Leesburg Town Planning Commission hands over city plan to council

It could happen later than initially expected, but Leesburg could have a new town plan by early 2022.

The city’s planning commission officially handed over the review of the updated Legacy Leesburg master plan to city council by voting to certify the document at its December 2 meeting.

Recommendation 4-2-1, with President Gigi Robinson and Commissioner Ad Barnes dissenting, came after eight months of work and 15 committee working sessions.

“It’s been a long way to get here,” said Robinson.

The Long Road began over two years ago, when city staff launched a public contribution effort to gather input from residents, businesses and stakeholders on what the new comprehensive plan should look like. from Leesburg. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically lengthened the timeline, with more behind-the-scenes work by city staff and consultants on developing a draft to present to the commission, with the initial public hearing taking place on the 1st. April of this year.

City council members have at times seemed impatient with how long the committee’s review of the document will take, with a joint meeting of the two bodies on August 16 identifying unresolved areas of concern on which the commissioners spent much of the three last and a month and a half concentrated.

The 237-page draft document, the fourth iteration submitted to the committee for consideration, includes several revisions made by the committee, including a recently updated transportation improvement plan. What hasn’t changed in all of the committee’s reviews, said senior planner and project manager Rich Klusek, is the shift to a document that is more proactive than reactive, and one that continually recalls the character of the city.

Recognizing that the city is almost completely built and that there will be little new development in the future, a proactive approach, said Klusek: “[is] the most effective approach to redeveloping and improving communities.

Commissioner Earl Hoovler, who has overseen numerous town plan updates during his many tenures on the commission, said the go-around was “certainly very different” from previous reviews. He initially said he was hesitant to take the “playbook approach” set out in the new plan. Within this structure, some elements, including the planning context, guiding principles, community character assessment and objectives, remain unchanged. However, the playbook concept allows the city to pivot or evolve as market conditions change through new strategies, recommendations of areas of interest, and growth and conservation maps.

“During our working sessions, I discovered [the playbook approach] indeed has a lot to offer, ”said Hoovler. The document, “focuses on the character of Leesburg and I think that’s important. I think that’s the real innovation here.

While no speakers came to the commission’s public hearing on December 2 to share their thoughts on the draft plan as a whole, several members of the development community came to focus on specific plots of the plan.

One was a five-acre piece of land off Edwards Ferry Road, behind Dick’s Sporting Goods Mall and directly south of the REHAU North America campus. It was owned by German grocery chain Lidl, with the intention of developing the property into its first store in Leesburg, but the prohibitive cost of the fieldwork made it impossible, said Molly Novotny, senior planner for Cooley LLP. . With the property on the market for two years, users wishing for industrial uses, such as a self-storage business or a multi-family residential development, have expressed an interest. At Legacy Leesburg, the property is still identified for business development, and Novotny and Megan Sizemore of Lidl US asked the commission to consider flexibility for the property.

Novotny also spoke on behalf of Kettler, who last week submitted an amendment to the master plan to allow new uses on the two remaining undeveloped lots in his Village at Leesburg development. The land, which borders the city / county line, is opposite Wegmans and is surrounded by residential units. It has long been planned and zoned for industrial purposes, she said. Kettler’s proposed town plan change would pave the way for the development of residential units on these plots, a use that would better integrate into surrounding neighborhoods, she said.

Whether flexibility is allowed with these properties will now be a matter for city council, which is expected to hold its own public hearing on the plan and begin its review next month. While all of the committee members praised the staff for their oversight of the Legacy Leesburg review and all the work that went into it over the past few years, Barnes and Robinson ultimately said they were not disagree with the document as written.

While Barnes said her concerns centered on West Leesburg, Robinson said there was too much ambiguity for her to feel comfortable approving it.

“I have a hard time with a document that is not a plan, it is a series of things to think about and emphasizes results rather than specific ways to achieve them,” she said. declared.

Commissioner Nick Clemente was absent for the meeting.

To see the current draft city plan, go to legacy.leesburgva.gov.

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Aurora J. William