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Strasburg US 11 and I-81 north corridor
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Strasburg planners have had concerns about plans for a Popeyes/Papa John’s combination near the U.S. 11 and Interstate 81 interchange. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Popeye's plan falls through after officials raise concerns about U.S. 11 corridor

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- The area around U.S. 11 that welcomes travelers exiting Interstate 81 is not deemed an entrance corridor by accident. It leads to something.

For Planning Commission members, a popular discussion topic that resurfaced recently is how this corridor should look and welcome people as they, it is hoped, enter downtown.

The latest brush with the issue started at their work session in May, in which an applicant seeking to build a Popeye's chicken restaurant at 33699 Old Valley Pike, with a Papa John's attached and other retail space available, came forward to collect opinions on his proposal. It required a rezoning and site plan approval.

By the time commissioners met again in late June -- or within a day or so of the May meeting, according to Commissioner Carl Rinker on Wednesday -- the applicant, Mansoor Awan, who has built Popeye's franchises elsewhere, backed away from buying the land and pursuing the rezoning.

According to the meeting minutes from May, officials had concerns about the corporate look of Popeye's and questioned whether people would be drawn to downtown with such a design.

The proposal for a fast food restaurant itself was not the problem, Planning Commission Chairman Al Davis said Wednesday, but it's a matter of developers meshing corporate images while still enhancing Strasburg's landscape.

The entrance corridor, which spans both sides of U.S. 11 in the town limits, is more restrictive for developers given the value of the land in terms of growth potential.

"Too often these types of developments are tied into a strict corporate image to make sure everybody recognizes them," Davis said. "You can build well. You can build bad. Developments in our town need to be functional and attractive to its residents. ... It can be done tastefully rather than be glaring."

Rinker said: "[Popeye's] would be like putting a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't fit."

He said Awan and his Realtor, Cindy Hawkins, were upset with the Planning Commission after the May discussion.

But Rinker answers complaints with what he feels is the panel's prerogative -- giving the corridor a more upscale, artistic appearance. He wants to avoid a "fast food alley," as he calls the stretch of Va. 42 off I-81 in Woodstock, and one road near Manassas.

"Unfortunately, that's exactly what it is," Rinker said. "With our historical significance and everything we have to offer, [our corridor] should look more antique-ish, more period type; an older type of historic overlay to the town versus something modernistic."

There are a handful of properties that can still be developed along the entrance corridor, which already has a number of restaurants among its commercial buildings.

In 2008, town officials, after lengthy debate, changed an ordinance regarding upward-facing lighting in the area in an effort to better govern the corridor's aesthetics.

It's an evolving process to bring what is best for the corridor, which will be rolled into the town's comprehensive plan, said Scott Terndrup, the Town Council's representative on the Planning Commission. When developers know what the town wants, and vice versa, the process is made easier, he said.

Within the corridor, Terndrup said you can tell where development is new or old, the latter he labels "cookie cutter." It's in the best interest of Strasburg to have something with aesthetic appeal greeting people, whether they are visitors or heading home from work, he said.

"From a council point of view, and planning commission," Terndrup said, "we're very much open for business."


Why do you turn away business? As far as "historical" the only thing downtown is a bunch of old buildings that arent nothing but an eyesore and should have been knocked down 30 years ago. The council and planning commission are a bunch of pinheads and its time they be voted out!

The planning commission's concerns are too little too late. The entrance to the town is already an embarassment.

I don't see where Popeye's would be no worse than that big green tower next to Ramada

Strasburg is a unique town. I am glad the council and the commission see it that way.We all know the fast food alley will happen. If the town insists on the outlets being built in a more artistic way it may help to set us apart and generate interest in exploring the town further.


"You can build well. You can build bad. Developments in our town need to be functional and attractive to its residents. ... It can be done tastefully rather than be glaring."..."upscale, artistic appearance.should look more antique-ish, more period type; an older type of historic overlay to the town versus something modernistic."..."with aesthetic appeal greeting people"... WHAT?!?! What about the hideously gross looking "Ramada" what-ever-might be contraption? Does anyone care what visitors think of it? Is it a building in progress, or did some of the floors collapse? I am a long-time Strasburg resident and now I hate to even drive by it so, I try not to frequent the businesses there as long as I can help it. How did that eyesore get approval? Between that and the desolate,empty land across Food Lion "upscale, artistic appearance" does not stand a chance!

I think strasburg needs popeyes and papa johns there is no chicken place in strasburg or a pizza place that is close to us when we get of off of I 81 when we want something different for lunch.

I cannot believe that our Commissioners caused the people from Popeyes and Papa Johns to back out of buying land. This would have provided much needed jobs for the citizens of Strasburg. What is wrong with a Popeyes? Do you have any idea how many people from Strasburg drive to Winchester to buy Popeyes chicken? Then of course while they are in Winchester they do shopping that could be done in our town. I do agree that we don't need another pizza place, just like the multitude of Chinese restaurants that the "Commission" has approved. There is nothing wrong with the exterior of the Popeyes restaurant. It certainly looks better than the large green Ramada overlook eyesore they approved, and much better than the cleared land across from Food Lion. You say that you want more "antiquey" looking places. Yeah, just like all the open storefronts on King Street now. Be for real. I think the "square pegs" are the members of the Planning Commission. Fellow citizens, we need to reconsider the direction the current Town Council and Planning Commission are chosing for our town. Lets rethink this come election day. Also, what happened to the "large box store" that was supposed to be coming to town?

Keep sprawl our of ShenCo. If I want corporate America, I'll drive to Winchester or NoVa.

I'm not sure much of anything can be worse than the ridiculous eyesore of a tour that serves absolutely no purpose other than for the owner to thumb his nose at the town from some transgression or another he feels has been put upon him.

How about a big sign by the I-81 exits that reads


So, 7-Eleven, McDonalds, Denny's, Burger King and Arby's does not scream corporate America? I am certain that if Mr. Holtzman wanted to add another establishment to his mini empire at the exit, it would have been approved. I love Strasburg and it's small town appeal. However, it is growing and we need to grow. Give people of reason to want to stop and shop in our town. Don't confine everything to the exit. Most people make it to Food Lion/Rite Aid and turn around thinking "is this all there is?". We need to advertise to survive. I am suggesting that the commission read the vision statement for Strasburg, keeping in mind that we can preserve the past, but we also need to look to the future.

What would people from out of state be going to downtown Strasburg for? I see a bunch of buildings in a serious state of disrepair and an intersection at King St. and Route 11 that could not be more poorly designed. Visitors to the area aren't missing much by avoiding Strasburg's downtown "patena."


This is the whole reason I want to get away from Strasburg. You approve crap like a big green unused tower and big piece of empty land across from Food Lion. I believe business attracts people. If you want the town to look "historical," downtown is the place for it. Winchester is the same way. They keep their downtown historic and the rest is for the people. To do their shopping and having choices of places to eat. The Rt. 11 corridor off of 81 is not just for the people of Strasburg, it's also for people traveling through. If they don't see place they want to eat....they won't stop. They'll keep going until they get to Woodstock. Instead of thinking about what you want, think about other people and maybe what they want.

Mr. Rinker and Mr. Davis... The "artistic and historically sensitive" boat left a long time ago. You're just flexing for a minority of people with blinders on. The entrance corridor is a mess. There is nothing inviting about the Burger King, Arby's or Ramada... but you have to run the gauntlet to crest the hill at Hupps trenches to see.... the moonscape to the right, and a rusting water tower on the the hill below. How inviting.
A chicken joint is going to stop someone from going downtown to get their tattoo or banner with the face of Bob Marley? Your reasoning is flawed and far too late.


Rusting water tower? I'm pretty sure the tank was just painted. Just saying. Other than that, i agree.

The entrance to Strasburg is what it is. It's already full of fast food restaurants and the down town is doomed as long as Strasburg wants to remain in the past.
Using the Council and Planning Commissions arguments there should be no buildings at all in Strasburg, but only native American residences, after all if you want to keep the historic nature of the town, then the town should never have been built-just sayin'.
Why stay in the past? The history of Strasburg should be kept in the museum and the rest of the town needs to move into the future. Having another fast food restaurant is not going to hurt the town. Giving the down town a face lift is what is needed to get business down town, but as long as there are unreasonable restrictions on entreprenuers, no one will build and no one will come.

Like to lines of townhouses that strain the town's infrastructure and emergency services are antiquey...Businesses such as, for example, McDonalds bring in the same revenue in taxes as 20 homes and use a fraction of the services...

Woodstock's "fast food alley" doesnt seem to keep people from flocking to the movie theater and block parties the town has along with decent restaraunts. I would like to compare Woodstock's revenue to Strasburg's.

Maybe next election we need to get rid powertrips and get some people who will actually let the town have healthy growth instead of trying to keep it in the 19th centruy and are strangling the life out our town.

I totally agree with the comments above....Has the Strasburg Planning Commission actually looked at the large moon (Burger King Sign) that lights up from here to Middletown??? Give me a break!! Don't start being concerned now with the look of our entrance to Strasburg......you are too little too late. Guess it just depends on who is behind the restaurant or store whethere or not it will be allowed in this town.

Right, more jobs for Strasburg! Minimum wage jobs that will do nothing to improve the local economy or reduce the inventory of housing that shouldn't have been built in the first place.

The elected officials of Strasburg seem to have an image obsession with the town. Ideas can never match their expectations of some Williamsburg/Mayberry type place to live. Meanwhile, the citizens are caught in the middle of this progression into the 21st. century dragging this crippled foot of historical prominence as it's theme. It is time that the Town Council should step back and take another look at this issue without the blinders of history dominating every argument.
The citizens of Strasburg are the people being short changed the most by this pie-in-the-sky ("If we build it they will come") idea for tourism. What they really need to focus on is what is best for the citizens of Strasburg.... "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

Currently right now we have a generation gap in Strasburg. The town consists of numerous generations and each one obviuosly has different thought on what they would like to have in a town. The elder generation must give a little as well as the younger generation.

As I drove through town last night I looked around and noticed a a Dollar General sign that is need of upgrading, a newstand sign that was once fully lettered is now missing a few letters and then there are the empty buildings along the road. What is your historical view??? the 1950's? 60's? 70's? because every building in this town has a different era attached to it. Make up your mind and just get with it.

Business is business! Revenues are revenues! Jobs are jobs! Your vision of Strasburg has already been tainted by past councils and now the same folks want to change it again.

More business revenues may offset the water/sewer and tax increases in which we will probably see soon once they buy more junk housing and waste money on something that is clearly not in the best interest of the town.

Well, let me start off by saying I'm not a resident of Strasburg. That said? I have travelled interstates a fair amount in my life and I don't recall any time in the last 20 years where I stopped off for a bite and said, "Hey, let's go see what downtown Exit 43 looks like!!!".

You had a business that wanted to open up similar to those around it, gave them a hard time, and they moved on. I mean really? You don't want it to BECOME a fast-food corridor? Have you LOOKED at that exit recently? LOL!!!

The beauty of Strasburg is that it can keep its cash-cow up up by the Interstate relatively segregated from the nicer historic area of town. That area is what you have to work with right now. Go too far East and you encroach on the downtown. Go too far West and you encroach on historic battlefield property. But THAT area is hell and gone from being anything but a commerce area. Go with it....

I'm in total agreement with most people commenting here (esp, noff'say). We need businesses to offset the ever increasing burden the citizens of the town are being forced to pay for the council's foolish purchases, i.e., the Brill property and the $100,000 land purchase in Crystal Hill. To discourage business is outrageous. Enough of this historic tunnel-vision.

I think the officials in our town live in an alternate universe.

From what I heard Mr.H is going to be doing something to the old Indian Trading Post. I will die laughing if he makes it a Popeyes/Papa Johns. But probably not. Probably be a gas station that will run out the smaller station at that same exit, forcing yet another small family business to fail.

Your being far too kind by putting it like that...

How is it that when its convienient, they can come up with any excuse NOT to do something... Does anyone out there remember when they shut SHEETZ down for that stupid old gas station in the corner of town.... and yet they would rather have a poor attempt at renovated bar and resturant be there (who have both since went out of business). They worry about the look of strasburg and yet all I see around is boring overpriced houses and townhomes in hideous locations with a ridiculous cost.... Square peg in round hole huh.... I got one poster child for that phrase....REC CENTER... That was slapped together with glue and car bondo as far as I am concerned.... Lets face it people if certain LAST NAMES wanted it well then it would simply be so!..... Like if certain people wanted it, you all know it'd be slapped together and opened in a pathetic fashion just like the arbys, rec center and our wonderful green town of doom.... Maybe someone should give holtzman a plate of cookies and suggest to him to get the popeyes...ok cookies and danishes might do it...

Being that I have the misfortune of growing up in this wanna be mayberry facade fiasco it also amuses me how much this place shuts down youth and opportunity, but lets the over priced shacks rip into the landscape.....

Hows that for the historical allusion.....


I may be mistaken here, but I think the gas station to which you refer is actually itself "another quality Holtzman Service Station."

There seems to be a great deal of disdain for Mr. Holtzman's (relatively small, in the scheme of things) empire. Let's keep in mind here that Holtzman Corp. itself is, well, a family business. Certainly something can be said for businesses getting "too big", but isn't that what America is supposed to be about? Someone with determination building a better life for themselves? Or are we only to respect family businesses that stay small and just make enough to keep the family alive? It's the same deal as with Wal*Mart--Sam Walton started with one Ben Franklin (where are they now again?) and built...well, you know the rest of the story.

Say what you will about Mr. Holtzman's business practices and his strategies in dealing with local officials. What it comes down to, though, is this--hate the player, not the game.

All of that said, whoever wants to add to the commerce of Strasburg, I say do it. If they wanted to be Rappahannock County, they should have started years ago with not letting the town turn into Shenandoah County's premier "bedroom community." Now that all those people who do little more than sleep here want some convenience, they're left struggling with some idealized vision of the past versus the reality of being a commuter town.

Now I have lived in Strasburg all my 23 years of life I went to school hear and I am now raising my family here. There is no reason for Strasburg not to grow. I understand about the History and being "historic", but why can't they just pay attention to main street and fix it up nice because after reading this article I went for a drive and noticed something...Main street looks like crap.Buildings are all different colors and the paint is falling off most and half the buildings are unoccupied...but when I was driving to Papa Johns in Stephens City to get my pizza all the buildings on "fast food alley" looked nice and well kept up. Let our town grow and if you don't like it move to Star Tannery Nothing new has gone in there besides a handful of houses in 100's of years.......Thats the place for the people to be that wont let our town grow. Is a new grocery store, a few "fast food" restaurants, and a Sheets for the travelers on 81 to ask for??? I look out my window and see the land at Crystal Hill on 11 across from Food Lion and it makes my sick seeing all that land not being used...I hope we can get new people in office that wants growth for a little town.

There are people who grew up and stayed in Strasburg or moved here before town officials started making it into a low income version of northern VA. Why should they now have to move to Star Tannery because there are now folks who think their lives depend on being able to get some fast food fried chicken?

Strasburg, along with the rest of Shenandoah country is a lost cause. Progress, along with an expansion the economic base can be found in every surrounding county. The county puts together a steering committee to look at economic expansion 20-40 years to the future.

Old school residents along with their ole boy friends have ruined the county and there is no return. County residents will continue to leave the county in order to spend their money at better stores where there is more choice. County residents will continue to treat Shenandoah as a bedrooom community because the residents must go outside the county to find businesses that hire.

I left Strasburg and the county and it's was a great economic decision for me.

Lilyofthevalley! I absolutely agree with you. Ecspecially the comment about youth and oppurtunity!

As far as eating estblishments go, I, personally would like to see an A & W Rootbeer restaurant. I was born in the mid 60's and remember growing up, enjoying the great burgers, fries, rootbeer floats, etc. Back then, it was a real treat to go there! The "drive-in" part of it was great, also! And on Saturday evenings, they always had the "old car shows" where people would hop in their NICELY painted, "souped-up" hot rods and be able to eat, visit and show off their antique vehicles! It used to be a good time! My 76 yr. old Mother used to work there as a teenager and she still has her roller skates!

Mr H owns most if not ALL of those gas stations along the exit anyway so he will not be hurt one bit. I have had to work in Frederick Co for years because Shenandoah Co doesn't pay squat which works out OK for me because I work among the shops and stores that Shenandoah Co will not allow in their county. Shenandoah Co residents should be so proud!

What about Strasburg at the moment is aesthetically appealing, classy or inviting? There already exists several fast food restaurants and businesses in this same proposed area, what harm would a few more bring to the town, just increased revenue? The route 11 corridor into town is a disaster zone, empty lots, the very attractive ramada inn, and the mobile homes the greet visitors on their way into town.

Thanks, I appreciate that, its sad how much of this place is going to be an old folks home aka sesspool in 10 years with nothing new...

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