Leesburg Council postpones vice mayoral appointment, OKs Costco expansion
Councilmembers Thomas Dunn and Fernando “Marty” Martinez moved to push the second-in-command decision to the Jan. 24 meeting since newcomer Hugh Forsythe was not in attendance. Mayor Kelly Burk agreed.
A retired Air Force major general and board member of Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers, Forsythe was unanimously selected as interim councilmember Monday night after the council discussed his appointment in a closed-door session.
Councilman Ken Reid, who voted against the closed session, was the only member to address the controversial session Tuesday: “The mayor handled it very well ... It was transparent. There were no backroom deals.”
Leesburg’s Planning Commission approved both of the council’s public hearing items last year, and no citizens came out to speak.
One hearing considered changint the town’s sign ordinances to reflect the 2015 Supreme Court decision of Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona. In the case, a pastor successfully sued a town for having stricter requirements for political and religious signs.
“In order to protect ourselves, we need to amend the ordinance,” Zoning Administrator Christopher Murphy said.
Leesburg added language so that the town cannot discriminate against free speech, placed the same standards on commercial and noncommercial signs and reduced the number of sign categories to make the law more straightforward. Council members passed the measure unanimously.
In the other hearing, council gave Costco a special permit to expand by more than 8,000 square feet. The wholesale store will be adding a 2,800-square-foot seasonal outdoor section along the side of the building facing Edwards Ferry Road. While this fenced section will take up parking spaces for several months of the year, net parking will increase because Costco plans to re-stripe its lot.
Costco will also construct a 3,340-square-foot retail addition, a 1,920-square-foot cooler area and an 840-square-foot tire bay. In response to neighbors’ concerns about noise, the store will build noise mitigation materials into the new structures and ask delivery trucks to park in front of the store overnight.
“I do appreciate the responsiveness of Costco on being a good neighbor,” Councilman Ron Campbell said.
Councilman Martinez recused himself from the vote because several relatives have worked at Costco, so the measure passed 5-0-1-1.
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