Council Ponders Splash Pad Future, Need for Master Plan

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.

3 thoughts on “Council Ponders Splash Pad Future, Need for Master Plan

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  • 2016-09-30 at 12:13 pm
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    This is just another Butler BAD Idea. He wants to get “Mom’s with kid’s” to come down town. What about Dad’s Dave? Anyway, if this is all people with kids come down town for then it will do nothing for businesses.

  • 2016-09-27 at 8:29 pm
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    I am glad the BAR is looking at this with a skeptical eye, because if the town puts a feature on its property a precedence will be set for other properties in the historic district– and, from what i know of Leesburg’s history, water fountains were never put here in the town’s 258-year history. It’s the job of the BAR is to ensure the downtown is preserved in a historically correct context and here is a good example of them doing a good job. But the bigger issue here is that this splash pad will just cost a lot of tax money and will not necessarily draw people to downtown Leesburg , just as wider brick sidewalks do not bring more people downtown. One must remember that the splash pads a the Village at Leesburg and One Loudoun are only running in warm weather and they are paid for by the developers and business owners there — not tax payers. GOvernment should not be using tax dollars in this manner UNLESS it has more than a HUNCH it will be a draw; it needs hard data and possibly buy-in from the downtown business community. I, for one, wish the Council would focus more on bringing folks to live downtown and that will be the best way to put “feet on the street,” vs. putting feet in a fountain.

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