Leesburg Town Council Initiates Zoning Ordinance Changes

Last week the Leesburg Town Council initiated a series of Zoning Ordinance amendments designed to provide more flexibility in what uses are allowed in specific areas of the town, as well as to pave the way for a commuter parking lot to access Metro’s Silver Line.

The process was kick-started by two recent petitions to the Town Council. Michael Banzhaf, an attorney with ReedSmith, requested that the council consider initiating changes to the I-1 District to allow public commuter lots as a by-right use. In a recent council meeting, he noted that Loudoun County was interested in constructing a commuter lot near the Village at Leesburg to offer commuter access to Metro’s Silver Line stations. The land is located east of Wegmans and Crosstrail Boulevard and is under power lines. That makes it a less than ideal location for other uses, but perfect for a commuter lot, Banzhaf said. Currently, commuter lots are only allowed in the town’s B-3 district. While in its report to the council, the planning staff noted its hesitancy with allowing the use by right in the I-1, as it could negate other economic development opportunities for the town, Banzhaf emphasized that if certain performance standards were put in place it could limit the locations available for the lots within the district.

Banzhaf also requested an ordinance amendment to allow council members the flexibility to modify the ratio of commercial to office square footage in the town’s PRC (Planned Residential Community) districts. This would allow the council the ability to consider current market conditions, and the economic development needs of the town when an application comes forward, a staff report noted. PRC zoning currently allows for a ratio of 2.5 to 1.0 commercial to office square footage. There are three developments zoned PRC—Village at Leesburg, Potomac Station and Oaklawn. A fourth, Leegate, located in the southwest quadrant of Rt. 7 and Battlefield Parkway intersection, is proposed for PRC zoning.

The final ordinance amendment was brought forward by attorney Bob Sevila, along with commercial real estate brokers Kevin Goeller and Matt Holbrook. That amendment would allow a variety of special exception uses in a flex industrial building or park to obtain one “umbrella” special exception for these uses, according to a staff report. This way, a property owner would only need to seek approval for one special exception for a given building, rather than multiples for each prospective tenant.

The council agreed to initiate all three Zoning Ordinance amendments, which will first make their way to the Planning Commission review before a Town Council public hearing and vote. The commuter lot and “umbrella” special exceptions for flex industrial uses amendments were initiated unanimously by the council. The vote to initiate the amendment to give flexibility for the office/commercial ratio in PRC districts was agreed to by a 4-3 vote, with council members Bruce Gemmill, Katie Hammler and Kelly Burk opposed.

According to the staff report, the unanimously initiated amendments are expected to begin their legislative review in the spring, while there was no date given for the potential changes to PRC district zoning ratios.

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