* Breaking News
If local news is breaking and you know about it:
* Call Us: 800-296-5137
* E-mail Us
* Upload Your Photos
Popeye's plan falls through after officials raise concerns about U.S. 11 corridor
By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
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."