By Alex Bridges
When Jennifer and Nick Lauer closed on their home in Crystal Hill two months ago, the view didn't include a 110-foot water tower.
But the couple now fear Strasburg could build such a tower a stone's throw from their backyard.
"We had really wanted this house, but even having all of that we wouldn't have bought this house if we had thought there was going to be a 110-foot water tower 50 feet away from it," Jennifer Lauer said Thursday.
Strasburg is looking for sites on which to build a water tower as recommended by a recent study of the town's future needs. Officials on Wednesday conducted a balloon test of the site off Abby Lane in Crystal Hill. A balloon test also took place on land near Stoney Point.
Town Manager Judson Rex explained Thursday that staff is collecting information from the two tests pertaining to the costs and impact of building a tower on the viewshed at either site.
Rex plans to present the information to Town Council at a work session.
Strasburg owns the site at Crystal Hill, which lies close to existing water service lines and at the recommended elevation, Rex explained. The town doesn't own the land off Pouts Hill Road near Stoney Point.
"We wouldn't have to do some major underground improvements for [the Crystal Hill] site to work," Rex said.
"The Pouts Hill site is definitely more remote, not that it's way out in the sticks, but it is not bordering on two major subdivisions, so there are some considerations there," Rex said.
The town has an ordinance to protect the viewsheds of Strasburg's entrance corridors, Rex noted.
"The Crystal Hill site is very visible from entrance corridor; the Pouts Hill site not so much," Rex said. "It's visible from downtown and you can go out on King Street and see the Pouts Hill site off in the distance ...
"I think probably the same number of people can see the Pouts Hill site as can see the Crystal Hill site, it's just in a different part of town," Rex said. "It's just going to impact people differently and it's not necessarily in somebody's backyard."
The tower site by Crystal Hill lies close to the back corner of the Lauer's lot.
"If I wanted to I could literally sit on my back deck and hit it," Lauer said.
The Lauers had their eyes on the house because it abuts the home of Jennifer's father-in-law, she said, and noted that her husband is from Strasburg. The couple also liked the views of Signal Knob Mountain and Massanutten Mountain.
Lauer expressed fear that an earthquake, such as the temblor that struck central Virginia and felt in the valley, could cause a water tower to fall on the family's home.
The study conducted of the town's water needs suggested the site for its elevation and location. The town also would not have to spend money to buy property for the tower because Strasburg owns the land.
"We understood that," Lauer said. "I was just kind of surprised that that is the only lot in all of the town of Strasburg that reached that elevation."
Lauer suggested the town check the vacant land across from Food Lion along U.S. 11.
"It seems to me like it would be a wiser decision to put a water tower in an undeveloped area and not worry about destroying an entire community than saving a few bucks and lowering the property values of a few homes," Lauer said.
Lauer also attended a Town Council work session last week in which officials discussed the proposed water tower and possible sites. The meeting also left her unhappy, Lauer recalled.
"I think there were a lot of questions that were left unanswered and was really disappointed with what they had to say," Lauer said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org