A splash pad in downtown Leesburg may not be as imminent as initially thought.
The Town Council was expected Tuesday night to consider several options on how to move forward with the project, just added to the town’s Capital Improvements Program in the last year. The $300,000 plan envisions an interactive water feature, similar to ones at nearby Village at Leesburg and One Loudoun developments, at Mervin Jackson Park next to the Town Hall parking garage. Council members who supported the project’s creation and inclusion in the CIP touted the splash pad as a way to attract families downtown, and, in turn, create more foot traffic for shops and dining.
But the Board of Architectural Review sounded caution on the project and how it fits into the overall vision for the historic downtown, and in particular planning for the property surrounding Town Hall. BAR members had been reviewing the project for issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness so the town could move forward for the project. But, instead, board members have recommended that the council instead consider creating a master plan for Mervin Jackson Park, as well the other town-owned property surrounding Town Hall, including the Rose Garden area.
“I do think in the grand scope of things we need to recognize we have an award-winning structure here and shouldn’t go about [development] piecemeal,” BAR Chairman Paul Reimers, in referring to Town Hall, said in addressing council members Monday night.
Reimers emphasized that he and other board members were not against a splash pad in the downtown per se, but wanted to make sure the project was “well thought out.” He did note that it may be wise to explore an alternative location for the splash pad around Town Hall, but further from the street.
In a staff report provided to the council, the creation of a master plan was estimated to take several months and cost $40,000 to $60,000. Reimers said he believed much of the work on the master plan could be done in house and the price tag provided was “greatly exaggerated.”
Council members who backed the idea of a master plan suggested involving different boards and commissions, including the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Economic Development Commission, the Public Art Commission, as well as other downtown stakeholders. But others, including Mayor David Butler, who initially proposed the splash pad, said he was not thrilled with the idea of postponing the project. He suggested that, if a council majority wanted to go forward with a master plan, that the splash pad component should be taken out so a true comprehensive look at the area could be achieved.
“We either say let’s do a splash pad or if we’re going to do a master plan one way or the other I’d say let’s take [the splash pad] off the table so we can start with a master plan that’s not encumbered with a preconceived requirement,” Butler said.
The council was expected to consider how best to proceed on the matter Tuesday night, after this paper’s deadline. Among the options discussed were withdrawing the COA application for the splash pad and proceeding with a master plan; or asking the BAR to vote on the splash pad project at its Oct. 3 meeting. Assuming the splash pad project remains on the board’s Oct. 3 agenda, a vote is just about guaranteed, as that date falls on the last day the BAR can act on the project within the required project action date set by the council.