A standing-room-only crowd filled Town Hall on Tuesday, March 25, for a public hearing on a request to change the language of key provisions of the land-use provisions of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code by P. Daniel Orlich’s Townview Properties.

Orlich requested the changes in order to pave the way for construction of “over 120” residences, “apportioned to independent living, assisted living, and memory care units,” to be built on land bordering the east entrance to Middleburg on the north side of Route 50. The land is currently zoned “AC,” shorthand for the agricultural conservancy.

On March 25, Deputy Town Administrator Will Moore made clear that the Planning Commission was meeting to decide whether or not to recommend Town Council make changes in the language of its key planning and zoning documents, NOT on the merits of the proposed Townview project itself.

P. Daniel Orlich himself opened the “public comment” segment of the meeting.  For ten minutes he outlined the reasons for his request in terms of the specifics of his vision for the development:  a shortage of elderly housing in Middleburg;   his development’s potential benefit to the town’s economy; and his dedication to making the project conform to the Town’s environmental, safety and aesthetic standards.

No less than 25 citizens and friends of Middleburg then addressed the Commission, including the Mayor, a number of present and past members of Town Council, Chairmen of Town advisory Committees, Presidents of local homeowners associations, and others.  All but one opposed both Orlich’s project in general and his proposed changes to the Town’s codes.

A number of speakers expressed resentment at what one characterized as a “propaganda” mailer, sent out prior to the Commission’s hearing.  The mailer, it was alleged, tried to make “housing for seniors” the issue at hand, when, in the speakers’ view, the real issues were the development of open space, public safety, the appropriateness of the project for Middleburg, and fears that allowing an exception for one project would open the door for many others

Mayor Bridge Littleton expressed concern that the small changes in language requested were really requests for radical changes in allowable development density; that making those changes would put Middleburg on a developmental “slippery slope;”  and that the ultimate goal of those changes were NOT in conformance with the spirit, much less the letter, of Middleburg’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning regulations.

Littleton also noted that the claim that Middleburg had not seen ANY construction of multiple unit senior housing for decades was untrue, noting the Windy Hill Foundations’ highly successful Levis Hill apartment complex.

Other speakers noted the proposed development’s impact on the Middleburg watershed; colonial era open space that once paved would never return; the Town’s infrastructure and public safety; traffic; and the aesthetics of the eastern entrance to the Town.

Several noted that housing for the elderly should, indeed, be a priority for Middleburg, but not in the form proposed by Townview, nor in the place proposed.

Following a short rebuttal by P. Daniel Orlich, Planning Commission Chair Eric Combs opened the discussion by the Commission itself.

At 8:18 PM Kevin Hazard moved that the Commission recommend that Town Council NOT approve the requested changes in its codes.  His motion passed unanimously.

Middleburg’s Town Council, after receiving the Planning Commission’s recommendation, will schedule it’s own public hearing, prior to a final vote.

Banbury Cross Subdivision

Deputy Town Administrator Will Moore reported that Town Staff had met with Loudoun County’s Building and Development Staff, a project engineer and a representative of the owner to discuss the development of a proposed 578-acre, 38-lot subdivision at Sam Fred Road and Route 50.

Though the project lies outside Middleburg’s corporate limits, part of the land, and the majority of the proposed 31 “clustered” 2-4-acre housing lots lie within the Town’s “extraterritorial subdivision control area.”

Four entrances to the proposed new subdivision would lie along Sam Fred Road;  none on Route 50.

County and Town Staff reportedly outlined “a likely process for application processing and review, to be reviewed by the Town Attorney.

Davenport & Company Retained

Middleburg’s long-standing, 8-10-year relationship with Davenport & Company, “one of the predominant financial advisory firms in Virginia,” has been extended for another year.

Davenport will continue to “support the Town Council’s efforts for strategic financial planning and long-term fiscal health, with a special focus on:

1. Economic Analysis of the Town’s Revenue streams, economic trends, and future outlook

2. How best to manage the Town’s “General Fund” revenues, including its roughly $3.2 million/year operating budget, it’s large positive fund balance and the Town’s current “pay as you go” approach to funding capital investments.

3. How best to manage the Town’s separate “Utility Fund” revenues and capital improvements, currently totaling roughly $1.2 million per year, and

4. Providing assistance to the Town in acquiring funding for the construction of a new Town Hall, currently budgeted as a roughly $6 million capital expenditure.

Council, without dissent, approved spending no more than $74, 161 on the new contract.

Real Estate Tax Rate

At press time Town Council had set March 28, 2019, as the date for a public hearing on a proposed property tax rate of  15.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, unchanged from the 2018 rate.

It is currently expected that Council will formally approve the rate on the 28th, immediately following the public hearing.

The swift approval of the rate is almost “required,” given the necessity of transmitting it to Loudoun County officials in time to prepare for the County’s first collection of Middleburg’s property taxes in June 2019.

In past years Middleburg had collected its own property tax.

Funding for “Shakespeare in the Burg”

As part of its ongoing efforts to support cultural events contributing to the Middleburg economy Council approved a $5,000 grant to “Shakespeare in the Burg,” noting the high quality of its performances,  its steady growth, and contributions both financially and culturally to the greater Middleburg Community.

New Full Time Employee

Town Administrator Danny Davis’s request for funds to recruit and pay for another full-time Town Employee were approved without objection.

Davis proposed hiring a  “Planning/Project Associate” as part of the Town’s fiscal year 2020 budget.

The new associate will “handle tasks related to Planning & Zoning, along with other projects and Council Strategic Initiatives that may arise.”  Included among those tasks are “daily processing tasks” (such as handling sign permit applications), working with the Town’s key advisory bodies (such as the Planning Commission and Historic District Review Committee), working on other “special projects” and providing general internal support.

Salary is projected to range between $50 – $60,000  per year, not counting roughly $15-20,000 in annual benefits.

No Murals in Historic Middleburg

After months of discussion, dating back to June 2018, Middleburg’s  Historic District Review Committee, by a 3-1 vote on December 6, formally adopted the view that “murals are not appropriate to the District.”

Guidelines, noting that there was “no precedent” for such art in historic Middleburg, were formally presented and unanimously approved by Council at its regular March meeting.

Police

Middleburg Police Chief A. J. Panebianco reported that his officers had issued 44 parking tickets in February, 15 traffics summonses and 15 traffic warnings.

All Middleburg Police Officers have now been fully trained in the use of the life-saving, anti-drug-overdose chemical NARCAN.  “The sanctity of life is our primary objective,” the Chief noted. ”This is one more tool that will help us with that.’

Panebianco also requested that Council take special note of Officer Jason Davis’s outstanding and compassionate care of civilians he found in need of help at the scene of a terrible accident.  “It’s what wearing a badge is all about,” he said.  “Protect . . . and serve.”

Local Government Education Week

Town Council proclaimed the first week in April “Local Government Education Week” in Middleburg, commemorating the April 2, 1908 creation of the “Council-Manager” form of government in Staunton, VA.

Tree Removal

Vice-Mayor Darlene Kirk cast the only dissenting vote in Council required approval for the owners of Old Ox Brewery to remove an old but sadly unsalvageable tree from their Courtyard, on the site of the old Health Center.

Kirk, long a defender of Middleburg’s trees, and with long-standing family ties specifically to the courtyard, noted that she recognized the necessity of removing the tree, but simply could not bear to vote for it.  Everyone understood.

Happily, she was able to vote for a unanimous Council Resolution declaring April 27 Arbor Day in Middleburg.