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Posted March 14, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Residents protest new tower site

By Alex Bridges

Massanutten Mountain rises over Patricia Kelley and David Daniel's Strasburg home where the couple retired a few years ago.

Now the retirees fear a 100-foot water tower could block the view of the mountain from their neighborhood of Stoney Pointe.

A water system model performed for the town indicated that Strasburg needs another storage facility, ideally a tower. Property owned by the town in the Crystal Hill subdivision arose as the first choice for the tower. That option drew protests from neighborhood residents. Council and staff shifted their focus to land outside Stoney Pointe, in an area known as Pouts Hill, as a possible tower site.

Town Council may purchase land near the subdivision identified as a potential site for a water storage tower. In recent weeks, the council has authorized an option to buy property at Pouts Hill but has not yet directed town staff to build a tower there.

Many people in Stoney Pointe don't want a tower near their homes, either.

Kelley said said Strasburg Strasburg should consider other options, such as a reservoir built for the town on the mountain.

"I feel - speaking for myself, although a lot of my neighbors agree with me - that there should be a better location for the water tower than the Pouts Hill location or the Crystal Hill location, and we want the town to look into alternatives," Kelley said by phone Wednesday.

She pointed out the town also could look at using a tank on Va. 55.

"I think, in a town this size and with the natural beauty we've got around it, we've got to preserve that," Kelley said. "The old water tower has been here for years, so we're all used to that. We just don't want another tower put up at one of the highest points in the town."

Kelley and several fellow residents at council's meeting Tuesday expressed opposition to any proposal that would put the tower near their homes in the Stoney Pointe subdivision.

The town needs to have specific criteria applicable to each alternative, Kelley recalled telling council. The town also needs valid cost estimates in order to make a decision to go with one of the alternatives, she said.

"One of the criteria ought to be that it's not in an existing, or really close to an existing, neighborhood that would be negatively impacted," Kelley said.

A petition drive has accumulated 62 signatures of people who are ask that Town Council not choose to build a tower on the Pouts Hill site, Kelley said.

The resident noted that the topographic maps used by Patton, Harris, Rust & Associates, the firm performing the studies to find locations for a tower, do not include several of the existing neighborhoods such as Stoney Pointe, Strasburg Station or Crystal Hill. The map pinpoints several potential sites for a tower.

"You would think that people don't want a tower in their neighborhood, so use a map that shows you where all the neighborhoods are," Kelley said.

Kelley and her husband bought property in Stoney Pointe in 2004 and retired to the neighborhood in 2010.

Kelley recently sent questions to the town. Town Manager Judson Rex responded to Kelley's questions in a Feb. 25 letter made available on a page on Strasburg's website with information about the proposed water tower.

The town looked at six potential sites for a tower and Pouts Hill rose to the top as "the best possible solution to resolve deficiencies in domestic flows and fire flows for a larger part of the water system," Rex states. Strasburg can improve water flow by installing a tank near the hydraulic weaknesses, according to Rex.

Strasburg may use grant funds left over from the water treatment plant project to make improvements to distribution lines and to lay the design framework for tank installation, Rex states. The town would need to build a water tower on land of a certain elevation and in areas to improve flow and pressure, according to Rex.

The cost of building a tank at either of the town's two reservoirs remains prohibitive and the locations lie too far from the areas in need of improved flow and pressure, according to Rex.

In response to Kelley's concerns about the tower, Rex states, "the tank will be less than 100 feet tall and should not be very visible, if at all, from Route 11. The viewshed issue was a factor for three other potential locations that were considered, but not for Pouts Hill."

Rex advised the town would conduct another balloon test in March, this time on the Pouts Hill site, to determine the visibility of the tower.

The push for a water tower does not appear consistent with the Strasburg Community Plan 2012, according to Kelley. Rex replied by noting the plan states any expansion of the water system would need to remain consistent with a model. A recently completed system model identifies water storage as an immediate need and recommends the location of such a tank, Rex has noted.

In response to Kelley's concerns, Rex states that the town understands the tank may negatively impact property from an aesthetic standpoint, but officials have no way of quantifying how the tower could affect real estate values. Rex advises that the town plans to gather public input and come up with an acceptable complimentary design.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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