Mayoral Race

As I hope you had a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving, I am wishing you a terrific holiday season.   Please try to find a couple of moments each day to find a little quiet time and catch your breath!

When Kristen Umstattd resigns and becomes our next Leesburg Supervisor, the town council will need to appoint someone as interim mayor. This position will last almost one year — the remainder of Kristen’s term.

In the past, the council has appointed someone from the public to serve as a temporary appointment. Some on council want to change that policy. They are advocating that a council member should serve as interim mayor and then run in November for the same seat.

I feel very strongly that it is not in the town’s best interest. By having a council member fill the interim seat, it necessitates yet another temporary appointment for the council member’s slot that might be followed by a special election. Therefore, I will not be putting my name in for the interim mayor. I will continue to serve as vice mayor till November 2016.

However, I wanted you to know that I will be running for mayor in the November 2016 election. Believing that Leesburg is a great place to live and work, I want to serve as mayor to continue to guide Leesburg toward more inclusive and vibrant economy. This includes putting residents first with an emphasis on managing growth and improving all aspects of transportation.

 

I wanted to make sure you knew that I will be running for mayor in November 2016 and I hope I can count on your support when the time comes. In the meantime, I will continue to serve as vice mayor with whomever is appointed as interim mayor.

Thank you for your support in the past and my best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to each and every one of you.

 

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Bras Raise Awareness

Great Fund Raiser
Bras Raise Awareness
Hosted by Best Rack Around
Bra Art Show and Auction
On Saturday, Novermber 7th, 6:30 to 10:00
River Creek Club, 43800 Olympic Blvd, Leesburg, Va 20176
Heavy hor d’oeuvres
Ticket can be purchased online or at Best Rack Around for $75 for one of $125 for a pair. All proceeds will benefit the Loudoun Breast Health Network
www.BrasRaiseAwareness.com

Best Rack Around, Market Station, 108 South King Street, Suite F., Upper Level, Leesburg, Va 20175

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India and Pakistan Independence Day Celebrations

All are welcome to these fun, family friendly celebrations!
There will be great music, dancing, food, games for kids,
shopping, relaxing, and getting to know our neighbors!

$5 per person admission

Kids 12 and under are free

Admission includes all kids games and performances

Food and drink are separate

Free parking

Ilyas Masih, All Neighbors Director. Email: IlyasYounas2000@gmail.com
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Sveltness Fitness Ribbon Cutting

Sveltness Fitness is holding a ribbon cutting at 2:00 Saturday.  This new business is located at 47-b Catoctin Circle.

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Leesburg Council Approves Fast-Tracked Oaklawn Rezoning

April Grant, Leesburg Today | Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 10:42 am

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In the face of resident objections and a recommendation of denial from the Planning Commission, the Leesburg Town Council Tuesday approved a rezoning application to build corporate headquarters for an expanding, but unnamed, Leesburg company along the Dulles Greenway in the Oaklawn development .
Town and county government representatives, who are working with the state government to assemble an incentive package for the project, have kept the company’s name secret, saying a confidentially agreement prevents them from identifying the applicant.
The plan involves building office space and a production center in Land Bay B of the Oaklawn property. The rezoning allows for light intensity industrial uses that did not exist in the land bay. The tenant also proffered land for a 120,000-square-foot sports complex, hotel or conference center on Land Bay A and to expand Hope Parkway to allow additional transportation for employees and truck traffic.
The vote was 5-2 with Mayor Kristen Umstattd and Councilwoman Kelly Burk opposed after residents have voiced concerns about the rushed pace of the application review process, and the air of secrecy surrounding it.
A dozen spirited residents again expressed their opposition with the application during Tuesday’s meeting, saying it represented no benefit to residents and all the benefit to the applicant.
Councilwoman Katie Hammler countered that notion, saying that the company would represent a win for both parties. She described it as a “huge economic opportunity for taxpayers and is the achievement of a major goal” and “will be bringing high wage, high quality jobs to the town.”
Vice Mayor Dave Butler, a resident of the Oaklawn neighborhood, said there would be sacrifices ahead for residents, especially in terms of construction, but that the benefits would outweigh the negatives. He pointed to the development of the Sycolin Road overpass, which opened earlier that day, as a representation of “the fruits of sacrifice.”
Council members Marty Martinez, Kevin Wright and Tom Dunn said they appreciated the residents’ concerns but supported the application.
Umstattd said her vote against the application was swayed by the clear opposition to the plan raised by residents, who between three public hearings—two before the Planning Commission and Tuesday’s council hearing—spoke more than 50 times against it.
The question is should the council make a decision that’s in the best interest of the town but places an unfair burden on one community, she said.
“In some ways I’m sad because I have such respect for the tenant but the situation you were put in wasn’t fair,” Umstattd said to the residents. “I don’t think the damage and injury done to the community is worth it.”
Burk said she was uncomfortable to vote with the lack of time allotted to residents and the town in this speedy process. Changing the zoning for Land Bay B to allow for light intensity industrial could cost the residents more in the long run, she said.
“What happens if the company moves away…and an electronics company were to come in” and “what if that company was using lead, what if they were soldering?” That would be a polluter but the town, because of this rezoning, would have no control over it, she said.
She had major concerns with the applicants’ proffer of 10 cents per square foot of commercial space toward a fire and rescue site on two acres of land, arguing that the standard is 20 cents, and that 16 acres was a more sufficient size. Burk also cited plans in the application for a sports complex, which she said would only create more traffic in the area.
“The applicant has been willing to make some changes, but I don’t think they’ve gone far enough to be able to mitigate concerns of the community.”
In the end the developers were not willing to budge on requests from the town and residents to amend the truck hours to 8 a.m.-7 p.m. or to increase the height and length of the fence to be used for screening on a portion of the property. They did agree to contribute $15,000 towards a pedestrian crosswalk signal on the intersection of Whipp Drive and Hope Parkway, which is the major truck route, to alert drivers when someone is crossing the street.
Immediately after the vote Supervisor Ken Reid (Leesburg) released a statement supporting council’s decision, calling it the right move for the town, county and the Commonwealth—the development is projected to generate a total of $20 million in tax revenue for the town and county and $41.2 million for the state—create more than 100 high-wage jobs over five years.
“It is unfortunate that the identity of the firm could not have been disclosed earlier to give some ease of mind to the Oaklawn and Stratford communities nearby,” the statement read. “But I am personally very familiar with the nature of this company’s product line, and know from experience how they add value to their communities.”
In addition to the rezoning the council signed onto a Governor’s Development Opportunity Fund Grant Performance Agreement that allows the town to provide incentives to company. Pursuant to the agreement, the town will waive $77,000 in land development fees and provide matching funds in the amount of $150,000 to apply for a Virginia Department of Transportation Economic Development Access Program Award to help build a portion of Hope Parkway.
Under the agreement, the county government will present the corporation with a $340,000 cash grant and waive approximately $110,000 in development fees and costs. The state also will make a cash grant of $450,000. In order to receive the GOF funds, the company must spend at least $28.4 million on its main facility and create a minimum of 97 new jobs with an annual salary of at least $103,000.
The developers said they hope to break ground in the next couple of months.

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Inside Scoop Virginia – 2014 Meet and Greet

Inside Scoop Virginia – 2014 Meet and Greet – Thursday 10/23/2014
Meet Your Town Council Candidates
Thursday 23, 2014
Rust Library
Leesburg, VA

Moderator: Norm Styer

Participating Candidates:

Mayor Candidates;
Tom Dunn
Kristen Umstattd

Town Council Candidates;
Kelly Burk
Dwight Dopilka
Suzanne Fox
Marty Martinez
Jeffrey Phillips
Kevin Wright

Sponsored By:
League of Women Voters of Loudoun County

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Dopilka’s Failed Attack

With Leesburg’s municipal elections looming Nov. 4, the candidates are working to stand out in the field.

Dwight Dopilka, making his third run in three years for a council seat, last week put the spotlight on incumbent Marty Martinez, raising questions about his attendance and engagement in council meetings.

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In a letter sent to the media, Dopilka compiled attendance records since 2009 and claimed that Martinez has missed almost 27 percent of all council meetings in that time period, including 25.2 percent of regular meetings and 28.8 percent of work sessions. Dopilka counted late arrivals or early departures from meetings as absences, putting the attendance record in the least positive light possible. Town records show Martinez missed fewer meetings, although still the most of any member during that period. Mayoral hopeful Tom Dunn led the council in combined absences, late arrivals and early departures.

“The attendance record is unacceptable to the people of Leesburg, they deserve better,” said Dopilka, whose information had Martinez with 33 absences and 32 late arrivals or early departures during 242 total meetings. “If this situation was exhibited in the private sector, he would have been fired 12 years ago. So I think the people ought to know that and need to fire him come Nov. 4…It shows a lack of attention to being a public servant for Leesburg.”

When told of Dopilka’s criticism, Martinez said the concern was unwarranted.

“What he’s doing is making accusations of what he thinks is going on and it’s not what really is going on. As for the absences, I used to coach a Babe Ruth league baseball team. I let the mayor know about it, and she said it was OK and they would always get me the information. Any of my other absences were because of my day job or I was sick…If he’s going to criticize me for coaching baseball, then he’s un-American.”

Martinez said that he still coaches men’s league baseball teams in the fall and spring, but he tells the league to not schedule his games on Mondays or Tuesdays, when the council typically meets. And if there is a conflict in regard to a regular session, Martinez said, he will not miss the meeting.

According to attendance records compiled by the town from council meeting minutes since 2009, Martinez has been absent for 14 out of 133 regular sessions (10.5 percent) and 22 out of 117 work sessions (18.8 percent) where no formal actions are taken. That equates to being absent for 36 of the 250 (14.4 percent) total meetings in that time period. If Martinez’s 29 late arrivals or early departures are included, he has missed at least part of a meeting 26 percent of the time (65 out of 250). The minutes show that of Martinez’s 28 late arrivals and one early departure, he missed fewer than 10 minutes in 18 of those instances.

Martinez’s 14 absences for regular sessions tops absences of all other Council members since 2009, with mayoral candidate Tom Dunn behind him with seven. However, Dunn’s 82 combined absences, late arrivals or early departures (32.8 percent of all meetings) are the most among incumbents. That includes 37 late arrivals or early departures from regular sessions.

Kevin Wright has missed at least part of meetings 6 percent of the time (seven total absences), Kelly Burk has missed 8.8 percent since her 2012 election (five absences), Katie Sheldon Hammler is at 4.4 percent (seven absences), Dave Butler’s total is at 4.8 percent (seven absences) and Mayor Kristen Umstattd has missed 3.2 percent (five absences).

Dopilka also criticized Martinez for “largely gazing into his iPad” and seeming disinterested during meetings. “Typically he has no comment or he agrees with staff. I see very little initiative and intellectual rigor pertaining to the issues,” he said.

Martinez said he has been a big proponent of paperless meetings and reads his iPad as part of his council work.

“If you ever come back and look at my screen, I will have the current agenda items and slides up for reference in case I need anything. So here I am, a big proponent of paperless work and using my iPad to look at all the agenda items on Sharepoint, while a couple people have huge binders that waste a bunch of paper…I am very interested in everything that goes on in this town.”

Loudoun County supervisors also use iPads to view staff reports and other information during their meetings.

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The League of Women Voters Candidates Night

With less than two weeks until Leesburg’s municipal elections, the Loudoun County League of Women’s Voters held a candidates forum Thursday night to showcase the vision and core principles of each incumbent and challenger. About 40 residents came to Rust Library to hear the differences between each candidate through a question and answer session.

Mayoral candidate Tom Dunn and council challengers Jeff Phillips, Suzanne Fox and Dwight Dopilka featured themes of revitalizing the town by adding businesses, while the incumbents—Mayor Kristen Umstattd and council members Kevin Wright, Kelly Burk and Marty Martinez—highlighted successes they’ve achieved during their time on the council.

“We accomplish so much through the community, there is a great dedication to preserving what’s best in Leesburg,” Umstattd, who’s seeking her seventh term as mayor, said in her opening remarks. “It’s given me such joy serving as mayor because of that. Multiple sites list Leesburg as one of the best to places in the U.S., to raise families and do business, and we hope to build on that.”

Dunn, who is serving his second term on the council and mounting his second challenge to Umstattd after running unsuccessfully in 2010, said those previous national accolades don’t reflect the work of the current council and that he would lead the way to bring new businesses into town.

“Right now we have vacancy numbers that are the highest-ever for Leesburg,” Dunn said. “We can’t talk about articles from 2010 talking about data from 2009. We have to get it turned around today, not wait until tomorrow.”

Many of the incumbent candidates’ comments were focused on fixing the transportation problem in town, including creating a final solution for the Rt. 15 Bypass and Battlefield Parkway. The challengers are seeking to have a more transparent government, citing closed sessions such as those dealing with the controversial Oaklawn rezoning to allow the expansion of Leesburg-based K2M, and say they’ll push to create a more business friendly downtown.

Each candidate also was able to showcase his or her priorities through several questions: one about their vision for the town; another about what actions they’ve taken to improve the town or prepare for public office; a question on what the town’s economic engine should be; and another on their opinion on seeking city status for the town.

Kevin Wright, seeking his third term, mentioned that being a councilmember “isn’t about partisanship, it’s about doing the best thing for the town,” and he also stressed efforts to responsibly balance the budget, building roads and reviewing development plans while preserving Leesburg’s quality of life.

Kelly Burk, seeking her third term, said she has seen extreme growth in the town since she moved here when there were fewer than 8,000 residents—there are nearly 50,000 today—and she said the addition of 185 new jobs created in 2014 demonstrates the town has a vibrant economy. Marty Martinez, eyeing a fourth term, noted that there are 20 percent fewer town staff members than when he started as a councilmember in 2002. He said he wants to complete some of the town’s small and big projects, particularly those that improve transportation, to make Leesburg a better place to live.

The challengers each demonstrated differences in their styles. Suzanne Fox runs a wedding planning business and said she would give small businesses a voice in the council. While Leesburg elected officials are not elected on party affiliations, there is still a sense of partisanship on the council and Fox wants to mitigate that.

Jeff Phillips, a 35-year army veteran, called for a greater focus on public safety, including getting more police officers out of their cars and on the street, and he said he hopes to create a more robust economy.

Dwight Dopilka said the council “needs fresh approaches and out-of-the-box solutions” and introduced a five-point plan: produce solutions that help people, lower taxation between Leesburg and Loudoun County, restore transparency, reduce cost of town services and standardize the hiring process of town government.

Leesburg Today’s Norman K. Styer moderated the event.

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Rezoning for Oaklawn

On Thursday I attended the Leesburg Planning Commission. There were over forty Stratford residents that were speaking in opposition to a rezoning on the Oaklawn Property. They made some significant points of opposition and it really made me look at the project from another point of view. I can only hope that the developer heard the residents,also, and is willing to make the requested changes. They were promised, when they moved into their development, that Oaklawn would build eating establishments, retail stores and entertainment options that the residents could walk over to and enjoy. Oaklawn is asking for a re zoning of the entire land as light industrial. If there is to be a business there that assembles devices then the residents want more buffering, specific route for trucks, a lighting plan, and a plan to limit noise. None of that was agreed to by the developer so the residents are mad and I don’t blame them. The Town Council sees this application this Tuesday. It will be interesting to see if there are any changes to the application.

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Water and Sewer Rate Changes

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 5:10 pm | Updated: 11:32 am, Thu Jul 24, 2014.

 

The Leesburg Town Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to adopt higher water and sewer rates designed to close an operational funding gap over the next five years.

The action followed a public hearing during which there were no speakers.

Mayor Kristen Umstattd and Councilman Tom Dunn voted against the motion. Umstattd had objected to increases in the fixed rates saying it would be too great a cost for a number of Leesburg residents. Dunn, who is challenging Umstattd in this fall’s mayoral race, said the town should focus on promoting additional usage from businesses and customers to spread the costs of operating the utility systems.

During Monday night’s work session, council members discussed Public Resources Management Group Inc. recommendations one last time and agreed to a change that reduced the fee reduction planned to help high-volume residential customers. A key change in the new rate structure is to eliminate the current policy of charging for sewer service based on the amount of water used by each account. Critics of that policy had argued that they were being charged for water used for irrigation and other outdoor uses that did not enter the sewage treatment system. Under the new plan, residential users will be billed for sewage service on the first 36,000 gallons of water used each quarter. At the suggestion of Councilman Kevin Wright, the cap was increased by council members from 30,000 gallons.

In addition to higher usage rates, customers will see an increase in the flat-rate base charge applied to all accounts when the new rate structure takes effect July 1, 2015.

Councilwoman Kelly Burk continued to press to keep the rate increases lower for commercial customers and suggested lowering the 30,000 gallon cap recommended by the consultant so more customers would enjoy lower sewer bills. “To me we’re not solving the problem. It seems like everyone is still tied to the same one-to-one ratio—that assumes customers’ sewer usage is the same amount used for consumption—unless you use an awful lot of water,” she said.

Umstattd said she was not as concerned with smoothing out the rates for commercial customers because they are subject to tax breaks that residents are not. “Water usage is a business expense for commercial users but not for residents,” she said. “I don’t want to see us put a greater impact on our residents.”

Vice Mayor Dave Butler objected to Wright’s proposal to increase the sewer cap, saying it went too far in shifting the burden to residents who irrigate their lawns and would essentially be picking up the tab for those who don’t irrigate.

Council members Marty Martinez and Tom Dunn looked for examples of area localities that have adopted the consultant’s methodology. “My biggest concern is where are we in relationship to the rest of the market in the area and does this rate appear to be fair,” Martinez said.

In the final version of the rate plan adopted Tuesday, residential customers, who on average use around 15,000 gallons of water per quarter, will pay $80.61 in FY 2015. That price will increase incrementally to $114.09 by FY 2019.

Wright’s proposal to increase the sewer cap to 36,000 gallons was balanced by higher sewer usage rates at $92.29 per quarter in FY 2015 with annual increases and reaching $118.93 in FY 2019. Butler again expressed his desire to keep the number at the consultant’s recommendation of 30,000 saying anything more would lead to “a few people paying a lot more for the sake of some people paying a lot less.” Wright’s motion passed in a 4-2-1 vote, with Butler and Councilwoman Katie Hammler, participating remotely, opposed and Dunn abstaining.

During final comments Dunn said he was hesitant to approve the plan arguing that instead of charging current customers more the town should be focused on building its customer base to alleviate the burden on residents. “We should look at it as a business recruitment and how do we get more customers and businesses,” he said. “We should not be penalizing people who use water.”

Hammler said the new rate structure is fiscally responsible, noting that future development was not going to solve the immediate problem of the town spending more on utilities than its is charging users.

Martinez said it was important for the public to understand that the decision is not a matter of wanting to raise rates but a matter of having to do so. He noted the council members’ utility bills would be going up as well. “We don’t get breaks…it hurts us, too.”

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