On Tuesday, April 27, the Leesburg Town Council had a council meeting that included approval of an encroachment agreement, initiation of amendments to the zoning ordinance to define and create use standards for donation boxes, and beginning discussions to help improve disclosure by developers on potential adverse impacts to buyers/renters in Leesburg. Additionally, we appointed Ms. Mary Randolph to the Douglass High School Commemorative Committee to represent the Town of Leesburg.
The major issue of the evening was a resolution authorizing collective bargaining with eligible town employees. This resolution passed with a 5-2 vote. I not only voted "yes" on this resolution, I made the motion to approve it. The resolution simply set the table for potential organization of a bargaining unit or units with eligible town employees. Additionally, it set forth that the town will only be negotiating wages and benefits. A point to make very clear, town employees will not be able to strike if the negotiations don't go as they wish. I'm very proud that the town council passed the resolution to allow, if they so choose, our employees to collectively bargain. You can read more about the discussion and the vote via the article from the Loudoun Now by clicking here.
As always, please reach out to me directly with questions or concerns. Thank you!
It's been a while since I have given an update on the work on town council. I apologize for the delay and will work to ensure that I'm providing updates after every work session/town council meeting.
March was a busy month with the focus on our fiscal year 2022 budget. We passed it at the last meeting in March with no change to the property tax rate and very little changes in the budget, except for creating a "rainy day" fund to help the town in the future and funding an office for the Mayor of Leesburg. As the largest town in Virginia, I believe the mayor should have office space to conduct meetings and work. I was happy to support the budget item.
At our first meetings in April, we had a great deal of discussions about transferring the Sycolin Cemetery to the Loudoun Freedom Center. This is a historic cemetery from a black community of former slaves and their descendants. The cemetery saw most of the burials in the early 1900s. This is an important legislative action and is key to helping restore and preserve this hallowed ground. I'm incredibly supportive of the work staff and Pastor Michelle Thomas and the Loudoun Freedom Center have done up to this point. The town and the Freedom Center are almost finalized. We're currently discussing some drainage issues at the cemetery. My hope is that the town council will find the votes to help provide some financing to the Loudoun Freedom Center to help alleviate some of the drainage issues at this historic cemetery. We have future meetings about the agreement and the drainage issues.
Additionally, at the work session on April 12 we discussed affordable housing and accessory dwelling units with Round Hill Town Manager Melissa Hynes presenting the accessory dwelling unit legislation Round Hill's town council passed. This is an important discussion as housing is becoming more and more expensive here in Leesburg. We will be having a larger discussion on strategies to make housing more affordable, as well as accessory dwelling units in Leesburg.
Finally, we discussed the recommendations for the ad hoc committee on the Airport Commission. We're looking to adopt the recommendations and create an Airport Business Association to help with representation of the businesses at the airport. The final vote on recommendations from the ad hoc committee will be at a future town council meeting.
At the Council Meeting on Tuesday, April 13, we presented proclamations recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, and Arbor Day. Additionally, we heard an annual report from the Planning Commission. I applaud the hard work our planning commission undertakes. They're a valuable asset to our town and the progress we make. Thank you Chair Gigi Robinson and all our planning commissioners!
Among the work we voted on was awarding a contract for a new Ida Lee Park Tennis Court Air Structure. Although the contract came in higher than expected, town staff worked hard to negotiate it down and I'm very happy with the project. The tennis bubble will pay for itself in at least two years and be a source of revenue for our town. I'm very excited for the construction to begin and for our local tennis enthusiasts to get to use it year around.
In closing, we have been busy our first three months as a new council. I'm very pleased with the progress we're making for the people of Leesburg. We have our town council retreat coming up on Saturday, April 24th and then our 2nd work session and council meeting of April. As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with your questions or concerns.
During the Monday, February 22 work session of the Leesburg Town Council, we had a presentation from our town finance staff and consultant. They discussed revenue projections over the next four fiscal years and urged us to adopt a Revenue Stabilization Fund to help deal with the current revenue deficits due to effects of COVID-19. I fully support the creation of this fund in future budgets and actually believe we should continue to have a fund beyond the next four years. This fund can act as a rainy day fund for future councils and staff as they work to balance our town budget. Just like our own personal finances, the more we have in our savings account the more secure we feel.
Additionally, we discussed the Community Improvements Plan in the current budget. These are projects that the town will begin over the next six years. There are a lot of important roads, sidewalks, and parks and recreation projects in the CIP. On Tuesday evening we heard from residents urging us to move up a pedestrian bridge over Tuscarora Creek on Lawson Road. These citizens highlighted the safety concerns, as well as potential continued damage to private property due to the current crossing. We will continue to hear from staff and citizens on the CIP and the rest of the FY’22 budget.
On Tuesday, February 23, we held our official meeting. I began the meeting with a moment of silence for the over 500,000 Americans that have died from COVID-19 and their families. We’re still in a real fight here against this virus. We must continue to social distance and wear our masks. I was successful in getting my fellow councilmembers to agree to suspend our rules and add new business to our agenda. We discussed and amended the resolution we passed to establish the Leesburg Business Grants. We received over $860,000 in business grants. We unanimously passed an amendment to increase the amount of funding available for the business grants to $1 million to cover all the qualified applications. The Leesburg Business Grants should help business make it through as the weather gets better and we will begin to see more folks out shopping and taking advantage of the outdoor dining options in Leesburg.
It’s been a busy month of February with the release of the FY’22 budget and the draft of the new Town Plan. The first week of March will include a meeting between the town council and the planning commission to review some sections of the town plan. I’m really looking forward to these discussions to help craft our guiding document. As always, please feel free to email me with any questions or concerns.
On Tuesday, January 26, the Leesburg Town Council met for our second meeting of the year. The work session from Monday evening was cancelled due to weather. The discussion on the Airport Commission will take place at the first work session in February (Monday, February 8.)
At the meeting on Tuesday, we recognized and presented proclamations to Girl Scout Troup 2718 for the tree and marker they placed at Georgetown Park for COVID-19 victims, Eagle Scout William Murphy, and National Mentoring Month (January.) We passed an update to a previously approved zoning ordinance text amendment to allow small convenience store or kiosks at gas stations in the JLMA. We also voted to postpone the town council retreat that was scheduled for this coming Saturday. I'm disappointed that we had to postpone the retreat, but I totally understand the situation due to Covid-19 and being able to properly hold the retreat. I look forward to trying to reschedule further down the road to discuss our goals and areas of focus as a council for the next two years. Due to the postponement of the retreat, I brought up an idea to send our three or four goals for the next two years to the Town Manager and then any that we have in common, we can discuss at future work sessions. My aim is to keep the dialogue going about future goals for the town so that council can be more proactive.
Finally, I asked council to suspend the rules and bring up my Pandemic Business Assistance and Recovery Plan. Council unanimously voted to bring up the plan and discuss. We had a great discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on our business community, our town revenue, and the recovery needed to dig out of the current deficit. I made a motion to split up the plan and we passed (7-0) $500,000 for business grants for Leesburg businesses, as well as $50,000 for the Economic Development team to put together their marketing website and marketing plan to drive consumers to Leesburg to shop and eat at our small businesses. Finally, we allocated $25,000 to close down King Street on the weekends this spring. I have heard from a number of businesses downtown about how helpful closing the street down is for their foot traffic. We will discuss the other items from my plan at a future work session, including the $500,000 recovery fund and continuing to partner with the Small Business Development Center here in Leesburg. I appreciate my fellow councilmembers discussion and their willingness to push the grant program forward.
As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. We have a lot of important topics coming up including the budget, town plan, and ethics policy to name a few. It will be a busy couple months, but I'm looking forward to continuing to work together and get things done for Leesburg.
On Monday, January 11, I attended my first town council work session as a member of the Leesburg Town Council. It was a learning experience being among the councilmembers and discussing the issues on the agenda. We ran through a list of organizational topics that included the town council rules, an ethics policy, the invocation during council meetings, and re-organizing the Airport Commission. These issues will come up during the next couple work sessions. I look forward to discussing the issues.
A few notes from these organizational issues, I do not support eliminating the invocation. I proposed and will pursue asking the Diversity Commission to find a diverse group of religious leaders or residents to lead our invocations during the town council meetings. I believe this will be a way to keep the quiet moment before our meetings intact and engage our community members. My intention to ensure the participants come from all religions and all areas of Loudoun County. I look forward to discussing this at the next work session.
Additionally, I'm interested in discussing the ethics policy for the Leesburg Town Council. We need to ensure that all members of the town council are acting in an ethical way that best represents Leesburg. When someone does not act in a way that follows our ethics code, there must be a process to discipline those members.
I asked for a work session on my Pandemic Business Relief and Recovery Plan. I will post more on this plan, including the full text, this week.
At our first official town council meeting on Tuesday, I was disappointed that a proposal to allow disconnections via Leesburg Water & Sewer passed. I voted against ending the moratorium. I do commend our staff for working hard to communicate with residents that are behind on bills to get them into a payment plan before taking the drastic step in shutting off water. If you or someone you know are struggling to pay utility bills, please reach out to Loudoun County Information & Referral for help. Their phone number is 703-777-0420. If you'd rather reach out to me, I'm happy to help connect you as well.
Additionally, I was honored to be selected to be the council liaison to the Thomas Balch Library and the Board of Architectural Review for the town of Leesburg. I look forward to working with the board members on these boards.
Finally, I wanted to leave you with the comments I made during the Council comment section of the meeting:
"I'm honored to be here and to be serving the people of Leesburg. I urge any member of the public to reach out to me with their questions or concerns."
"As elected officials, our words matter. When you question the validity of an election with rumors, innuendos, and conspiracy theories you harm our democracy. Those elected officials that inspire divisiveness and insurrection must be held accountable for their words and actions. What we witnessed on January 6 was an attack on the very seat of our democracy and was spurned along by the words of some of our elected officials. We all must remember that our words matter. "
"With that being said, I look forward to working elbow to elbow with all the members of this council. When I disagree with you on an issue, I will do it without being disagreeable. We have a lot of issues to handle to keep our town moving forward and I look forward to working on these issues with all of you."
The next town council work session will be Monday, January 25 and town council meeting will be Tuesday, January 26. Both begin at 7 PM. As always, don't hesitate to reach out to me via email at email@example.com.
On December 10, 2020, I took the oath of office along with new councilmembers Ara Bagdasarian and Kari Nacy, as well as Mayor Kelly Burk, at a small outdoor ceremony. I was honored to be sworn in by Judge Jeannette Irby. Judge Irby was a former Leesburg Town Attorney. It is an honor to serve the people of Leesburg!
Additionally, I've been attending a number of orientation meetings with town staff to get up to speed on our town infrastructure, zoning, utilities, human resources, and other issues. These sessions were incredibly informative and will help provide a solid base of knowledge as I begin my term on town council.
Finally, I am going to work to streamline my updates via this blog. I plan to write an update at least once a week and sometimes more often if the issues or events warrant additional updates. If you have specific questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (571) 246-2668. I will continue to use my Facebook page to communicate as well, but the more thorough updates will be via this blog. As always, I welcome your comments, concerns, and ideas.
On Wednesday, November 11, I was honored to attend the Veterans Day Commemoration at Dodona Manor in Leesburg. This is a yearly celebration of our veterans hosted by The George C. Marshall International Center, Loudoun County, and the Town of Leesburg. The event featured our local veteran organizations, local vets, and elected officials. Despite the rain, this event was well attended and was a moving tribute to those that have risked everything to defend our country.
At the event, guests heard from keynote speaker, Rear Admiral (Retired) U.S. Navy, Thomas Lynch. Admiral Lynch gave a great talk about his distinguished career in the Navy. He spoke about the sacrifice and service of our women and men in uniform. Admiral Lynch also spoke about George C. Marshall and his service to our country and the world.
My favorite moment of Admiral Lynch's talk was when he described the creed he and his fellow sailors followed, "...ship, shipmate, self." These three words were used to remind everyone onboard Admiral Lynch's vessel that the priority and focus when making a decision was to the ship, your fellow shipmates, and then your self. It wasn't just about what's good for you! It's about the whole ship, then your fellow shipmates, and then self. America, fellow citizens, self...that's the focus we need now. We need leadership that puts our country first, our fellow citizens, and then themselves. I hope we can all live by Admiral Lynch's creed a little more each day.
Kudos to Master of Ceremonies, Dennis Boykin. Dennis is one of our great Leesburg residents and follows the example Admiral Lynch set out. Thank you, Dennis!
This was a great event and I look forward to touring Dodona Manor again soon when it opens to public tours. Happy Veterans Day to all of our women and men that serve and have served. Thank you for your sacrifice and for making our country safe and secure.
On Election Night our campaign was victorious. Through the hard work of our volunteers and donors, we didn't just win--we came in first place! Thank you!!
I'm so humbled and honored to serve the people of Leesburg on town council. It's going to be a demanding year helping our small businesses continue to thrive, pass our town budget, and work to guide Leesburg into a new decade. I'm ready for the challenge!
I wouldn't be here without you. As always, please reach out anytime. I owe you a debt of gratitude for your support and help. Thank you!
Stay healthy and safe,
On October 28, 2020, I attend a virtual community meeting of the committee writing a strategic plan for the unmet housing needs in Loudoun County. Affordable housing is an incredibly important issue facing Loudoun County and Leesburg residents. The public meeting was an opportunity for citizens to express their opinions on the unmet needs here in Loudoun County.
The citizens who participated expressed their opinion via some virtual survey questions. One of the questions was what type of residential housing is needed. A majority of those in attendance believed more apartments are needed with a focus on variety, i.e. number of bedrooms, layouts, etc. The number one challenge, and this isn't a shock, was cost of housing. The virtual meeting notes, ideas and opinions will be used in crafting the county's strategic plan for meeting our housing needs.
Overall, the opinions expressed mirrored what I'm hearing from Leesburg residents on housing and the affordability of housing. We have a great challenge as community leaders and concerned citizens with affordability of housing here in Leesburg. This is one of our greatest challenges. A safe and stable place to live is essential, especially for our children. As a member of Leesburg Town Council, I look forward to working with Loudoun County and the state of Virginia to help ensure Leesburg residents have access to affordable, safe, and stable housing.
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Send donations and correspondence to
PO Box 1515
Leesburg, VA 20177
Paid for by The Committee To Back Zach