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Supervisors to discuss County Farm site

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Shenandoah County may find two new uses for the County Farm property, home to the former alms house.

The Board of Supervisors plans to hold a work session at 4 p.m. Thursday to discuss several topics, including the ongoing efforts to reuse the County Farm property. Two committees appointed by the supervisors have been working out details in an effort to come to a consensus on a recommendation which they can pass on to the board, according to County Administrator Douglas Walker. The county owns the 232-acre property.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee has looked at expanding the county's park land by using a portion of the County Farm site, Walker explained. The County Farm Advisory Committee has looked at ways to reuse the County Farm as an agricultural education site for farmers.

Supervisors will see a short presentation on the consensus both groups reached regarding the delineation of the County Farm property, Walker said.

"I think the board will be delighted that the two groups have come together and have reached consensus," Walker said. "I think that's part of what they have wanted these folks to do."

The next steps involve the county issuing a request for proposals for farmers to lease the larger remaining portion of the site as a demonstration farm project for 10 years, Walker explained. The administrator expressed hope the county could advertise the request for proposal by September and attract any interested farmers to submit their proposals and the board could consider lease contracts in November or December.

Supervisors established the County Farm Advisory Committee in March 2010 to make recommendations on how the jurisdiction could use the property.

The entire County Farm property spans 232 acres. The current park property covers 62 acres, but would expand by slightly less than 10 acres under the delineation proposal, some of which is wooded and overgrown with vegetation, making it unsuitable for farm use, Walker explained. Some of the 10 acres includes a pond, which the county would need to exclude from the farm use. The farm area, of approximately 47 acres, would include land for demonstrations on grazing and forestry

"So it was a really good give-and-take between the two groups to try to maximize those areas of the farm that really couldn't be used, so they could maximize those that could be used for the farm demonstration," Walker said.

As Walker explained, the county will need to set some goals for the farm property in the context of a 10-year lease which would be included in the request for proposals. The county also may need to make some investments in the project. In turn the county would receive rent from the farmer, Walker said.

The former alms house, which sits on 1.6 acres, is not part of the current discussions. The county is looking at the house as a future, separate project, according to Walker.

Also at the work session supervisors plan to continue discussions about improvements to the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department building. The county Fire and Rescue Department has paid firefighters to stay in the Toms Brook station, but Walker explained the accommodations are "inadequate."

The county and the volunteer fire company have been discussing ways to renovate the living area in the upstairs of the building through a cost-sharing initiative. An agreement allows any volunteer fire companies to request assistance from the county for capital improvement projects. Walker said this is the first such project request brought before the board. The Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Association must first give a recommendation on a project request before the board can act, according to Walker.

Supervisors also plan to discuss the old Edinburg School/Historic Courthouse project.

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