A new vision for the entryways into Leesburg was endorsed by the Town Council on Tuesday night,
The council voted 4-2 to adopt a streetscape plan for its Gateway District. The district replaces the H-2 Overlay District, which for years has been criticized for its design inconsistencies. The effort to create new design standards has been a collaborative effort among the town staff, a working group put together to study changes to the H-2 Corridor, and the Town Council, in a process that has stretched on for years.
“My goodness this has been around a long, long time,” Mayor Kelly Burk said at the start of Monday’s work session discussion.
The goal of the new district is to improve design in the five key entryways into town: North King Street, South King Street, East Market Street, West Market Street, and Edwards Ferry Road.
The streetscape design ideas are different for each corridor, but the goal is that the end results all provide a welcoming arrival to Leesburg, improve the sense of place, enhance the visual and aesthetic experience, and preserve character-defining elements. A series of streetscape elements for each corridor was considered, from medians, to street trees to streetlights and signage and more. The streetscape plan does not, however, prescribe specific improvements for each corridor. That would instead be a process considered by planning staff and, ultimately, the Town Council in designating future construction projects, or seeing if some of those improvements would be contributed by the private sector as part of new developments.
The plan considers everything from improving the auto-oriented nature of the East Market Street gateway with more welcoming features, to preserving the tree-lined streets common in both the West Market and North King streets corridors.
“The overall goal is to demonstrate design intent, to paint a picture of what we expect to see, not to specify exact tree planting or bench locations,” planner and project manager Rich Klusek said. “That is something we may want to consider in future steps of implementation.”
“I think everybody realizes and recognizes it’s the beginning framework,” Councilman Neil Steinberg said. “There’s much work to be done. That work will be continued by the future council. This basically puts us in the position to simply have this work continue.”
Council members Ron Campbell and Suzanne Fox voted against adoption of the plans. Fox said she was concerned about the impact the plan would have on private property, and Campbell said he felt there were still “too many hanging parts” to consider adoption.
It’s not the council’s first action on the Gateway District, as earlier this year it adopted a series of Zoning Ordinance changes to create the district. Next up for the council will be consideration of the district’s design guidelines, planned for the council’s Dec. 8 meeting.
Consideration of the streetscape plan could get another vetting during a public hearing on a comprehensive re-write of the Town Plan, in a project referred to as Legacy Leesburg, planned for some time in 2021.
The streetscape plan can be found atleesburgva.gov/departments/planning-zoning/current-planning-zoning-projects/gateway-project.