As 2021 Dawns, Leesburg Looks to New Town Plan

Perhaps the biggest New Year’s resolution for Leesburg’s planning and zoning staff is to get the re-write of the Town Plan off their desks, and to Town Council adoption.

The staff kicked off the Legacy Leesburg project in earnest in 2019, and ended that year with a series of well-attended public engagement sessions. But, as with so many things, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 stalled progress.

The planning staff has been working with Stantec, the consultant group hired to lead the Legacy Leesburg project, as well as sub-consultants. In the spring of 2020, right when the pandemic was beginning to rear its head, the consultants handed off the first draft of the plan to town staff.

“We needed to go back to them because it was not hitting the mark,” Planning and Zoning Department Director Susan Berry-Hill said of the initial draft. “We did work with them, and they submitted another draft which was late summer. Given the situation, the pandemic has continued to kind of interfere with our next steps which would have been public engagement around the early draft. What we decided to do was really go through the draft and work with it, massage it a bit more, so we felt it was ready for primetime.”

It appears primetime is approaching. Berry-Hill said her staff planned to send off another round of edits to the consultant team this week, and is hoping to be able to release the draft document to the public in the next month or two. A late February interactive virtual forum where the public can share its feedback is tentatively planned. The goal is to have the document available online aheadof that date, so the public can come to the forum armed with questions and feedback.

Ahead of that, senior planner and project manager Rich Klusek and Scott Parker, the senior planning project manager, are working on a series of six videos that cover a range of topics related to the new Town Plan. The videos include a broad overview of the process; demographics and trends in development; a recap of the public input received thus far; the guiding principles of the Town Plan; policy; and measuring the success of the Town Plan. Klusek said he expects the videos to be released online every two weeks. Three of the videos can be found online now at theTown of Leesburg, Virginia’s YouTube channel.

Following the virtual public forum, Klusek said the staff will take the feedback from the public and see if any changes to the draft plan are necessary. The plan will then begin legislative review at the Planning Commission. Commissioners could take several meetings to comb through the document, in work sessions or regular business meetings. That schedule will be up to the commission’s new chair, expected to be determined after the Planning Commission meets for its first meeting of the year.

After the Planning Commission makes its recommendations on changes, the document will then go before the Town Council for review and eventual adoption. Public hearings will be held at both the Planning Commission and the council prior to a vote.Klusek and Berry-Hill said they expect the new Town Plan to be adopted before year’s end.

“It’s a big project, but a fun one,” Berry-Hill said.

For more information about the Legacy Leesburg project, go tolegacy.leesburgva.gov.

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