Leesburg Cut Out of Future Out-of-Town Water Hookups

Loudoun supervisors Wednesday night voted to change the longstanding county policy governing development in the planned growth area around Leesburg’s borders, giving Loudoun Water first dibs on new water and sewer hookups in that area.

The Leesburg Joint Land Management Area extends from south of the executive airport and wraps around the town’s eastern boundary to the Potomac River, bounded by Evergreen Mills Road and Goose Creek. Under the existing comprehensive plan, which supervisors are working to replace, it is planned cooperatively between the town and county, and it is planned to eventually be annexed into the town, as the town extends utilities.

A draft of the new comprehensive plan continued those decades-old policies, stating the town will have the opportunity to serve any new development in that area, and another water and sewer provider used only when the town, county, and Health Department agree.

But Wednesday night, supervisors voted that under the new plan, Loudoun Water would get the first cut at serving new development in that area, which includes the Compass Creek development where Walmart opened a supercenter last week and Microsoft planned to build data centers.

Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said the move was prompted by potential big new businesses being scared off by Leesburg’s high out-of-town water and sewer rates—“Fortune top 20 companies that are considering leaving.”

A number of companies on that list have previously been talked about for locations in Loudoun, such as Apple and Amazon, and others like Verizon already have corporate offices in the county. Microsoft, number 26 on the Fortune 500 list, purchased property in Compass Creek last year.

“They’re holding a gun to the heads of the applicants, and frankly the word ‘extortion’ probably isn’t too strong,” Buona said. “For that reason, we have to break up this monopoly and give these applicants some options, because some of them, I have no doubt, are going to walk away.”

Outside town, Leesburg charges $8.95 per 1,000 gallons of water and $9.56 per 1,000 gallons for sewer service for commercial customers.  Loudoun Water charges commercial customers a fraction of that, currently $3.32 per 1,000 gallons of water, increasing to $5.32 if they exceed a reserve capacity paid for when they connect; and $4.97 per 1,000 gallons for sewer service.

“It’s not just this once,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run). “It’s been a trend over years of the Town of Leesburg potentially jeopardizing major economic development deals, and we cannot have our major economic development deals be jeopardized because of the political whims of the town anymore.”

Leesburg District Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D) objected, arguing the town had not been consulted, and had invested millions of dollars in its water and sewer system based on the old policy.

According to Umstattd, the change was made at the request of a developer connected to the Tuscarora Crossing and Compass Creek developments. She and other supervisors had met with developer Michael Capretti, who also represented the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association on the Envision Loudoun stakeholders group that wrote the first draft of the plan, and serves on the county’s Fiscal Impact Committee and Facilities Standards Manual Review Committee by appointment by supervisors.

But her suggestion to first study the issue and consult with the town before making any changes was narrowly voted down. Buona said the change “has real essence of urgency to it—these are current applications, some of them already financed, and dirt is moving.”

Buona’s motion passed 5-2-2, with Umstattd and Superivsor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) opposed, and Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) abstaining.

The change extends Loudoun Water’s potential reach further west, opening up areas west of Goose Creek near Leesburg and up to Evergreen Mills Road where it had not yet expanded.

Supervisors also reversed the presumption that land in the Joint Land Management Area would eventually be annexed into the town. Land served by Loudoun Water will be presumed to stay unincorporated.

“Part of the being held hostage situation deals with the town demanding up front that applicants agree to annex into the town, and if they don’t, there are certain things withheld from them, and that’s what I meant about a gun to the head,” Buona said.

The town has already begun the process to extend its borders around Compass Creek.

Umstattd said the board was turning “decades of land use planning on its head for no good reason.”

“It’s a horrible night for Leesburg tonight, that’s all I can say,” Umstattd said. “This turns on its head—with no analysis, no thought, no discussion, no inclusion of the town—everything the town and the county have agreed to since the Revised General Plan was passed decades ago. And you might as well just eliminate the whole Joint Land Management Area, because essentially that’s what you’re doing tonight.”

She added “if it’s going to be done to Leesburg tonight, theoretically it can be done to any town at any point in the future.”

Supervisors passed that change 5-3-1, with Higgins abstaining and Umstattd, Randall and Saines opposed.

“This is a sad day to realize that the Board of Supervisors has so little respect and regard for the Town of Leesburg,” said Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk. “This will have a huge negative impact on Leesburg. [The vote] was not fair in the way it was handled or the comments made,”

Burk also said she was upset that the Town Council was given no advanced notice of the action and that there was no fiscal analysis performed. She said those who supported the motion showed in their votes that they are “more concerned about the impacts to developers” than the impacts to the town.

Reporter Kara C. Rodriguez contributed to this story.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

3 thoughts on “Leesburg Cut Out of Future Out-of-Town Water Hookups

  • 2019-06-06 at 2:39 pm
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    So, the developer controlled Supervisor members finally show themselves. With the upcoming elections, and the strong possibility that many of these developer controlled Supervisors will be gone after this November, out of nowhere, without any notice and without and warning, comes this vote. Well, guess what, what can be voted on today, can be changed tomorrow, or next January.

  • 2019-06-09 at 7:53 pm
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    Dear Leesburg,
    The relationship between the Town of Leesburg and Loudoun County is dissolving from years of neglect, partisan pandering and the erosion of honest communications about how we achieve a mutually beneficial partnership.

    It is time for us as a Town to wake up and address a few major issues as the future of our Town as relationship with Loudoun County cannot continue on this path.

    On Wednesday June 5th the Board of Supervisors work session addressed the Joint Land Management Area section of the draft County comprehensive plan as it specifically related to the County policy working with the Town of Leesburg.
    (JLMA – https://mss.leesburgva.gov/lfweblink/…/28637/Electronic.aspx)

    This work session of the BOS was an embarrassment for the Town leadership and based on everything that was said and then affirmed by BOS votes, the state of the Town is not good and we have serious leadership and internal issues with ourselves and how we work with the County.

    I am asking all citizens to attend the June 11th business meeting of the Leesburg Town Council and make your concerns heard and direct your Town Council to request a meeting with the BOS before the final votes on the comprehensive plan take place on June 20th. It’s way past time for transparency and accountability and to get the Town County relationship moved to a direction of a partnership.

    The County decision to close the door on annexation, eliminating new commercial customers for our water and utility services has probably also signaled the end of a cooperative working relationship with the Town for many other programs and services that are actually supported by tax dollars from Leesburg residents.

    And the hits just keep on coming; the County has recently notified the Town that it will no longer be providing IT service and infrastructure support. The Town has also been asked to make an important decision regarding our emergency call center program (911) without adequate time and complete financial information from the County.

    On May 29, 2019 the BOS received a letter from the Mayor as authorized by the Town Council requesting a delay on the vote relating to the TPA (Transitional Policy Area) and increasing the residential densities. The request was ignored and motions were made and approved to increase the residential densities in land bays that will certainly impact the Town.

    It has taken me a few days to better understand why Supervisor Buona described the recent concerns he has heard about the town communications with business owners in the JLMA as Town extortion, hostage taking , holding a gun conversation as a way to get business owners to agree to be annexed.

    I initially felt very disrespected but as I sat in the audience during the BOS meeting I really listened and had to admit that the way we operate with the County has been broken for a long time and the partisan relationships that serve some and not all, has contributed to the string of bad decisions for Leesburg.

    The Town Council sending letters will not get us the results that we want and only by having important discussion face to face can we achieve solutions to better serve our Town.
    Our residents and business owners deserve better.

    Our Town is now in a very vulnerable and exposed position on many economic and land development fronts that will have negative repercussions for many years to come.
    The Town of Leesburg has been working with the County in many areas without the proper signed agreements and it has left us vulnerable and without recourse.

    The Town Council must correct this relationship with the County and it can no longer be outsourced to staff or mailed in by letter.

  • 2019-06-12 at 12:47 pm
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    The reason this happened is because Umstattd, Burk and the town council are just too lazy to take action before it’s too late. They always seem to need a gun put to their heads in order to act – like with the courthouse expansion. Also, competitive elections in Leesburg are gone. As long as Umstattd has no opposition for reelection, why should she care about anything?

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