input process to determine a more appropriate outcome for Mickie Gordon Park that honors the special place the park, its baseball fields, and environs, hold for local residents.
These asks emphasize a need for the County to improve how it plans for recreational resources. In this case, the lack of public process resulted in unnecessary distress in the community, and time and money wasted by the County. Mickie Gordon Park exemplifies the importance of establishing specific criteria to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts when providing desired county park facilities.
County’s response and what’s next
As noted in local news reports, Blue Ridge Leader and Loudoun Now, the head of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services said the department heard the public loud and clear and will be making changes. What these changes are, and when they are anticipated, is still unknown – no public announcement has been made yet.
Tonight, the Middleburg Town Council will discuss sending a letter to County officials regarding the special exception. We expect that it will reinforce the three main requests raised by the public.
You might consider sending a note to email@example.com to bolster efforts and thank the mayor and councilmembers for taking action. If you do, be sure to copy the Board of Supervisors and County staff to encourage withdrawal of the application and follow through on all of the requested next steps in a transparent and robust way.
In the meantime, PEC will continue to follow up on the County’s response to Mickie Gordon Park and provide suggestions to improve future park planning.
Senior Land Use Field Representative – Loudoun County
(540) 347-2334 x7041
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