The Leesburg Planning Commission last night recommended approval of three key applications tied to the expansion of the Loudoun County Courthouse.
In a special meeting Thursday, the commission offered its final feedback on the applications, which now head to the Town Council for final action. The council is expected to hold a public hearing on the applications at its Feb. 9 meeting.
The first application, a Town Plan amendment, would change the land use designation of the 9.9-acre area including the Pennington parking lot, off North and Church streets, from Low-Density Residential to Downtown.
The other applications are a concept plan and proffer amendment to increase the square footage of the proposed courthouse structure at 2 N. Church St. to 92,000 square feet, and a rezoning request to convert the Pennington lot from R-6 (residential) to Government Center to allow for the construction of a structured parking garage.
Throughout the applications’ three trips to the Planning Commission, concerns about the impact on local traffic and neighborhoods; the aesthetics of the parking garage, in particular its size and design, and lighting atop the parking structure have been major concerns cited by both commissioners and residents alike.
Commissioners recommended approval of the Town Plan amendment by a 6-0-1 vote. Commissioner Mary Harper was absent from the meeting. The concept plan and proffer amendment was given the thumbs up by a 4-2-1 vote, with Commissioners Doris Kidder and Gigi Robinson opposed. And, finally, the Pennington lot rezoning was recommended for approval by a 5-1-1 vote, with Robinson opposed.
The size, scale, design and location of the Pennington lot garage has garnered perhaps the most commission debate. Even Thursday, while the majority voted in favor of approval, several commissioners expressed their wish that the county government reduce the height of the garage by one level, from four to three, and to find other areas in town where parking could be provided.
“I feel we’ve done all we can at the Planning Commission level,” Commission Chairwoman Lyndsay Welsh Chamblin said. “I look forward to the Town Council and Board of Supervisors working together to address the outstanding issues of the four-story parking garage.”
In making the motion to recommend approval of the Pennington lot rezoning, Commissioner Sharon Babbin added three conditions to the recommendation, including that the county provide more detailed designs, including brick facades and vegetative screenings. The Pennington lot lies outside the town’s H1 District and will not be subject to review by the Board of Architectural Review.
Commission Parliamentarian Brett Burk applauded the work of all involved in the application’s review—the commission, the county’s architects and the feedback from the general public.
The final products, he said, are “better now for the town, better now for the applicant and better for the neighbors.”