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New design guidelines on the way in Town of Leesburg

Leesburg’s H-2 district may be replaced with new guidelines intended to revitalize the town’s look after a unanimous vote Tuesday night.

Town Council gave staff the thumbs up to look into alternatives to the H-2 district and streetscaping as a result of a report from the H-2 Work Group during Monday night’s work session. Final changes will likely be made months down the road, but Tuesday's vote is at least a start toward building the Leesburg “brand,” council agreed.

“It’s a shame that in the 1990s, as Leesburg was about to explode, that we didn’t stipulate a design back then,” Councilman Ken Reid said during Tuesday's meeting.

The H-2 Overlay District, established in 1990, is a regulatory area for several roads leading into downtown Leesburg. Builders must conform to certain building material and site design standards. However, the laws are outdated and ineffective, staff says, and bland corporate buildings line many of the main entrances into town.

Staff proposes to replace this with a Gateway District Overlay, which could be governed by a number of guidelines and tools.

A striking example of the difference guidelines make, staff said, is the contrast between Leesburg’s Home Depot and the new Lowe’s. Home Depot is outside H-2 guidelines, with a bright orange roof that can be seen from Morven Park. Lowe’s, within the Eastern Gateway District Small Area Plan, combines typical corporate design with a Leesburg-friendly “brand.”

Ideally, the group’s report says, an overlay district would enforce a “design palette” on incoming businesses that construct or rebuild along Routes 7, 15 and parts of Edwards Ferry Road. Homes currently within the H-2 district would not be subject to these requirements. The guidelines, when adopted, would work to “foster a sense of Leesburg” and a “human scale.”

Councilman Tom Dunn recommended that Leesburg adopt a “form-based code” that would establish a design palette across the entire town instead of an overlay.

Going forward, staff plans to look into form-based coding, design guidelines and more to find the best fit for the new district.

“I think this is all very simple,” said Planning Commissioner and work group member Doris Kidder. “We want to keep the town a nice place to live. We want to keep people coming in; we want businesses to be successful.”

Staff will also look into ways to “streetscape” the five entry corridors to downtown. The final result would add landscapes, bike paths and human-scaled lighting, as well as underground utilities. This would give a united feel to roads leading into the historic district.

Council did not, however, support the work group’s recommendation Monday that Leesburg consider adding 73 properties to the H-1 district as long as homeowners agreed.

Over the upcoming months, staff plans to craft a unique Leesburg design, figure out logistics and hold public input meetings.

“We don’t want the hodgepodge of architectural designs,” Councilman Ron Campbell said. “[But] it’s not an overnight process.”


Funny, isn’t, that for years and years, we heard that residents moved to Leesburg because of its charm.  Now, this story shows how, with a new set of council members, the developers are now in charge of Leesburg.  I guess charm and small town feel, is going out the window.

This is laughable…you want to improve the “look” of Leesburg, just go to the Wegmans shopping center and take a look at the ridicuous power lines and poles there. I don’t think there is a worse entry into Leesburg than there. I never go there because this visual assault is so ugly. You have a nice looking shopping center, ruined by Dominion Power’s poor design for poles and power lines. They had the opportunity when they built that shopping center to put the wires underground, it was raw, vacant land, but instead, they gave the design to Ms.O’Tool’es sixth grade science class to design the power lines there. UG-LEE!!

Are people really bothered that home depot has an orange roof?

It’s about time!!  You can thank your long time Mayor, Kristen Umstattd for the lack of vision.

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