Town of Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk said a lawsuit will be considered against the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors after the board voted Wednesday to make Loudoun Water the presumed utility service for residents in the Leesburg Joint Land Management Area, or JLMA.
Should no further changes be made to the 2019 draft Comprehensive Plan, the utility move is expected to be finalized when the board adopts the plan June 20. The next work session is June 15.
The shift could severely impact revenues for the Town of Leesburg, Burk said.
Also part of the county's actions Wednesday, any land that is brought into the Leesburg JLMA that can be served by the presumed utility service shall remain in the county and not be brought into the Town of Leesburg.
“It would have to go to court—we couldn’t let it stand,” Burk said before the board's vote. “This has been a procedure for years and years ... and the impact on the town would be so dramatic we can't stand by and let it happen.”
Several builders that have considered developing in the JLMA area expressed concerns to county leaders about Leesburg’s management over their respective applications, according to Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn). In an effort to address those concerns, the board took action to give the right of first refusal to a utility service central system, in this case Loudoun Water, over the Town of Leesburg.
Buona would not disclose the names of the developers describing an array of commercial uses.
According to Loudoun's Online Land Applications system, Compass Creek and Tuscarora Creek are among applicants within the JLMA and would be close to where water and sewer could be extended.
"The policies right now are causing those applicants to rethink coming to Loudoun, especially to JLMA next to Leesburg,” Buona said. “Essentially, this will be something that will stir and keep these prospects coming back to Loudoun County versus deciding they want to do something else.”
Buona’s motion to make Loudoun Water the presumed utility service, seconded by Algonkian Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R), passed by a 5-2-2 vote, with opposition from supervisors Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Koran Saines (D-Sterling). Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) abstained.
“This is a huge blow to the town’s utility financial stability, and I think it would be a mistake to go forward,” Umstattd said.
Randall said she needs time to address the matter with Town Council.
“I am going to table [this matter], because I need to talk with my colleagues on the Leesburg Town Council. I don’t know what they know. I don't know if they know what I know, and if we have the same stories, and if they are talking to the same applicants,” Randall said. “And so before I make a decision to do something this drastic with any of our towns, but specifically about Leesburg ... I’d like to have time to talk with my colleagues on the Leesburg Town Council.”
Before the policy was approved, Umstattd offered a substitute motion to have the county work with the town to address the issue and keep the town's first-refusal right, but it failed 4-5, with only Higgins, Randall, Saines and Umstattd in favor.
Dulles Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R) said, “Just from a purely logical standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense to have all of these county properties now subject to the whims of the Town of Leesburg, and quite frankly what’s been happening more recently is an abuse of that power, because now individual properties are essentially being held hostage from a development perspective over this issue.”
Buona's second motion to keep future land entering the JLMA in the county and to not be brought into the Town of Leesburg passed 5-3-1, with Randall, Saines and Umstattd opposing. Higgins abstained.
"We’ve invested millions of dollars to provide water and sewer to that area,” Burk said. “And if we’re not the provider, then we’ve wasted all that money and all that infrastructure that we’ve put in place with the knowledge that the town is the first provider. It's always been that way.”