To comply with a new state statute that takes effect July 1, the Leesburg Town Council is expected to initiate a set of changes to how it governs the acceptance of proffers.
Town Attorney Barbara Notar gave an initial briefing to the council last month, and returned to Monday night’s work session with updated information. The new statute will allow applicants for rezoning applications to challenge the reasonableness of a proffer even if it was voluntarily submitted.
Any on-site proffers submitted by rezoning applicants now have to be “specifically attributable” to resolve the impacts generated by a new development on surrounding facilities, such as schools, parks, and public safety. There are even further stipulations for off-site proffers, as well as cash proffers, including that a development must receive a “direct and material benefit” from any proposed proffer, including funds given to relieve the stress on area schools or public safety facilities.
Tuesday night, the council was expected to vote on a set of initiating resolutions to comply with the new changes, and to make sure Town Council and town staff members are prepared for how to handle rezoning applications, and their associated proffers, after July 1.
The biggest change proposed is the adoption of an interim policy that no new proffers will be accepted with residential rezoning applications until the town staff has completed, and the council has adopted, certain changes. These include updates to the Zoning Ordinance; beginning work on changes to the Town Plan; and the repeal of current proffer guidelines. Over the next six months, Notar also has strongly advised council members to not discuss any residential rezoning application with applicants, or at the very least unless she or Director of Planning and Zoning Susan Berry-Hill are present for any such discussions.
Other changes proposed in the initiating resolutions are requirements for all comments or questions related to proffers to be mediated by the town staff member serving as project manager for an application and for applicants to sign a sworn certification stating that proffers included in an application were voluntarily given. Also proposed are increased fees for residential rezonings and direction to use that additional revenue to help pay for a consultant that will review development impact studies and advise town staff and the council.
The State Code changes apply only to rezoning applications filed after July 1, meaning that current active rezoning applications—Crescent Place and Leegate, both of which have either recently been before or are coming to the council shortly, are two examples—will not be affected by these changes. Those seeking proffer condition amendments for an application are also not affected, as long as the application was filed prior to July 1.
See updated information on the proffer changes at LoudounNow.com/Leesburg.