Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk at Loudoun Board of Supervisors

Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk addresses the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors during a 2019 meeting.

Leesburg will pursue an option to annex the Joint Land Management Area it shares with Loudoun County after the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted to make Loudoun Water – not Leesburg’s facilities – the presumed utility service for JLMA residents.

After a closed session of more than an hour on Tuesday, Leesburg Town Council voted unanimously to direct Town Attorney Barbara Notar to add the item to a future agenda.

“[Loudoun is] looking to change a 20-year policy without having any conversation with the town,” said Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk. “It should be looking at the towns as cash cows because we pay the same amount of taxes that someone who’s not in the town pays, and the town provides services [to citizens] for an additional cost ... Should Leesburg go on to become a city, [the county] stands to lose an awful lot.”

The JLMA is land bordering Leesburg that is managed jointly by the town and county. Leesburg has the choice to annex the land as it grows. The area exists to help Leesburg plan for the future, and the town considers any potential utility funds a vital part of future revenue.

On June 5, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-2-2 to make Loudoun Water the default provider for developers after a few builders who want to develop in the JLMA complained about Leesburg’s management over their expected applications.

Burk responded that the town always notifies potential developers that JLMA land could be annexed to the town so no one is taken by surprise.

Should no further changes be made to the 2019 draft Comprehensive Plan, the utility shift would be finalized when the board adopts the plan June 20.

On Tuesday night, council members agreed the matter was urgent, but some questioned the need for a closed session and said that the town needs to talk with the county more before making a decision.

“I did not feel there was enough information on the table,” said Councilman Ron Campbell. “We need more answers – not direction, not solutions.”

Council voted 5-2, with council members Fernando “Marty” Martinez and Tom Dunn opposed, to go into the closed session.

Burk said annexing the land, a move that's technically a lawsuit, is Leesburg’s way of ensuring that the town will have utility rights over the land in the future.

“If they’re going to try to take that area away, why not try to take it now?” she said.

(15) comments

VinnyL

Let's be honest. The town's historical abuse of "outside town residents" in regards to water and sewage rates sets the tone that no one believes that the town will act in a fair and impartial manner to all it's charges. Just go back to Umstattd's infamous letter back on water rates with only a small rebuke from the rest of the town council and would any outside party think the town will treat them fairly? In the end, you get what you give and the Town really needs to get off it's high horse and correct it's past errors. In addition, please enlighten me to what services the town provides that would improve if annexed? Why any company or future/existing resident would want to be annexed?

dpsemsed1

A lot of misinformation in these comments. The truth is, the Town has better services than the county. If Leesburg decided to de-certify as some are saying, or really stop being an incorporated Town, The cost of all the services that the Town currently pays with Town Taxes go to the County. With that the County taxes are going up. The Town has 90 employees in the Police Department, The Sheriffs office will need big money to add people for that. The Parks and Recreation in the Town is all on Town Taxes, lets put that on the County. They already use the schools, no loss there. But in the Town we have road crews and our own water systems, which the Town deals with. Many people around Leesburg living in the county, currently have Town water and Sewer, but back in the day when that was needed the county didn't have the infrastructure to deal with it, and begged the Town to help. Oh yes they get charged more, for the services the Town provides, for the Tax payers in the Town has already paid for the infrastructure to provide the County Dwellers with water and sewer, so they don't have to have septic and or wells. But now a few Supervisors listen to their friends and take political actions to benefit the few that don't understand what is really going on. What many of the people really don't understand and some in the county politics don't want people to know, is that the Town is a big cash cow for the county, for the county doesn't want to give anything to the Town, for services we town residence pay for just like you all in the county, for we pay the same taxes, but in the Town we add 18 cents more. It is true fact, if Leesburg became a City in the long term it would lower the Town taxes for the Town residences, and the county couldn't say anything about what the town does. What is really shameful is that the County has made the Town residences a different class of people, by treating them different than the other county tax payers.

RandomName2019

I think you're seriously discounting the economies of scale that come from centralizing functions at a County level, and I suspect that the towns understand that better which is why most of the towns allowed the County to take over their tax billing and collections.I think the state and other localities understand it better as well, which is why the creation of new cities was stopped back in the 1980s. Sure, Leesburg currently employs 90 individuals in the police department, but how many would be considered redundant once you consolidate administrative duties?The vast majority of Leesburg taxes seem to be paid out to staff (roughly $42 million according to their recent budget). Using just the Police/Sheriff as an example; how much more economical could the Sheriff's office be without having to deal with a giant hole of jurisdictional overlap in the center of the County? If Leesburg were to become a City, they would be on the hook for their own schools, own full police force, own government functions that they rely on the County for (building,zoning, mapping, assessments, taxes, libraries, etc.) but would also lose all Loudoun County government money flowing into Leesburg's businesses (because the law says that the County seat can't be in another jurisdiction). How long do you think Leesburg would survive without foot traffic from the Courts and other downtown government offices? Do you think all those lawyers would stay downtown? All those restaurants? I think Leterneau was the supervisor who said that he would stop the court complex from going forward if Leesburg tried to be a city.

AreYouKidding

If Leesburg became a city they would also lose the right to annex portions of the county to expand their tax base, so they would mostly be stuck with their current tax base.

applicant45554

Thanks for your comment. Do you think then that it's in Leesburg residents interest to de-certify? Why dont they do it? Trying to make up for the town's financial disadvantage by taxing this data-center via overpriced water as suggested by the article seems a convoluted way to recover the money.

TomPaine

From everything I've seen in 24 years of living here is that Leesburg is managed WAY better than Loudoun County. I'm all for a split into a city and let the County supervisors go pound sand.

loudoun fan

If the Town became a City it wouldn't hurt the County as much as it would hurt the Town. 1) Town would have to buy out its share of County debt. Several hundred million dollars. 2) The Town would still have to pay the County to educate the students. Otherwise, the Town would have to buy the schools and educate the students themselves. 3) The County Administration building which is already at capacity would move out of Town, probably Ashburn, and the resulting drop in activity would crush Town businesses. Frankly, the best thing for the Town would be to decertify town status and become part of the County. Lower taxes for the town residents and no more need for a dysfunctional town council.

RandomName2019

I agree. I really don't understand the purpose of these towns. As a transplant to the area I see double-taxation, mixed services being provided (when they're provided at all) and conflict about how development should be prioritized and approached. Since Leesburg can't be a City, they'll never be able to determine their own course as an independent entity. Time to turn them into a village or historical district.

RandomName2019

I agree. Since the town can't be a city, they really serve no greater purpose and seem to really focus on working at cross-purposes with the County. I just read that they're putting in hundreds of apartments in downtown Leesburg. Where do those kids go to school?

applicant45554

Obviously there the towns and county governments are largely redundant, and having one government county-wide would be most efficient. Beyond that, I have never understood how all this works. Is the easiest solution based on the little I know about the states legal framework seems to be having one city or town that encompasses the whole county,

David Dickinson

Counties and cities are distinct legal entities. Each is responsible for its own police, schools, etc. Towns are different in that they can pick and choose what services they want to provide. For instance, the County provides Leesburg's schools but Leesburg has its own police. Leesburg could eliminate its police department and have the County provide LCSO protection. The taxes Leesburg levies are for the services Leesburg chooses to provide. Other towns like Round Hill and Hamilton choose not to have their own police. Therefore, at the "town" level, you get a hodge-podge of services the town provides.

AreYouKidding

Towns can not.pick and choose which services they want to provide. The state code specifies which services towns are required to provide. Can they have the county provide these services for them? Yes. Does the county have to provide them for them? No.

RandomName2019

A moratorium on creating new towns went into effect in 1987, so the issue with double taxation is that Leesburg chooses to tax in order to maintain duplicated services that the County largely already provides. I honestly don't understand why any of the residents of Loudoun's towns don't push to dissolve them. Are the residents really getting any benefits from paying extra taxes? Most County taxes goes to schools, which the towns don't pay for.

David Dickinson

My guess is that most RESIDENTS would vote to dissolve the town, but the town COUNCIL members aren't going to push to get rid of their own jobs and influence.

David Dickinson

Kelly Burk, this is a stupid move. It has been you playing politics that caused it in the first place and now that you got burned you've made a rash decision. Burk will lose. Leesburg will lose. Bad all around.

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