The Leesburg Town Council is looking forward to its day in court to challenge the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors over its controversial decision last month to exclude the town from its Joint Land Management Area.
Adopted on a 6-1 vote following a closed session Tuesday night, the resolution authorizes legal counsel for the town to bring a legal action challenging the June 20, 2019, county comprehensive plan amendments addressing the Town of Leesburg Joint Land Management Area and also authorizes the initiation of annexation studies.
The battle lines were drawn June 5 in a surprise vote by the Board of Supervisors to grant Loudoun Water, rather than the Town of Leesburg, the right to extend utility services to the JLMA. The action was prompted by Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) who said he had heard from developers who said they felt bullied by town representatives into agreeing to have their land annexed. He said those developers also objected to the town’s higher utility costs.
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 county 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.
Shortly after the June 5 board action, the Town Council voted to begin exploration of annexing the entire growth area. The new comprehensive plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors on June 20 included the amendments excluding Leesburg utilities from the JLMA.
The resolution passed by the council Tuesday called the board’s decision “bad public policy” and noted that the amendments proposed and accepted June 5 were put forward “without study, or without prior notice, or without discussion with the Town or other stakeholders, and without public notice.” It called the board’s decision “a breach of the County’s obligations to the Town” and to both county and town land use policy and utility planning dating back almost 30 years.
Councilman Ron Campbell was the only one to vote against the resolution, stating he believed it was ill-timed and could pose negative consequences to the future of the town.