The Town of Leesburg’s plans to take a new look at the future of the East Market Street corridor is a well-timed and important exercise.
Development concepts for the area between the Leesburg Bypass and the eastern municipal limits were first laid out in the 1980s after the town annexed thousands of acres. Those plans have changed over the years, but they haven’t changed much. Meanwhile, market conditions and the county government’s zoning goals have fluctuated greatly. Most recently, county leaders have sided with property owners in moving ahead with a stronger blend of residential development along the town’s borders.
That strategy may not directly conflict with Leesburg’s goal of establishing tax-positive office and commercial uses along its portion of Rt. 7, but it likely will make it harder to achieve it. The questions are: Should the town maintain those land use plans? And if not, what is the best mix of uses for that area of town?
The study is important now because forces beyond the town’s control may quickly dictate the answer to those questions. Also, the corridor represents one of the few areas inside the town boundaries remaining for new development. The Town Council soon will be asked to act on the Crescent Parke rezoning south of the historic district. After that, the Leesburg South property between King Street and Evergreen Mill Road south of the Leesburg Bypass, and the land along the town’s East Market Street corridor will be all that remains undeveloped. What ultimately is constructed in those areas will affect the town’s taxes, utility rates, job opportunities and other quality of life factors for years to come.
It is important to get it right.
Added to that mix is a new look at the H-2 zoning regulations. When adopted in the early 1990s, the overlay district on the town’s primary entrance corridors was viewed as an innovative way to protect Leesburg’s gateways. In practice, the architectural guidelines proved to only marginally contribute to the town’s beautification, while significantly adding to its reputation for a burdensome review process. It remains important to promote high-quality development outside the historic district as much as within it, but there may be other zoning tools that can be deployed more effectively to achieve that goal.
Let’s get that right, too.