Culminating two years of discussion about the best vision for guiding development, the Leesburg Town Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a revised version of the Town Plan.
Council member Susan B. Horne said the new plan will provide more opportunities for commercial development.
"I want to make sure we're . . . putting in place policies that provide a commercial tax base and job opportunities," Horne said. As the commercial tax base strengthens, residents' taxes will go down, she added.
The council voted 6 to 0 to approve the plan, with council member Robert J. Zoldos absent.
The Town Plan is used by the council, the Leesburg Planning Commission, other town officials and the public to help guide decisions about development and open spaces in Leesburg. The plan is divided into categories on land use, housing, community facilities and environmental protection.
Under state law, the plan must be reviewed every five years. It was last updated in 1997.
The recent update reflects Leesburg's changing economy and demographics and was the result of debate among residents, the Town Council and the Planning Commission.
"Our vision is to create a vibrant economic base. We're taking control of our own destiny and creating partnerships with the sort of businesses that retain the character of Leesburg and provide jobs," said council member Kathryn S. "Katie" Hammler.
The updated plan also better protects the environment, according to Susan Swift, the town's director of planning, zoning and development.
"It has a lot more emphasis on protecting and improving our creeks and our tree canopy," Swift said.
Over the course of the discussions, several petitioners asked the council to reconsider land-use designations, which set rules for how a parcel of land can be used.
Only one of the petitions resulted in the initiation of an amendment. The council agreed to consider an amendment proposed by Brian Cullen, the owner and developer of the Oaklawn property, which is adjacent to the Dulles Greenway in southeast Leesburg. Cullen had petitioned the council to change his land-use designation from community office/light industrial to regional office, which he said would make it easier to market the property.
The amendment will go to the Planning Commission and, if approved there, should be voted on by the council in about four months, Swift said.
As Leesburg continues to change, the council will periodically reevaluate the plan and its relevance, Hammler said.
"It's truly meant to be a long-term guide, not gospel. . . . The biggest challenge we face now is dealing with high residential growth and balancing taxes," she said.