Leesburg Planning: A Likely Hallmark of 2019

2019 looks to be a year of planning in the Town of Leesburg, as the Town Council sets to finish work on a notable small area plan, while beginning work on a comprehensive review of its Town Plan.

The council is expected to hold yet another work session on its Eastern Gateway District small area plan in early January, as town leaders grapple with lingering questions about design standards for the area. The plan area, for property along East Market Street between River Creek Parkway and the Leesburg Bypass, includes some of the largest remaining tracts of undeveloped land in the almost-built out county seat, as well as areas that could eventually be primed for redevelopment.

It’s a process that’s been closely watched by the development community, perhaps most notably the Peterson Companies, which owns the largest undeveloped tract in the plan area. The developer owns 107 acres east of the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets, between the Leesburg bypass and Battlefield Parkway, and is eying a mixed-use project for the site.

The council has largely called for the plan area to be dominated by employment uses, but some developers have questioned proposed phasing requirements that would call for these types of commercial uses to be built before residential construction. The plan area is one that has largely been eyed for regional office development, a troubled market since the economic recession, so council members and staff have been eying employment uses more in tune with current market trends, but also responsive to future changes in the market.

It won’t be long after the gateway plan is adopted that the council will turn its eyes to comprehensive planning throughout town. The town is set to issue a request for proposals for a consultant to help with the review of the Town Plan’s transportation and land use sections, as well as assist with the development of new design standards. The rest of the work will be borne by town staff. Planning and Zoning Department Director Susan Berry-Hill said she anticipates the Town Plan review to take at least 18 months.

“It’s a big project,” she said.

Interestingly, it was the last Town Plan update in 2012 that gave rise to the need to focus more on development in the East Market Street area. That generated the steam for the Envision East Market Street effort, later dubbed the Eastern Gateway District. Although it has had its stops and starts because of staffing changes and other delays, 2019 looks to be the year to see that effort cross the finish line.

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