The possibility of Leesburg applying to become Virginia’s next city appears dead for another year.
Del. J. Randell Minchew (R-10) submitted a bill at the Town Council’s request to lift the longstanding moratorium on the issuance of new city charters. The bill was narrowly worded to apply only to Leesburg, the commonwealth’s most populous town and slightly more populous than the City of Charlottesville. The Loudoun Board of Supervisors opposed the bill.
The bill narrowly cleared a subcommittee review Wednesday, but was tabled by the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee this morning. In subcommittee review, two members of Loudoun’s delegation—Del. John Bell (D-87) and Jennifer Boysko (D-86)—voted against the bill, which survived on a 6-5 vote.
Minchew said the bill was tabled because of committee members’ concerns about lifting the prohibition—in place since 1993—on a piecemeal or by exception basis for one jurisdiction. Minchew said that he understood that concern.
Town Councilman David Butler, a vocal proponent of considering making Leesburg a city, said he was disappointed to see the legislation was unsuccessful.
“I’m confused as to how the state can allow cities with five or six thousand people but won’t allow a town of close to 50,000 to pursue the same status for their residents,” he said. “Why would people outside of Northern Virginia care when it doesn’t effect any of them?”
He expects someone from Loudoun’s delegation, possibly Minchew, will carry a similar bill next year, and more residents will voice their support for the idea. He’s heard from more residents who like the idea in the past few weeks as they’ve learned about the possible benefits.
“The more people learn about the services we don’t get from the county that we already pay for, the more they think it makes sense,” he said. “I think next year we’ll have a lot more opinions from residents and a lot more pressure put on the state.”
Butler and other council members want to study the cost and benefits of converting to a city in more detail, but not until there is a possibility that the General Assembly would consider issuing a charter.
“This is something I think the council has a legitimate interest in looking into,” said Loudoun Supervisor and former Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg.) “I think they’re being very logical in not wanting to expend any funds on that unless they are legally able to do it. It now looks like they will not be legally able to pursue status if their financial analysis indicated it could be beneficial to the taxpayers.”