Purcellville Council Debates Comprehensive Plan Priority

Seven months after the Purcellville Town Council took to the dais, it has yet to agree on which strategic initiatives it should tackle first.

The Town Council this week voted unanimously to table a motion that would have established its strategic initiatives for 2019-2020, including projects to promote community and economic well-being, strengthen community partnerships, enhance good governance and fund the future. The decision to postpone the vote until the Feb. 26 council meeting came after a half-hour debate about the list of priorities—whether some should be listed as “additional action items of interest” or “tier two” initiatives or as main objectives.

The crux of the discussion centered on the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which was listed as an additional action item and tier two initiative in the “Promoting Community & Economic Well-Being” category.

Because the town is soliciting resident input on the plan, Councilman Nedim Ogelman argued that it shouldn’t be listed as an additional action item or tier two initiative, but instead as a primary objective. “That makes no sense to me whatsoever,” he said.

According to the preamble of the draft strategic initiatives, the council would be obligated to “initially focus on implementing the tier one actions,” while the tier two actions “will be undertaken once the tier one actions are completed or substantially underway.”

Councilman Joel Grewe said that because Virginia law requires the town to adopt a Comprehensive Plan and review it every five years, it doesn’t matter where it’s listed in the council’s strategic initiatives document because the council needs to adopt it no matter what. “We have to do it, there’s no getting out of it,” he said.

With the Town Council failing to reach an agreement on its strategic initiatives, it will work for the next two weeks to reword the document and attempt another vote.

Mayor Kwasi Fraser said that there will never be total consensus among councilmembers, noting the initiatives have been discussed since last July with no agreement to date. “I believe that will not happen,” he said.

Top priorities in the draft document include projects to update the town ordinances, policies and charter; to prepare a resource management plan and a long-range transportation and communication plan; to broaden training for boards, commissions and committees; and to incorporate a Capital Maintenance Program within the Capital Improvement Program.

As for the town’s Comprehensive Plan, Virginia law requires the Town Council to take action on it within 90 days of the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

Although the commission did that on Dec. 20, in effect setting a March 20 Town Council deadline to adopt the plan, the council voted unanimously last Tuesday to remand it back to the commission to make a few changes and to consider, address and incorporate comments from council members. That vote halted the 90-day clock.

The current Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2006, amended in 2016 and looks forward to 2025. Since July last year, the Planning Commission has met more than 75 times to discuss the plan and has incorporated more than 1,200 resident comments.

Included in the draft plan are sections detailing ways the town should handle future development to maintain a “small-scale community feel,” which a majority of residents are pushing for.

Nan Forbes, a 37-year town resident, urged council members during Tuesday’s meeting to focus on ways the plan could retain that appeal.

“[Visitors] come because they like the way the small town looks and they like its charm—no one tells us that they come because they are beguiled by our five shopping centers and our strip malls on the east end of town,” she said. “I think that that area of town is frankly a really big problem for us and we need to pay attention to it.”

A public hearing on the plan that was scheduled for Feb. 20 was postponed to give the Planning Commission time to make changes to and re-recommend the plan to the Town Council.

 

pszabo@loudounnow.com

 

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