As part of its ongoing effort to improve its land development review process, the Leesburg Town Council will soon consider borrowing a tool from the Loudoun County government.
The council will consider whether to amend the town’s Zoning Ordinance to allow some uses to undergo a more streamlined a minor special exception review. It’s something already used by the Loudoun County government to speed the development process for some smaller, likely less controversial applications.
But while Loudoun County largely uses the minor special exception applications for rural economy uses, Leesburg with its more urban environment would need to get a little bit more creative. The staff proposal going before the Town Council recommends that the minor special exception applications be used in nonresidential districts only. It also maintains the timelines already in place for special exception applications, as the town government does not have the staffing in place to use the truncated timelines used by the county for its minor special exception applications, according to Chris Murphy, senior planning projects manager for the town. The biggest difference for minor special exception applications would be that they would skip Planning Commission review and, following staff review, head straight to the Town Council for a public hearing and a final vote.
Examples of proposed minor special exception uses for the town include public parking structures in the town’s B-2, B-3, B-4 and I-1 districts; brewpubs with silos in the town’s business districts; conference centers in the business and industrial districts; and veterinary hospitals in the B-2, B-3, B-4 and I-1 districts, to name but a few.
Another proposed change to the ordinance would open up some applications for administrative-only review. This would apply to applications requesting minor modifications of an already approved special exception. For these types of applications to be reviewed solely by the zoning administrator it would require a number of stipulations, including that the intensity of the use is not being increased; no negative impacts to surrounding properties; and that any addition to a structure not be in excess of 5 percent of the gross floor area or 2,500 square feet, whichever is less.
Discussion on the proposals heads to the Town Council following a Planning Commission review Thursday night. Commissioners deadlocked on a recommendation on the matter in a 3-3-1 vote, with Commissioner Rick Lanham absent. Those who voted against the addition of the minor special exception cited the commission’s value in participating in the development review process.