After four years of work, the Purcellville Planning Commission last week finalized its discussions on version 5.0 of the town’s updated comprehensive plan.
Chairman Tip Stinnette said the commission would vote to approve the new community development policies Aug. 8. The plan then moves to the Town Council for review and comment.
He said the draft plan hits on five major objectives—no further expansion of town boundaries, limited density growth, focus on the Main Street and Hirst Road corridors, push for a regional transportation traffic plan and an updated water resource plan, and an overall focus on scale, form, fit and use for new developments.
Stinnette said the most fundamental change between the new plan and the 2025 Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2006, is that the draft reels in “unabated growth” to help maintain the town’s small-town character, while the 2006 plan “ignited and enabled” mass amounts of expansion within the town.
That shift in growth management is seen on the draft plan’s land use map, which designates 15 percent of the town as focus areas with “opportunities to enhance and facilitate development consistent with the town’s vision.”
Those areas include the town’s east and west ends, the downtown area, the eastern portion of Main Street and areas along the southern portion of Hirst Road. The Planning Commission is proposing to change the land use designation of three locations in those areas.
The area north of the W&OD Trail between Hatcher Avenue and 21st Street could change from Industrial Business to Commercial Neighborhood Scale; the Purcellville Gateway and Catoctin Corner commercial properties could change from Mixed Use Neighborhood Scale to Commercial Medium Scale; and the O’Toole Property at the southeastern corner of the Main Street/Berlin Turnpike roundabout could switch from Agricultural Commercial to Agricultural.
If adopted in the new comprehensive plan, those land use changes would impact planned future developments.
On her 12-acre property, Beverly O’Toole has proposed to build a 12,000-square-foot child care center, a 23,000-square-foot, three-level hotel, a 51,000-square-foot assisted living center and 28,000-square-feet of retail and office space. If her property were to be designated for agricultural use, Stinnette said O’Toole would “hit a brick wall” and that she would have to pursue a comprehensive plan amendment to move forward with that development.
Although Purcellville Gateway could be designated for medium-scale commercial use, the three acres that the property owner has set aside for future residential development would not be affected, since residential use is permitted by right in the Duplex Residential zoning district.
Stinnette said the land use designation change in Purcellville Gateway was based on what’s already there, rather than what might be, since the shopping center isn’t likely to be redeveloped in the near future. “It’s really a matter of what is,” he said.
Those changes are part of the draft comprehensive plan’s goal to focus on scale of future development by breaking out the commercial land use designation. In the 2006 plan, all commercial land was treated the same because there was only one land use designation for that type of development—Commercial.
In the draft plan, there are four proposed land use designations for commercial development—Commercial Neighborhood Scale, Commercial Medium Scale, Industrial Business and Agricultural Commercial. “That’s probably, at the macro sense, the biggest adjustment [to the new plan],” Stinnette said.
Another major talking point among planning commissioners was the land directly across from the Purcellville Public Safety Center along Hirst Road. Commissioners last Thursday ultimately decided to designate that land for Mixed-Use Neighborhood Scale, which would encourage residential development “with a commercial flavor,” Stinnette said.
To update the comprehensive plan, the Planning Commission held a series of workshops and public input sessions, the first of which drew in 350 residents. While the majority of participants have been in-town residents, some have come from the surrounding area.
Among the out-of-town participants were residents from the Wright Farm neighborhood just north of Rt. 7, who sought assurances in the plan that the town would not annex more property.
Stinnette said the county’s 2019 Comprehensive Plan, which the Board of Supervisors adopted in June, establishes that the Town of Purcellville does not intend to pursue annexations outside its existing corporate limits. “Municipal water and sewer service is not anticipated [in the JLMA] except to address potential health threats,” the county plan reads.
He said that if the town were to include similar restrictive language in its own comprehensive plan, the county might be encouraged to provide utilities in that area—a situation that has sparked a legal battle between Leesburg and the county.
Stinnette said he didn’t think annexation would be necessary for the town to retain its voice in the debate of whether it or the county should provide utility service to properties in the surrounding JLMA, noting that the draft plan disincentivizes future annexation anyway.
Following the commission’s vote next week, the plan will be sent to Town Council members on Aug. 12. For the next month, council members will have a chance to review and comment on the draft before discussing those comments during a Sept. 24 work session.
Stinnette said the council would most likely remand the plan back to the Planning Commission a few meetings later, at which point the commission will incorporate the feedback into version 6.0 of the plan. “It’s going to be clean and it’s going to be perfect,” Stinnette said.
The commission could then recommend the plan back to the Town Council on Nov. 7, which will start the council’s 90-day clock for adoption or rejection.
Stinnette said adoption in February would be best, since that will be three months before the town’s May 5 municipal elections. “I’d like to get this wrapped up before we change out council members,” he said.