Full Text: Leesburg 2018 State of the Town Address

The prepared remarks of Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk for the 2018 State of the Town address presented Feb. 5 at Town Hall:

Good evening my fellow Leesburg residents and welcome to the Town of Leesburg 2018 State of the Town report. I am Kelly Burk and I am proud and delighted to have successfully completed my first year as your elected mayor of the town.

Leesburg is a town steeped in history. While our past molds us, our present determines our future. A future where our sons and daughters can call Leesburg home, bringing with them their new families, where diversity is valued and embraced, where people can retire in place, where young people have exciting and interesting gathering places to satisfy their tastes, and most importantly where our streets are safe. Our Leesburg of today stands ready to move forward to ensure that we preserve the town’s vibrancy and excitement. I continue to pledge to keep Leesburg a place where people want to live, work, and come back home to safety, comfort, relaxation and recreation.

Let’s look at our current status:

  • Leesburg is the largest town in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Leesburg is one of only 38 towns and cities in the United States with a triple AAA financial rating.
  • We have almost 2,000 dwelling units currently in the development pipeline.

Four new developments were approved this past year: Crescent Parke- 344 residences, Village Leesburg- 60 additional apartments, Brickyard -59 residences and King Street Station- 68 residences.

  • By this summer, we will have completed the last segment of Battlefield Parkway, from the Dulles Greenway to South King Street.
  • The final phase of the Sycolin Road Widening project from Tolbert Lane to Southern Town Limits, will begin the spring of this year. This project will complete the widening of Sycolin Road with in the town limits from two lanes to

four with trails and sidewalks and appropriate tum lanes.

  • We have hired 10 new police officers leaving only 8 vacancies.
  • U. S. Custom Service has contracted with Town of Leesburg to build a facility at the Leesburg Executive Airport meeting the needs of the international flying public.

In order to complete these projects and initiate new projects plus maintain the high level of service our residents are accustomed to, during our budget discussions next month we will need to remember that what we presently provide and what we hope to provide both come at a price, the tax rate.

You can be assured that the town is on very sound financial footing. We have maintained a Triple A rating from all three major bond rating agencies, Standard and Poor, Moody’s and Fitch Rating, for the last 5 years. We have the lowest tax rate of all the Northern Virginia towns of comparable size and we have the lowest

staff to resident ratio. Last month we received an audit report from Davenport and passed with flying colors.

The Town Council will be approving the FY 2019 budget in the next few months. The challenge for your Council is always to balance the town services while keeping the residents tax bill reasonable. Your input is very important in this process. Please share your opinions and your ideas with council so we know where the community stands on budget issues.

Public safety is always an important component to every successful town and Leesburg is no exception. Leesburg is a safe town with a low crime rate, but we do see occasional waves of petty crimes, shoplifting, breaking into cars. The police department continues to urge residents to lock their cars and to not leave valuables

in the cars overnight. Be careful with your purses and wallets while shopping. Don’t let that great deal distract you and make you a target for theft.

The recent incidents of hate literature being distributed in some neighborhoods of the town and county are disturbing and disgusting. Here in Leesburg we take this seriously and will not tolerate those who ferment hate in our town. While some may think these flyers that demonize African Americans, Jews and liberals are just flyers, we recognize that they are much more. I know they are meant to intimate and humiliate people of color and others who think or worship differently than the flyers’ authors. Our Leesburg police are investigating this issue and working with other agencies to determine the culprits and if there are any charges that can be brought forward. Leesburg is a town that is proud of its diverse population and is repulsed by these messages of hate.

The town’s economic development program continues to deliver results. Recently we hired a new economic development director who is learning that Leesburg’s economic strength is tied to small and medium sized businesses. With the help of Mason Enterprise Center, our entrepreneurial sector – particularly federal contracting continues to experience robust growth.

The recent expansion of our HUB Zone will ensure this growth continues bringing even more new job opportunity for Leesburg residents. While most of our businesses are classified as small, one of the new business in town EPL Archives recently opened adding 100 new jobs and over $12 million to the tax base. Our economic development program will continue to focus on solidifying Leesburg’s reputation as a preferred location for growing businesses, largely through continued outreach to our existing businesses to ensure that we are meeting their needs to keep them here in Leesburg.

Downtown Leesburg has become an important destination for dining and entertainment. Some of the new restaurants and breweries that have opened their doors in the last year include Delirium Cafe, Sidebar, Bites Wine and Cheese Bar, Black Hoof Brewing and Cocina on Market. Each of these businesses have contributed to making Leesburg a place to be and be seen.

With these new businesses and other new developments downtown, parking becomes an issue. The council is looking at ways to reassess the parking      requirements and the impact of changing the parking requirements. The council is considering reducing the number of spaces needed for a small infill development, and the town has invested in major garage improvements to allow more mobile access to town parking. As Leesburg approaches build out the infill projects will become more important in sustaining the town’s growth and parking must be part of the conversation. I believe in the not to distance future the town will need a new parking garage. We need to start planning now. We continue to see growth in both residential and commercial sectors of the town. New residential growth includes the Meadowbrook Farm neighborhood and the new town homes and condos at Village Walk south of the Village at Leesburg. Land clearing has begun in preparation for construction at Crescent Parke. We’re also seeing infill redevelopment projects like Brickyard on Catoctin Circle and King Street Station at the former Battery Warehouse location, both of which should break ground this year.

On the commercial side, Meadowbrook Commercial Center is moving through the zoning process. This center is proposed to have a gas station, several fast food restaurants, a causal dining restaurant, a bank and other retail space. Although the Compass Creek development, between the Leesburg Executive Airport and the Dulles Greenway is mostly outside the Town limits, the development there will have significant impacts on Leesburg. The proposed ION Skating facility and the new Super Walmart will draw visitors and traffic. Therefore, the town needs to

prepare for the changes going on in that part of the county. We are up to the challenge and will continue to find a solution.

Transportation is always an important issue that effects everyone in town. We continue to make great strides in completing major links in our transportation network. This year’s highlight will be the completion of the last segment of Battlefield Parkway. This road will help move traffic around the town and alleviate congestion on Route 7, Route 15 and the Dulles Greenway.

I have been selected by the towns of Northern Virginia that participate in Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to be the town’s representative on the Authority. The town continues to receive funding from NVTA and VDOT for design and eventual construction of the interchanges at Rt 7 and Battlefield and at the Route 15 Bypass/Edwards Ferry Road and Ft Evans Road. Although progress on these interchanges may not be obvious since they are still in the planning and designing phases, the success we have had in moving these projects forwards demonstrates the need for long range transportation planning. That planning needs to include transit, bike and pedestrian trails. The county is looking to create improvements to Route 15 north from the town of Leesburg. What the county decides to do to improve the traffic flow will definitely impact the town section of Route 15. I can assure you the council will be keeping attention on that project as it progresses.

The Leesburg Executive Airport has become a significant economic driver for the Town and the County. Our Remote Air Traffic Control Tower, the first in the country, has been approved by the FAA for initial operating capability, and will open this spring. This will allow the FAA to develop operational insights as move to a full installation in a County facility in 2019. US Customs will be opening their facility at the Leesburg Executive Airport before the summer, bringing more international customers to Leesburg.

Leesburg Executive Airport is the second busiest general aviation airport in the state of Virginia yet so often residents have asked me just what goes on “at the airport” or worse yet, “I have never been to the airport” . Last year one of my goals was for the airport to host a community open house. The open house was to help residents learn about the businesses at the airport. I am happy to report we held the first annual open house last May and it was well attended by many residents. I heard one visitor say to the person he was with, “I am so glad you talked me into coming with you today. I would never have guessed there was this much going on here. Man, there are lot of big planes here”. The airport is one of the important components to attract businesses to Leesburg. If you have not been in the town hall recently you might have noticed that we have made some significant changes. This building is almost 30 years old and needed and still needs some repairs. All the old linoleum floors have been replaced with new ceramic tiles, the sound system in the Town Hall chambers continues to be improved, and the projection system has been replaced with a new and better system.

The next project is the restrooms. They are going to be upgraded. The employees and public use the facilities which are dated and badly in need of repair. All these projects are to improve the public experience of our Town Hall and allow the staff the comfort of up to date equipment and facilities.

You might have, also, noticed we are working on a new automated payment system in the town hall parking garage. While the fees are not changing, people will pay at kiosks before leaving the garage. In addition, the new system will have “garage full” signs at the entrances. It will be a whole new way to use this town

asset.

Something that is very near and dear to me is coming up in the month of March. The Town will be holding its 8th Annual Leesburg Youth Career Expo. This job fair is to match employers looking for entry level and seasonal employees and vice ersa. It is important to me that we keep our kids here in Leesburg and having local career opportunities will help to make that happen. The Career Expo will be held at Tuscarora High School on March 10th from 11 -2. This job fair is for high school and college kids looking for full or part-time work. Registration deadline for employers looking for new employees is February 23,2018. Please go to the town website if you are interested in participating in the youth expo.

Other important special events include:

Keep Leesburg Beautiful- our annual month-long town wide cleanup effort in April, and the Annual Flower and Garden Festival, April 21, 22. The Acoustics on the Green summer concert series will return to the Town Green on Saturdays evenings, and the 4th of July parade and fireworks will be on July 4th. A new event, the Taste of Leesburg will be held in downtown Leesburg on Saturday August 11 th from 5pm to 10pm and will feature a variety of food, art and entertainment. The Leesburg Airshow will be held Saturday Sept 29th and the Christmas lights and holiday celebration, including the annual parade, will of course be in the month of December.

In addition, the town will continue to support many events like the Bluemont Concert Series, the Classic Car Show, the Arts in the Alley, and the Halloween Parade that are sponsored by other organizations. While Leesburg has made a great deal of progress towards its goals of improving transportation, strengthening the airport, supporting a strong economic development program and strong public safety program with a community outreach component, along with exciting public art, there are many goals yet to be achieved. 2017 was a very good year for Leesburg but there is still more to do. As Leesburg becomes a more desirable location, the cost of housing can be a deterrent to a business wanting to move here. If we really desire to keep our children here in Leesburg, we need to look at the affordability of housing and how we make that happen. We need to support the county in their efforts to create

workforce housing as the best way to help first time home buyers attain a home. A very important issue we have before us is that Walmart will be leaving the town limits to locate on county property near the airport. I have been in conversations with the Walmart Virginia team requesting Walmart provide shuttle service to the new Walmart from the old location. Those continuing conversations are about the locations, the schedules and the cost. We have a year to finalize the details.

What will happen to the current Walmart building is an important question for the town. This will be a top priority for our new economic development director, Russell Seymour. At the joint meeting between the county and town it was agreed that the County Economic Development team will work to help our team establish a compatible business for that location. Our two departments will be working together to make something happen.

Presently the county is considering allowing the building of a 5000-seat stadium off Sycolin Road, south of Leesburg at Bolen Park. The roads on this part of the county cannot handle the traffic a stadium would bring. Some supervisors have stated they want Kincaid Blvd opened for the traffic flow to accommodate the stadium traffic.

Years ago, when the board approved the Tuscarora Creek Development at Bolen Park, Crosstrails Blvd. was to be built by the developer. Kincaid would not be opened until the developer built Crosstrails over the creek where Crosstrails Blvd intersects with Rt. 7. It was agreed the houses could be built and that Kincaid would not be opened until the developer builds the uncompleted section of Crosstrails Blvd. I am a strong advocate for transportation linkage, but until the supervisors are ready to improve Sycolin Road and Crosstrails Blvd I will not support opening Kincaid Blvd into the town. Good government should make sure all the roads in that area can support the increase in traffic a stadium would bring. Residents should not have to bear the burden of huge amounts of traffic because of

poor planning.

Another future project concerns the West Park Golf Course. A developer has made an offer to purchase the land. As of today, they have not presented anything official to the town about what they plan on building on the land. I hope we can keep the golf course as a town amenity but until we know exactly what the developers is planning the Council and residents must wait and see what is being submitted. This project is an example of resident being involved and letting the council know what they envision for their area of town. Residents’ involvement with the council helps us understand the impacts to an area. We cannot govern in a vacuum, so we need your involvement in town issues.

We are a town that supports our federal government with troops that fought in the Revolutionary War to the Reserves we have recently sent into the middle east. We are a town that is supportive of women’s rights from suffragists to the Women’s March on Washington. Our citizens enjoy one of the most popular walks on MLK

day. Further, we have a very highly educated population with almost 20% holding advanced masters or doctorate degrees. We have a diverse population which makes this town well educated, stronger and a better place to live and do business. With a strong financial outlook, strong staff support and an involved citizenry, I

am not only encouraged but excited about 2018.

I think it is important to reach out to the public, from my personal door to door walks, I know what the residents have expressed to me about what is important to them and how the public sees the town and it services. Friday, I knocked on a gentleman’s door. As I introduced myself, he smiled and said, “I just moved here from New Orleans and I can tell you the Mayor of New Orleans never knocked on my door. I think I am going to like living in Leesburg.”

Therefore, I am proposing that each year the Town create a survey for the residents to provide feedback. One year could be for residents’ concerns and ideas, the next could be for the businesses. This is just one more way of reaching out to the  residents and businesses and let them know we are listening, we care, and we will

do what is best for them and the Town of Leesburg.

We need to continue to work on completing the bike and pedestrian paths around the town. Biking as a family and fun activity has grown dramatically in Leesburg and Northern Virginia. It is a great way to keep you and your family healthy. Biking is becoming a very important tourism attraction. Paths and trails bring residents and new people to the town where they spend money on meals, drinks and occasionally lodging. Biking is also becoming a form of transportation to allow workers to get to their places of employment. We can no longer over look its importance to the transportation system.

I want to see the Town staff participate in more professional and efficiency training. The training will allow staff to look at how they do their work and what could be done more efficiently and more responsively for all residents. Many of the town staff must attend yearly re-certification programs and these training help to maintain a professional staff that knows what their responsibilities are to the town and its residents.

Our Crescent Design District was implemented in 2005. As it was the first type of this design the town had ever created, the town has learned that there is a need to revamp some of the regulations associated with this district. I am hoping that the Council will approve funding for a subject specific consultant to help us identify

what needs to be changed in the regulations and how should we go about making those changes.

This is your government at work, doing its best to benefit you and your family in a truly exceptional manner. We have a lean but efficient town staff. Our town staff is ready to serve you with professional skills and the council wants to be the best it can be in meeting your needs, but we need to hear from you. Your input is valuable to staff and council alike. We welcome your presence at the town council meetings but if you cannot attend emails are always accepted and read. My objective is to understand the community and its needs and desires while preserving the history of Leesburg. The Town of Leesburg is in strong finacial shape and it is a fine place to live, raise a family and grow a business.

It is my promise that I will continue to support the residents and listen to your ideas and concerns. I love Leesburg and am honored to serve as your mayor. Thank you for being here tonight and thank you for believing as I do that Leesburg is a wonderful place to live, work and enjoy.

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