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Leesburg’s Economic Steering Committee gives update, gets scolded

Two months from the Leesburg Town Council-appointed deadline, the Economic Development Review Steering Committee is hosting panels as it figures out the best way to update the Town Plan.

Sharon Babbin of the Planning Commission and Brett Burk, a local business owner and former planning commissioner, gave a report to council Monday outlining the consultant the Steering Committee hired and the agenda of future panels.

“We are in the fact-finding stage,” Babbin said. “Hopefully we will come up with some very specific recommendations.”

The Steering Committee, the members of which were chosen in June, meets for two hours each Wednesday to hear presentations and ask questions. It hired Anita Morrison of Partners for Economic Solutions with the $25,000 provided by Council to be the committee’s facilitator.

While at this point Brett Burk runs the meetings, Babbin said Morrison will be a great help when the committee discusses economic development—especially since no one else on the committee has experience in this area.

The first panels included presentations from staff, the local airport, Visit Loudoun, developers and those involved with traffic and parking.

The committee on Wednesday was slated to hear from the town staff of Arlington, Frederick, Md., and Loudoun County to see how each of these localities created thriving economies.

Arlington, for instance, recently landed Nestle’s international headquarters, bringing hundreds of jobs.

Next week, the group will discuss the Main Street Program, hearing from representatives of the state program, a town that implemented the program and citizens who have reservations about the program to market the downtown area.

“We want to hear both sides of the story to as much of an extent as we can,” Babbin said.

Future meetings include discussions with restaurants and breweries and a public forum slated for Sept. 13. The rest of September and into October, the group will discuss the facts and make recommendations.

Council, however, did not seem pleased with a couple of the group’s practices. Councilmen Fernando Martinez and Tom Dunn wished the committee would have a time set aside for public comment.

Babbin said she has shared her personal phone number and that the committee is always open to written comments, but it has received none. She added that since the committee is already under a tight deadline, spoken comments would slow the meetings.

Mayor Kelly Burk and Martinez also pressured the committee for not having Morrison facilitate the meetings.

“A facilitator … is one who leads a group,” Burk said. “Your committee has chosen to not approve that person as a facilitator. That’s not what you paid for … I’m getting pushback from people saying I’m not doing my job.”

Babbin, however, emphasized that the consultant provides a service no one else on the committee can provide: “I don’t think it necessary to spend taxpayers’ money on skills that volunteers can do.”

To view past meeting agendas and find out where to attend future meetings, visit http://www.leesburgva.gov/government/boards-commissions/economic-development-steering-committee.

Comments


What a joke!  We have a Economic Development Commission and this?  Taxpayers waste of money!  Have one or the other or get rid of both. Oh, and hey, let’s hire a facilitator who does not facilitate for $25K! Easy money that person will ever make.  I need that job.

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