The expansion of the Loudoun County court system in downtown Leesburg has crossed a major hurdle, winning approval of the Leesburg Town Council.
The process began in earnest last spring with the controversial vote by the council to allow the demolition of four historic district buildings along Edwards Ferry Road, to allow for the expansion. Tuesday’s vote approves three other applications related to the expansion.
The first, a Town Plan amendment, changes the land use designation of the 9.9-acre area including the Pennington parking lot, off North and Church streets, from Low-Density Residential to Downtown. The two other applications include a concept plan and proffer amendment to increase the square footage of the proposed courthouse structure at 2 N. Church St. to 92,000 square feet, and to rezone the Pennington lot from R-6 (residential) to Government Center to allow for the construction of a parking garage. The four-level facility will have 727 spaces in addition to 147 surface parking spaces.
Throughout the projects’ public airing, nearby residents largely opposed several facets of it, namely the mass and scale of the proposed parking structure, the impact of construction and lighting on nearby homes, as well as how traffic on local roads would be impacted by the new courthouse features. Many of these concerns were shared by council members up to and throughout Tuesday’s meeting.
The one area council members continued to press for compromise from the county staff was the fourth level of the proposed garage. The project was initially proposed for three stories, but that was modified last year when the county staff undertook a study that determined a more than 100-space shortfall in parking needs for county employees in the County Government Center parking garage. Also adding to the parking shortage was the loss of spaces county staff had used in the former Loudoun Times-Mirror site’s surface parking lot. That property is now planned for the office/retail development known as Courthouse Square.
County staff members assured the council that they are amenable to working with town staff to identify other areas in the downtown where they could locate the additional parking, in an effort to possibly do away with the fourth level to lessen the impact on nearby residences.
But when all was said and done Tuesday night, a council majority was found to support all three applications, including the four-level garage. The Town Plan amendment and concept plan and proffer amendment applications were agreed to by a 6-0-1 vote. The parking garage was agreed to by a 4-2-1 vote, with council members Tom Dunn and Marty Martinez dissenting. Councilman Bruce Gemmill recused himself from the votes because he has business relationship with the Courthouse Square project.