Year in Review: Year marked by police chief resignations, housing developments
The past year brought a number of changes in the region’s small towns. Two police chiefs resigned, towns brought in new subdivisions and the Town of Stephens City got into a lawsuit involving its water treatment plant.
Below are some of the highlights happening in small towns last year.
Strasburg Police Chief Tim Sutherly announced that he was resigning in January 2018. The town selected Strasburg Capt. Wayne Sager, the only applicant, for the position.
A regional asphalt company, Kickin’ Asphalt, is going to move into Strasburg’s business park and build an asphalt mixing plant.
The proposed plant has drawn criticism from residents in a development about a half-mile away. The residents expressed concerns that having an asphalt plant so close to their houses could negatively impact their health and could lower their property values.
But Town Council, in a 5-4 vote, decided to allow Kickin’ Asphalt to bring the plant into the business park.
Strasburg sold the Brown House at 218 East King St., after prolonged discussions about what to do with a house that they had purchased in 2016 for $100,000.
The town voted in January to demolish the house. But officials from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the U.S. Department of Housing and Development stated that the town would have to go through a lengthy legal process if they hoped to demolish the house.
In August, Town Manager Wyatt Pearson announced that a developer, Joe Filerman, had offered to buy the house for $60,000. The town also received parcels of land near Town Hall that Filerman owned.
New police chief
Police chief Gary W. Benedict Jr. became the newest Middletown police chief when he started on July 1.
The search for a new police chief began when then Chief Warren Houde resigned in March. Benedict was selected from about 12 applicants.
Benedict moved to the area from Avon, New York, just South of Rochester, where he was the police chief for four years. He has been in law enforcement for 35 years, including 23 years with the New York State Police.
The department had been operating with one full time officer for a long time. Benedict hired two additional officers in 2017.
Land was broken this fall to begin construction on The Village at Middletown, a 180-single family homes subdivision that will also include commercial space. It is under construction on about 60 acres of land near Lord Fairfax Community College.
A public meeting will be held in January for a proffer amendment requested by developer Dave Holiday. He asked for a proffer amendment that would allow him to pay $5,887 for each of the units that would be built. This is a reduction from the $13,952 per unit as previously agreed to. A proffer is a voluntary offer by a landowner to perform an act, contribute money or donate land to offset the impact of new development.
Renovations to Middletown’s Town Hall at 7875 Church St. are ahead of schedule and under budget.
The town budgeted a total of $500,000 from the current and the next fiscal year to pay for needed renovations to the original Town Hall. Expenses are $200,000 so far, according to Rebecca Layman, town manager and treasurer.
The historic building is 150 years old and officials felt it deserved to be saved.
Mold in the building forced officials to move to a building on Main Street until it could be safely removed and the building made healthy to work in. A new roof was installed, as well as other work, making the building water tight. Offices are being constructed in the front of the building with a meeting room in the back of the Town Hall remodeled and already being used.
The city offices could resume operating again out of the building in the new year.
Woodstock had more of an issue with turkey and black vultures this year.
Wildlife managers used pyrotechnics to move them on. The vultures, however, moved to other areas of the town and the wildlife officers had to conduct a second round of pyrotechnics. Town and wildlife officials are continuing to monitor the situation.
Woodstock’s former fire engine, a 1991 Pierce 105 model aerial fire truck, was shipped overseas and arrived in England on Oct. 27. It will be on display at the Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway museum.
Bill Best, whose family runs the museum, purchased the fire engine for $16,000.
The Woodstock Volunteer Fire department received a $857,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program to purchase a 2017 Smeal Aerial truck. The town was required to match funds of $49,000. The money from Best’s purchase went to help the town meet its matching fund requirement portion of the grant.
Stephens City in September asked for a jury trial in its long-standing lawsuit against the Frederick County Sanitation Authority. The motion was filed in Frederick County Circuit Court.
Negotiations between the town and the county stopped last year as court proceedings continued.
Stephens City initially filed the lawsuit against the authority in 2015 asking for $1 million in damages. The town entered into an agreement Dec. 9, 1991 to allow the county to use 3 million gallons a year of the town’s water supply, found in three reservoirs. This was in exchange to cover the cost for the county building a new water treatment plant. Those reservoirs are within the Public Water Supply Protection District.
Town administrators and Town Council members believed the term was to be for no more than 20 years. The county is arguing the agreement was in perpetuity.
Stephens City officials in September heard of a new residential subdivision of 91 homes that would be coming to Stephens City.
VSS Development LLC is the developer of the project known as Village at Stephens City, single family homes on U.S.11 on the south end of Stephens City.
The subdivision will sit on 99 acres of land, of which 44 acres is expected to remain open space.
The remaining 55 acres will be developed in five stages, with about 20 homes being constructed at a time.
Despite protests from neighbors, the Mount Jackson Town Council green-lighted requests to rezone the land of the old Triplett School to allow developers to build residential duplexes in September.
Developers also scored a win in May when the council voted to issue a permit to Solar I LLC to build a 15.65-megawatt solar farm at 3100 Turkey Farm Road.
In October, the town pledged $15,000 to help the Conservation Fund acquire the Knob, 137 acres of mountain land overlooking the town. The Town Council also pledged to match residents’ personal donations dollar-for-dollar, up to $10,000.
The Town of Edinburg missed out on federal money to revitalize its downtown. Of the 32 proposals for Community Development Block Grant funding, Virginia only awarded money to 15 projects.
The Town Council is already preparing its application for the block grant in 2018.
The New Market Town Council appointed Todd Walters as town manager in October. Walters previously served Christiansburg for nearly 30 years.
The town also appointed Alex Berryman, who earned his master’s degree in urban and regional planning at Virginia Tech, as planning and zoning administrator in June.