Wednesday, July 23, 2014

First Town Council Meeting, July 22, 2014

Last night was the first meeting of the new Town Council.  
Here is my recap of the evening.  

We started out with interviews for Planning Commission and Board of Architectural Review. All of the candidates were impressive. In the end, the majority chose Keith Melton and Theresa Stein to serve on the PC and David Marlowe for the BAR.  I was against Keith Melton simply because the people chose not to place him in public office this past May and appointing him to serve in our government was ignoring the will of the people even though they technically don't have a voice in this appointment.  In the end, I believe Keith will serve the town well, as will the others, and Purcellville will continue making measurable improvements along the way.  There are several positions that will open up in the coming months and if you are interested in volunteering please look at the upcoming vacancies to see if there is one that interests you.  

John Nave was unanimously appointed Vice-Mayer with a term expiring in July 2015.  The primary function of the vice-mayor is to serve as the "acting-mayor" in the mayor's absence.   

Doug McCollum will serve a two-year term as a voting member of the Planning Commission.  

I was appointed to serve as liaison on the newly formed Purcellville Committee on the Arts.  

Loudoun County Representatives came forward to discuss an amendment to the zoning ordinance to add Commuter Parking Lot to the list of uses requiring a special use permit in the Institutional/Public zoning district.  Loudoun County wishes to locate another Park-N-Ride lot in Western Loudoun and Patrick Henry College has agreed to allowing a commuter lot, for possibly five years, on their campus and this text amendment would allow it.  It would still require council approval and public hearings to take place. The council took no action as we all felt that further study needed to occur.  

The Certificate of Design Approval Extension was not adopted and council voted 4 to 3 against the text amendment to change the expiration of a CDA from one to two years from the date of issuance.  This Amendment was not for the developers of Vineyard Square in the sense that it would have been applicable to everyone, however it was a concern of mine that it was being put forward due to their expressed concerns about meeting their deadline and because the former Mayor hastily pushed through the action at the last town council worksession he presided over (it was a public hearing that evening and due to citizen pressure they decided to allow the incoming council to take up the action).   

     After some discussion, Mayor Fraser asked how long the current CDA requirements had been in place (10 years) and in that time only one developer had missed the deadline and it appeared     to have done little to thwart that specific project.  In the end, it was clear there was no direct         need for this change.  
     I must clarify, with regards to Vineyard Square, the developer can still go through with his project as is if he can meet the deadlines.  This action in no way inhibits their project or changes what was approved by the prior town council.  Time will tell if they will have a change of heart and decide to downgrade the project in keeping with the scale of 21st Street.  

In July 2014, the Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation to permit electronic or telephone participation in a meeting of a public body from a remote location, subject to certain criteria. Town Council discussed whether to allow this and some valid concerns were brought up and we moved to discussed it further.

Citizens and Town Council got to see a presentation on OpenGov Financial Web Application and how it could be applied here in Purcellville.  The idea is to create a more transparent and user friendly system by which citizens could access town financial data.  I went to our website this morning and in order to find and view the town budget a person needs to click 7 times, which means they have to go through 7 pages of content and at the end they have to open a PDF document.  I went to a few of the municipalities listed through the OpenGov Goverment webpage and most had the link listed on their front page.  The city of Springfield, Il was only 3 clicks to see the opengov platform and from that platform you don't have to keep switching to additional pages or content as you do on the Purcellville webpage.  As I said last night, download speeds in Purcellville can vary quite drastically and it is very likely that no one is clicking on the finance information on our website due to attrition or just plain confusion.  The site needs to be more user friendly and with some tweaking I believe that is achievable without major monetary investments. Tasking our IT department with creating a platform like the opengov would far exceed the $5K yearly investment and because the devices through which citizens reach our website vary,  posting PDF documents is outdated and only creates barriers for delivering that information to the people.  Town Council decided to revisit the viability and implementation of such a platform at a future date.  

Overall, it was a good first meeting. It was great to see so many citizens come out and be part of the process and I hope you will continue to be part of progress in Purcellville.   

If you have ideas or input, please contact me at