The Leesburg Town Council Tuesday night was asked to rule on whether a proposed use in a downtown development was a bank, or not.
The unusual request came in the form of a proffer appeal from the developers behind Leesburg Central, on Harrison Street across from Market Station. Zoning Administrator Chris Murphy ruled in July that a proposed use by MVB Financial Corporation constituted a bank and thus was prohibited under the proffers agreed to in the 2004 rezoning, and later 2010 rezoning amendment.
In both documents, nonresidential uses on the Leesburg Central property were limited to office. Other commercial uses permitted in the B-1 zoning diistrict can yield higher parking requirements, and the applicant in both instances utilized the town’s payment-in-lieu option rather than providing the mandated number of parking spaces. In total, between both applications in 2004 and 2010, a total of $84,000 was paid by the applicant using the payment-in-lieu option, rather than constructing the 28 parking spaces required under town regulations. So, if MVB’s Leesburg location functioned as a bank rather than an office, it would have higher parking requirements because banks tend to have more turnover traffic and parking demand than a traditional office.
According to a staff report, over the course of this summer, both Leesburg Central developer Kevin Ash and MVB President James Nalls have had conversations with Murphy regarding whether MVB’s use would be considered an office. In a letter written by Nalls and shared in the council’s agenda packet, he contends that MVB’s Leesburg Central location would be different from that of a traditional bank. Following in the example of its Reston financial services center, the downtown Leesburg location would be focused on commercial lending opportunities within the town, with four employees staffing the space from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Most visits to MVB would be through pre-arranged appointments, Nalls wrote, and an ATM would be provided only as a convenience to customers, but he maintained that MVB currently experiences a low volume of daily transactions in the ATMs.
But Murphy took a different view in ruling that the proposed use was indeed a bank. In addition to the location of an ATM on the building façade, as well as a night deposit box, MVB customers could also make monetary withdrawals and deposits of money and other financial transactions using teller kiosks, or meet with on-site financial staff at the Leesburg location. A staff report provided to the council also notes that MVB has obtained a bank license from the Virginia State Corporation Commission to take deposits in Virginia.
Ultimately, the majority of the council sided with the appellant that MVB’s Leesburg Central location should not be considered a bank, but an office use with ancillary banking services. An initial motion to uphold Murphy’s determination was supported only by council members Bruce Gemmill and Katie Sheldon Hammler. The two both said that MVB will have to answer to regulators if is later deemed to be a banking use.
“They will eventually be told they are a bank if they are a bank,” Gemmill said.