When my family and I moved to Leesburg from Southern California about 23 years ago, we lived near the entrance to Leesburg Country Club, about a block from Rt. 15.
One of my favorite features of our new home, which was perched on a small hill, was the view from the living room. We could look out across our neighbors’ houses and the highway to a vast expanse of open space – an honest-to-goodness farm.
From the deck in back, we could view beautiful sunsets over the small mountain that formed the western boundary of our neighborhood.
These views were very different from those of our previous homes in sprawling Los Angeles County, where we looked out either on other apartment buildings or tiny suburban homes.
The traffic noise we heard from our yard was the rush of vehicles on the Leesburg Bypass, as opposed to the roar of the Long Beach Freeway.
At that time – before the development of Linden Hill, Woodlea Manor and Greenway Farms – Leesburg Country Club marked the outer edge of developed Leesburg.
We needed only to look out our living room window, or to turn right from Country Club Drive onto Rt. 15, to know that we were living right on the outskirts of a small town that was itself located on the outskirts of metropolitan Washington, D.C.
I had never heard the term “view shed” at that time, but I knew intuitively that our scenic view had value. I also knew that it wouldn’t last forever.
More than once, as my wife and I admired the view from our living room windows, one of us commented that someday we would be looking down on houses and stores.
Now it looks like that development is finally on its way. Last month, the owner of the farm property met with area residents to outline plans for the Meadowbrook development. They include 400 high end, single family homes, a supermarket, shops and restaurants. Ground could be broken as soon as 2014.
If I am surprised about anything, it is that the development has taken so long to arrive. The Meadowbrook property appears to be a prime area for both residential and commercial development.
There will be tradeoffs, and some may be controversial. We’ll have new homes, jobs and choices for shopping and dining. There will also be more schoolchildren, traffic and crime. School boundaries will eventually have to be redrawn again.
Residents of neighborhoods on the south side of Leesburg won’t have to travel quite so far for groceries, dry cleaning, or gourmet coffee. But some older businesses will suffer from the new competition.
Environmentalists like to quote an old Joni Mitchell song: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
But the future site of Meadowbrook isn’t paradise, and the development will bring a lot more than a parking lot.
To be sure, there will be environmental impacts. A day or two after the Meadowbrook meeting, my wife saw a fox crossing Evergreen Mill Road, near the planned commercial development. Foxes are said to be smart. Maybe this one had gotten wind of the plans, and was making an early exit to a more secure habitat.
My wife and I didn’t wait for the development to come, either. About a decade ago, with a growing family, we moved to a larger house located farther back in the neighborhood.
Now we have a beautiful view of the golf course from our deck. However, we miss the sunsets. We live so close to the mountain that our view is blocked. But at night, the air is alive with the sounds of wildlife from the mountain, even louder than traffic noise from the bypass.
There are some homes on the top of that mountain. Once, residents of the older homes looked down on a large farm that was eventually developed so that my home, and those of my neighbors, could be built.
I think that a line from another Joni Mitchell song is more appropriate here: “Well, something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.”
Life is a series of tradeoffs, especially in fast-growing Leesburg.