A week after a Board of Supervisors’ surprise vote allowing Loudoun Water—rather than the Town of Leesburg—to extend services into the town’s Joint Land Management Area, the Town Council Tuesday night set in motion a plan to annex the entire growth zone.
The 7,000-acre JLMA was established in the early 1990s as a designated urban growth area south and east of Leesburg’s corporate limits planned for future development that would be served by town utilities and, ultimately, be annexed into the town. The concept was that town and council leaders would work cooperatively on development plans for the zone, although the county retained control over land use approvals.
Past town councils had declined to pursue annexations as mostly residential developments were built in the JLMA, but the current council was in talks with the county over a boundary line adjustment that would bring the Compass Creek development into the town limits. That property includes the new Walmart supercenter and land purchased by Microsoft to build data centers.
On Tuesday, those expansion plans got bigger.
Following a closed-door briefing by the town’s legal and utilities staff, the council voted unanimously to draft a resolution that would begin the exploration of the process and issues involved with annexing the entire JLMA.
Mayor Kelly Burk said town leaders were blindsided by the supervisors’ action. She said concerns voiced by supervisors last week had not been raised during recent meetings with supervisors and council members who were working through the boundary line adjustment plans.
“The Town Council is tired of the treatment we are getting from the county,” Burk said, adding that the towns should be viewed as cash cows by county leaders because town residents and businesses pay county taxes, even though the town government provides many of their services.
Councilman Ron Campbell said the vote was intended to send a message to the county, although it remains unclear whether full an annexation is feasible for the town. Instead, he hopes the two governments can begin talking more cooperatively.
“You just don’t pull the plug without telling anybody,” Campbell said.
The Board of Supervisors action to add Leesburg’s JLMA to Loudoun Water’s service area was prompted by Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) who had heard from developers who said they felt bullied by town representatives into agreeing to have their land annexed. He said those developers objected to the town’s higher utility costs.
Campbell said the town needs the opportunity to address those concerns. “The county has its problems and we have our problems, too,” he said. “We’ve got work to do.”