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Strasburg OKs arts, tourism district

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Marcy McCann stands outside King Street art gallery in Strasburg Tuesday. Alex Bridges/Daily

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Efforts to revive downtown Strasburg moved forward this week.

Town Council passed an ordinance creating the district which covers King Street from Capon Street to the railroad tracks. The district and the incentives for businesses take effect Oct. 1. Council voted 6-1 in favor of the ordinance after holding a public hearing on the matter. Councilman John M. Hall Jr. voted against the ordinance. Councilman Richard A. Redmon did not attend the meeting.

Several people spoke in favor of creating the district. Jamie Book told council the town would benefit from a district that attracts such businesses which could create jobs and give youth more options. Council had heard support of the district at previous work sessions and at meetings of the ordinance committee.

Marcy McCann runs Shenandoah Valley Art Works presented by LtdPrints.com, 234 W. King St., and began the effort to create an arts and cultural district more than a year ago. McCann on Wednesday lauded council's decision to create the district, noting as she has before that downtown serves as home to many artists, each of whom owns a business.

The district also covers the area of South Holliday Street to Hotel Strasburg. Council may revisit the district and add more area in the future. But as some supporters have noted, the designation of the district also comes with benefits and incentives for prospective business owners to set up and stay downtown. A property that qualifies as either arts or tourism can receive a discount on the business license fees normally paid to the town for the first five years. Additionally, the business receives a break on town utility costs, either 35 or 50 percent, depending on the amount of water used in a billing period. Failing to pay a water bill could result in losing the privilege to receive the discount for the remainder of the fiscal year, officials said.

McCann's neighbor, Rob Hudson, operates Torpedo Rob's Tattoo. Hudson also has spoken in favor of creating the arts district. As a tenant, Hudson said Wednesday he won't see a benefit from the utility bill reduction. But the business license fee discount will help, Hudson said. The proprietor moved his business from Winchester and changed the name. About eight months ago he moved into a larger space in the same building where he and the landlord continue to make improvements.

"Believe it or not it was a blessing moving [to Strasburg]," Hudson said.

Council, after years of debate, discussion and meetings, voted 5-2 to approve designs for the Downtown Streetscape Enhancement Project. The latest designs call for improved sidewalks and other amenities along King Street from the area of the Handy Mart past Acton Place. Council made changes to the design as they discussed the project at numerous work sessions and meetings during the course of the past several years. Councilmen Robert B. Baker and Hall voted against the design, telling members they had heard only a few comments in support of the streetscape project as designed. Baker said he supported some aspects of the design but opposed the construction of traffic-calming bumpouts at intersection because he feared they would make it difficult for large vehicles to turn. Baker said bumpouts may also make it difficult for snow-removal efforts.

The first phase involves work on West King Street between Fort and Holliday streets. Improvements also extend to Capon Street and across from Handy Mart.

The new designs no longer include traffic islands at King and Massanutten Street and in front of the Handy Mart as previously proposed. Instead council asked the plans include design features along the sides of the street and the sidewalk. Likewise the plans call for the construction of a brick sign at the corner of the Handy Mart welcoming motorists into Strasburg. Officials did recommend removal of the bump-out Acton Place after trial runs showed the feature may cause issues for large vehicles.

Councilman Rich Orndorff Jr. sought to dispell residents' concerns about the money slated for the project. Orndorff explained the town received the grant funding for the project years ago and must act on the streetscape project or risk having to repay the money already spent on the initiative.


Considering how bad this town needs to fill up the buildings on King street, why not give the incentives to all business regardless of what kind. Excellent vote Red.

Stick to you guns Baker and hall. That streetscape definitely needs to have BIG changes.

They have only voted to increase taxes to provide bump outs to further increase traffic problems while increasing the tax rate of the people in the town limits. Do they not realize that route 11 is a national highway and that tractor trailers need to travel it to reach their tax paying businesses!??"!?

"Additionally, the business receives a break on town utility costs, either 35 or 50 percent, depending on the amount of water used in a billing period."

EXCUSE ME. I am struggling to pay mine after living here for 28 years and you are giving breaks on utility costs for arts???????

How much more is my bill going to be raised to support this? This is BS and everyone in town hall should be ASHAMED to look at residents after this reveal.

This town is getting to be the biggest joke in the 4 county area.

If fact, come to think of it. Let's unincorporate and turn ourselves back over to the county. I think our chances of surviving would be better than they are now.

Now be careful Cheryl, someone might think you are being negative or complaining. They might even want to call you a name or two. I'm just kidding. ; ]

I think this format is for sharing your thoughts, ideas and feelings about various issues. And yes, I agree we are all forced to pay for all of of this excessive growth. These "special" deals being offered to business will certainly be passed on.

And don't get me wrong, I enjoy the arts, but right now many people are struggling with the basics and survival is the name of the game until this economy turns around (if ever).

Well Diana, I am not interested in being liked. Political correctness is highly overrated. I do know after years of studying numbers, I understand fully cost-benefit analysis, how to read numbers, the effect of the collapse of the markets since 2008 and the implication of what the numbers are saying. One truth I have learned during these years is, "Numbers talk, BS walks."

I asked a question a year ago on this forum, "Does anyone know how VA law handles the bankruptcy of a town or locality?" Fact is, this is the next big wave of bankrupties around the country. Example, California and Illinois. We are headed towards a very dangerous road. Nice to do's during the biggest recession in the last 100 years, is not the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Strasburg Town Council, are you listening???????

I can not understand why this Town Council wants to pigeon hole the town into a tourist trap, and that is exactly what this art and craft stuff amounts to. The historic mandates, two museums, a streetscape to pay for, and now this. I know where they are going with this and I know the citizens are the ones to foot the bill at the end of the day. Will you people at the town hall ever understand that the town belongs to the taxpayers that live here not the damn tourist.

I say we reopen the pot town tavern! It was pot town one day in the past right? Wow we used to cruise the streets of Strasburg (we'll block in the 80's) what fun that was.

Pottery town I mean! Didn't want anyhone thinking we were a county up in northern california. Wouldnt want that I'm sure. But it could boost the economy..;}

Arts will really bring in the revenue!!! (rolling eyes)

and so would a *&^% popeyes BUT noooooooo

A totally agree! It would be great to see the Pot Town Tavern re-opened.

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