The Leesburg Town Council moved Tuesday to incorporate 491 acres near Leesburg Executive Airport so that the town could control and benefit from its development.
The land is the site of the proposed Crosstrail development, which would include about 1,380 homes, a residential community for people over age 55, offices, retail space, a movie theater and a hotel.
Council members voted 5 to 1, with one member absent, to ask the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to agree to a boundary adjustment that would make the land part of the town.
The motion was supported by Vice Mayor Fernando J. "Marty" Martinez and council members Kelly Burk, Kathryn S. "Katie" Hammler, Susan B. Horne and Melinda Kramer. It was opposed by Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd.
"If we bring this land into the town, eventually we will have a shift . . . to a council that is happier with the idea of more rapid residential growth," Umstattd said.
Council member Robert J. Zoldos, who had to leave the council meeting early because of a work conflict, left a statement indicating his opposition to the move.
The land is south of Tolbert Lane and west of the airport and is bordered by the Dulles Greenway and Shreve Mill Road. It is part of a 2,700-acre tract whose annexation the previous Town Council denied in a bitterly fought 4 to 3 vote in 2002.
Council members supporting the boundary change cited concerns about the proximity of homes to the airport and the need to expand Leesburg's commercial tax base to ease the tax burden on residents.
"It's our responsibility to make sure we have a strong commercial tax base so we're not overwhelmed by the residential development," Horne said in an interview. "Leesburg needs to cultivate that commercial tax base and expand it. . . . Leesburg doesn't want to be placed in a position of being a bedroom community to Loudoun County."
Officials of the Peterson Cos., which owns the 491 acres, oppose the boundary change.
Jeff Saxe, a senior vice president for planning, said that although the county has encouraged town-center-style development in the area, the town's plans call for office space only. Saxe said that the county has adequate sewer capacity for the project while Leesburg would have to upgrade its system, which would delay the project.
In addition, he said, being in the town would subject the development to taxation from both Leesburg and the county. He estimated that the Crosstrail development would generate $256 million in tax revenue for the county over 20 years.
"I would think that, as a significant property owner and a taxpayer within the county, the feelings of the landowner should be considered by the county before they would take any action," Saxe said.
The Peterson Cos. also owns about 18 acres within the town that adjoin the county tract and are zoned for office space, Saxe said.
At Monday night's work session, Richmond lawyer Carter Glass IV outlined the pros and cons of various legal procedures for bringing the land into the town. He said that a boundary adjustment, which would require agreement by the town and county, but not necessarily by the property owners, would probably be the most efficient option.
"If you want to do it quickly, inexpensively and in the simplest fashion, that's how," Glass said. He said the boundary adjustment would require a survey, public notices and public hearings by each governing body, as well as approval by the local circuit court. This could be done within months, he said.
Other options, such as outright annexation, would take longer and cost more. Annexation entails a review by the Virginia Commission on Local Government and a decision by a three-judge panel.
Several council members questioned whether the town would be bound by zoning approvals granted by the county. Glass said that the town's zoning generally supersedes the county's but that a developer who spends money on construction allowed by the county may have a claim for continuing with a previously approved project.
Hammler said in an interview Tuesday that even if the property was moved into the town after rezoning by the county, the development's benefits -- commercial tax revenue and compatibility with the airport -- outweighed its drawbacks.
"The town would be in a situation where we could ultimately control that planning and zoning," she said. "We need to be looking toward expanding."
Supervisor Jim E. Clem (R-Leesburg), a former Leesburg mayor, said he had hoped the town would consider annexing the entire Urban Growth Area around the town rather than just the sliver discussed Tuesday.
"I don't think it's the smartest move they could exercise," said Clem, who has said the town could better control its future by working with bigger areas at a time. In addition, he said the landowner's opposition increased his reservations about the town's move. "I don't know what makes the town think it would be an easy application for them."