Many of Leesburg’s advisory board and commission meetings will now be able to be held completely virtually following action from the Town Council this week.
The council voted Tuesday to amend and extend its continuity of government ordinance, originally adopted last April shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and just a few weeks after the council declared a state of local emergency.
Set to expire April 3, the ordinance will now run through July 12. However, if Gov. Ralph Northam ends the state of emergency sooner, the town’s emergency declaration would not continue beyond that date. The town staff suggested the longer extension because the effects of the pandemic are expected to continue beyond the springtime.
On its original adoption, the ordinance put safeguards in place to enable town staff members and the council to ensure continued operations of the government in the midst of the pandemic. Among the provisions in the ordinance is language that establishes the requirements for all-electronic meetings. As many of the town’s boards and commissions have not met as regularly since the start of the pandemic, because of the public health concerns and guidelines, the change put in place by the council this week will enable many of them to meet completely virtually.
“In general, since the adoption of the [ordinance], the Town Council and all subordinate boards and commissions have held meetings only when a physical quorum could be assembled. Due to the extended nature of the emergency, and the number of town advisory boards and commissions which must meet to provide valuable guidance and advice to the council, holding hybrid meetings in this fashion continues to require significant numbers of in-person attendees at town facilities,” the staff report noted.
Physical quorum requirements remain for the town’s adjudicatory bodies—the Town Council, the Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission—”to avoid any question regarding the authority, legitimacy and propriety of any decision rendered by those bodies,” according to a staff report.
The ordinance adoption passed by a 6-0-1 vote, with Councilwoman Suzanne Fox abstaining.