Leesburg Council Sets Legislative Agenda, Without City Status Push

There is a notable omission on the Leesburg Town Council’s recently adopted legislative agenda.

Each year, the council adopts a list of its priorities for its General Assembly representation to consider, along with a legislative positions statement. Last week, the council adopted its 2021 agenda, and for the first time in five years, it did not include the council’s request to lift the moratorium on towns seeking city status.

Council members during this week’s meetings acknowledged that there has been no desire from state legislators to lift the moratorium, and the town’s own representatives have said they would not carry such an item forward for consideration. The last one to do so, then-delegate Randy Minchew, could not find support for a 2017 bill that would have exempted towns with populations over 40,000 from the moratorium. Loudoun County supervisors, except for Leesburg District Supervisor Kristen Umstattd, also have spoken out against the potential for Leesburg to become a city. 

Some council members questioned whether the item should remain as a town legislative priority. Deputy Town Manager Keith Markel, however, urged that the item remain off, as the town continues negotiations with Loudoun County on a boundary line adjustment in the Joint Land Management Area that would bring the Compass Creek development—including a Microsoft data center complex—into town.

Adding the staff report, reviving the issue would “bring unnecessary attention to a sore subject,” and leaving it off “shows a commitment to furthering that discussion you’re having with them,” Markel said.

Councilman Tom Dunn spoke in favor of keeping the item on the legislative agenda during the council’s Sept. 21 work session. 

“Just because something is hard to get done doesn’t mean we shouldn’t leave it,” he said. “I know we’ve gotten pushback. The county worked vigorously when we were trying to achieve city status to prevent that from happening.”

Dunn said that leaving the item off the town’s legislative agenda was just another way of Leesburg giving into the county during the boundary line negotiations.

“It really is just rolling over for whatever the county wants. That’s really been the basis of our negotiations,” he said. “We ask for something, the county says no, we say OK.”

Dunn and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox both supported keeping the city status item on the agenda, but did not receive enough support. 

The two also pushed for several other items to be included on the legislative agenda: considering term limits for council members, which would require a state constitution change; adding a statement opposing qualified immunity; and a Town Charter change to change the town’s elections to be partisan, rather than nonpartisan. Dunn made several comments noting that the council races are already partisan, with local political parties commonly endorsing candidates and working for campaigns. Among the requests, only Councilman Ron Campbell supported Dunn and Fox on the request to consider term limits.

The adopted legislative agenda includes requesting an amendment to the state code to allow advisory boards and commissions to meet remotely; requesting VDOT funding for roadway paving; and requesting a state code amendment to mandate that counties that contain incorporated towns provide services to town residents on equal parity with county residents without requiring a written agreement. The adopted agenda also includes the town’s support for Virginia Municipal Wastewater Association’s position opposing the recently recommended revision of nutrient allocation of dischargers; and requesting legislation that would allow the town to prohibit the parking of commercial vehicles weighing 8,000 pounds or more on residential streets. 

The vote to adopt the legislative agenda and positions statement for the 2021 General Assembly session passed with a 4-0-2 vote. Dunn and Fox were recorded as abstentions, as Mayor Kelly Burk did not call for a nay vote after recording the support for the measure.

The legislative agenda and legislative policy positions statement can be found at leesburgva.gov/government/mayor-council/annual-legislative-agenda. 

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