How to plan for transportation and minimize congestion in the commonwealth’s largest town was the main concern cited by Planning Commissioners during a joint meeting with the Town Council on Monday.
The commission continues with its work to update to the Town Plan, known as the Legacy Leesburg project, which has been ongoing at the commission since the spring. The council called for the joint meeting after commissioners cited several areas that were still holding the panel back from making its final recommendations to the council.
Following COIVD-related delays in 2020, the town staff hoped to have the document finalized by year’s end, but that timeline looks now to be in jeopardy.
At the start of Monday evening’s meeting, Commission Chairwoman Gigi Robinson laid out the remaining issues with which the panel is grappling, including in the areas of affordable housing, traffic and transportation, commercial/residential ratios, density in the Crescent Design District, and parking.
The concern that commanded most of the attention during Monday’s meeting was the town’s transportation network, gridlock in congested areas, and how details the plan should be in looking at existing and future road conditions.
Robinson previously called for a town-wide transportation study, something the staff has said would both add significant cost and delay the project. She pointed to transportation plans and traffic studies that the town requires of applicants for land development projects, but said those do not tend to go more than one-eighth of a mile outside the project’s radius, and thus provide an incomplete picture. She said the traffic study that had been conducted in fulfilling a requirement of the plan update focused only on Rt. 7 and Rt. 15, the town’s only VDOT-maintained roads.
Robinson clarified that she believed further study only needed to be done on Leesburg’s major thoroughfares—which she identified as Edwards Ferry Road, Market Street, King Street, and Catoctin Circle—and not on the town’s entire road network. She also asked for analysis on changing certain downtown streets to be one-way-only, but Planning and Zoning Department Director Susan Berry-Hill said there would be no way for the staff to complete that research by the end of the year. Robinson and others also called out the need to study the timing of traffic lights at certain intersections along East Market Street.
After Deputy Town Manager Keith Markel noted that the town’s Capital Improvements Program includes a $250,000 future town-wide transportation study, Robinson said if the commission could at least be provided the level-of-service data at major town intersections it would be helpful in moving toward a recommendation.
As the commission continues its review, Mayor Kelly Burk asked that its members make a recommendation on a definition for affordable housing, a topic cited by local elected leaders in both the town and county as an area of high priority, although opinions on what such housing would entail vary significantly. If the commission can help to define it, Burk said, the job of the council will be to determine how to implement that vision.
Several council members and commissioners hit on the word “flexible” in describing a comprehensive plan. Such a plan, they said, needed to be able to adapt to both new market conditions and changes in development sites and the road network.
“The concern that I have with the Town Plan is we need to make sure that we don’t box ourselves into a corner when we write it,” Vice Mayor Marty Martinez said.
At the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, a new goal was set of acquiring Planning Commission certification of the Town Plan by December. That would likely mean the council will not begin its own review until the New Year.For more on the project, go to legacy.leesburgva.gov