Two planning and zoning exercises that could shape both the future development in key areas of Leesburg expect to be before the Town Council for some important decisions soon.
The Town Council has continued its work on review of the Eastern Gateway District small area plan. The plan area, for property along East Market Street between River Creek Parkway and the Leesburg Bypass, includes some of the largest remaining tracts of undeveloped land in the almost-built out county seat. In a recent work session, council members stressed the need for stricter design guidelines in the area, along with more of an emphasis on employment uses. The process has been one closely watched by the development community, with some property owners along the way making known their desires for how they want to see their land develop.
Concurrently, work is beginning on possible changes to the form-based code zoning in the Crescent Design District, a key redevelopment area in town along East Market Street, Catoctin Circle and South King Street north and west of the Rt. 7/15. In August, the council authorized money to engage the Form-Based Code Institute, a panel of experts that will scrutinize the regulations developed by the town to guide zoning in the area almost a decade ago. When it was enacted, the form-based code zoning, which regulates building design more so than the types of uses inside, was intended to spur redevelopment in the area. However, developers and council members have said the regulations went too far and made development in the area more burdensome and more expensive.
The panel from the Form-Based Code Institute has begun holding focus group sessions in town, including one last week with the town’s Planning Commission. Commissioners stressed their desires to see the regulations be less rigid and, perhaps, have the town take the lead on building some of the needed infrastructure, like road and utility improvements.
The commission has recommended that the council focus on the Crescent Design District as a priority, though some members of the council recently voiced a desire to finish up work on the Eastern Gateway District first. Town staff members also are gearing up for a comprehensive review and revision to the Town Plan.
Planning and Zoning Department Director Susan Berry-Hill is expected to be before the council at its Nov. 26 work session for guidance from the council on how it wants to proceed on those avenues.