The Leesburg Town Council is hopeful that gas pumps may be the carrot needed to attract Walmart to come into town limits.
By a 5-1 vote Tuesday, the council initiated a Zoning Ordinance text amendment that, if approved, would allow gas pumps as a by-right accessory use for commercial businesses in the Compass Creek development. The change would only apply to businesses in the PD-CC-SC district, which only includes Compass Creek.
The area in question falls within the Joint Land Management Area and is one in which the town has set its sights for a boundary line adjustment process with the county. Several properties within the development have already come into the town through an approved BLA, but Walmart has not yet given its consent to be brought into Leesburg.
Town staff members who recommended consideration of the amendment said timing was a big factor. As it still sits within the county limits, Walmart has already spoken to county staff about pursuing a special exception application for the gas pumps.
“If they go to Loudoun County and go through that process they have a known record with Loudoun County. Our focus right now in talking with Walmart is if we go ahead and do this now they can go through our process and get into the town much quicker. From our standpoint it’s a timing issue,” Economic Development Director Russell Seymour said.
“In order to have the company look favorably upon coming into town this is an important item for them,” Town Manager Kaj Dentler said. “They anticipate getting that approval if they stay in the county.”
Zoning Administrator Michael Watkins emphasized that the ordinance change would only allow for gas pumps as an accessory use to a business, like the gas pumps currently at the Costco off Edwards Ferry Road. It would not allow for a by-right gas station with a convenience store.
“We’re not talking about your run-of-the-mill gas stations,” he said.
Mayor Kelly Burk had several questions regarding why the town would not just honor whatever planning changes the county approved, but ultimately said she supported the change to bring Walmart into town.
“It would be quite a coup to be able to get Walmart into the town,” she said.
Councilman Ron Campbell said he was confused by some council members’ hesitation over the matter.
“This is not new. At all. We wanted Walmart. Walmart did not pursue us. They didn’t come and say we want to come into the town. This was a council-approved action and direction. It’s a business, people have a right to ask for something from the town. One of the biggest prizes that we said that we wanted is on the doorstep,” he said.
Councilman Tom Dunn dissented on the vote. He said it was unfair that the council would give Walmart special treatment over existing town businesses who would need to go through a legislative process to have gas pumps as an accessory use. He said a better course of action would be giving Walmart the permission to install gas pumps upon the signing of the BLA.
“We keep giving, giving, giving and we don’t get, get, get,” he said. “I just see this as another thing of us rolling over for folks that frankly I don’t see them moving forward and working with us.”
Consideration of the Zoning Ordinance amendment will go before the Planning Commission for a public hearing and review prior to final action, and an additional public hearing, at the Town Council.