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Big-Box Restrictions to be Undone

Size limits set by the previous board are considered unnecessary.

Limits placed on the size of large retail establishments a year ago are on track to be tossed out of the Loudoun Zoning Ordinance next week.

In April 2011, the previous Board of Supervisors created a special exception requirement for large retail, grocery and hardware stores as well as pharmacies—often referred to as “big-box” stores. A special exception is an additional step required for certain uses that critics argue makes doing business in the county more difficult.

The current board, elected in November, initiated a reversal of the special exception requirement in April and is set to approve the change during the July 17 board meeting.

“This action is simply to show we’re open for business,” said Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn). “That’s why we brought it forward.”

The existing restriction requires pharmacies and retail and grocery stores greater than 75,000 square feet, and construction sales establishments greater than 80,000 square feet, to obtain a special exception.

If approved, the board’s action would revert to the previous zoning language that permits those uses without size restrictions in the appropriate zoning categories.

Ann July 12, 2012 at 01:26 PM
How sad-- Bringing in the chain stores to put our local small businesses at a disadvantage.
Vineet Aggarwal July 12, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Very sad indeed...part of what makes Leesburg so charming is the relatively large number of local small business and relatively small number of big box retailers. No wonder places like the Tally Ho, Wine Kitchen, etc. are moving out. Can't keep up with the big guys. This is the sort of stuff I feared with an all Republican board. That being said, I am pleased with the Metro decision, but I hope the board also recognizes that nobody hops on the Metro to come to the Home Depots in Loudoun. They come for the small shops, restaurants, etc.
CC Mojo July 12, 2012 at 01:43 PM
It's not all bad, it's the big box stores that act as "anchors" for the smaller stores.
Vineet Aggarwal July 12, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Hi CC...I'm not challenging you, but I don't quite follow your comment...can you explain what you mean by the big box stores serving as anchors for the smaller ones?
CC Mojo July 12, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Hi Vineet. With the exception of areas like downtown Leesburg that are historic and have their own "tourist" pull, other shopping areas rely on large chains to serve as anchors. For instance, I never would have checked out a local Chinese place had it not been in the same shopping center as Food Lion. I read recently that there was an area in Brambleton, I think, that was suffering because it didn't have an anchor store, and even those small businesses surrounding the open "space for rent" of a box store were closing. Plenty of small businesses rely on the brand recognition of chains to bring them customers off the street... it's kind of a catch-22.
Vineet Aggarwal July 12, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Hi CC...yes, okay, I see your point...makes sense, thanks for the explanation. My concern was more around what this might mean for downtown Leesburg. If it remains unaffected, then my comment doesn't really apply and I agree with you. Otherwise, I would be concerned.
CC Mojo July 12, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I think downtown Leesburg is fine in this, at least I hope so!
Dusty Smith (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I believe the Belmont Greene shopping center is the one that had a story written about the lack of an anchor. It's one of the two former Bloom locations.
Dusty Smith (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 02:39 PM
We also should have clarified that within town limits, Leesburg (and other towns in the county) controls its zoning, not Loudoun.
Dave White July 12, 2012 at 02:51 PM
This was also a fear of mine with the all Republican Board too. Big box retailers definitely put small business at a disadvantage over the long run, and there is no net economic gain to the community over the long run. More cheap products from China is just what we need. I don't think big box retailers necessarily need to serve as an anchor to small businesses, as long as the area is developed the right way. Just look at Del Ray in Alexandria. My time spent as a Small Business Loan Officer at a community economic development non-profit in DC, as well as reading the book http://www.bigboxswindle.com/ really changed my views on big box forever.
CC Mojo July 12, 2012 at 03:12 PM
I'm all for small businesses (especially since I have one myself), I just don't see this move by the BoS as a huge issue in the bigger picture. It kind of stands to reason that there will be changes coming down the pipe, with Metro and the other big developments coming to Loudoun.
Ann H Csonka July 12, 2012 at 06:03 PM
"Open for business" can be a scary term. It's like "anything goes". The bad part is that it IS small businesses that go because they cannot compete. Retaining the Special Exception requirement is an opportunity for all to CONSIDER advantages such as having a big anchor store when needed. On the other hand, it also makes it possible to deny big box stores that are notorious for killing small-business competition by undercutting prices. Btw, some "big boxes" affect ALL in the area, including the quaint areas of Leesburg and other towns, even if they are not next door. Dave White's comments are excellent -- read 'em again. This is another case in which citizens and the local business community--and those they elect--are given a CHOICE of the stores they want in the community. Is this Board totally ANTI-CHOICE in every respect? Sad.
exLib July 12, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Ultimately the general public will decide if they want big box stores or not. Its very plain and simple, really. If consumers choose to shop in local businesses, then big box stores will not be successful. If consumers choose to shop in big box stores, then they will be successful. The debate should be answered by the general public, not by a few loud mouths on either side of the issue.
kathleen fergus July 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM
This isn't good news.
kathleen fergus July 12, 2012 at 11:00 PM
This could be true, but how big do they have to be
Kristen Umstattd July 13, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I am happy to report that, according to the owners of the Wine Kitchen, they are staying in Leesburg. The Wine Kitchen is an extraordinarily successful business and the owners are exploring opening a second similar establishment in Purcellville. Kristen Umstattd, Mayor, Town of Leesburg
Leah M. Kosin July 13, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Thank you everyone for your comments but PLEASE refrain from posting hearsay about local businesses closing down. The Wine Kitchen is NOT closing. They are opening another location.
Ann July 14, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I agree with Ann Csonka and Dave White. Ann Robinson
Terri July 14, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Vineet, I agree with you 100%.

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