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Town wants all of park in 'triangle'

Strasburg to hold hearing on annexation of North Shenandoah Industrial Park

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County's industrial park in the "Golden Triangle" -- land that lies between U.S. 11 and Va. 55 and near Interstate 81 -- is within Strasburg's grasp.

Now town officials want to annex the entire North Shenandoah Industrial Park and reap the tax revenue from its development. How much of a benefit the town receives likely depends on marketing the property. But what current users of the park think of paying more taxes to the town remains unknown.

Town Manager Judson Rex spoke to members of the county's Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors at a work session Thursday on the pending annexation of the North Shenandoah Industrial Park.

The town plans to hold a public hearing next month on the annexation of the industrial park.

The town would need to find a way to pay for improvements to the industrial park once the annexation goes forward, Rex said. Town and county officials have looked at using tax increment financing, Rex said. Under such financing method, the town borrows against future increases in real estate values based on projected development, he explained.

"That allows you, up front, to build the infrastructure, attract the businesses and industries that you want," Rex said. "They sort of have that carrot in front of them because they don't have to put in the infrastructure."

Residents and the industrial users of the property would have opportunities to weigh in on the master plan for the park's development, Rex said.

As the town manager explained, Strasburg relies heavily on residential real estate tax. But developing what Rex called the town's "bread basket" would give Strasburg another revenue source for several decades in the future. Likewise, the park would attract businesses that provide jobs to residents.

"It's a very important thing for the town and what I've been most grateful for over the past few months is just working with the county," Rex said.

Supervisor David Ferguson asked Rex why the town has sought annexation now. Rex said the potential for tax revenue partly drove the effort to take in the property. But Rex noted that the timing of the end of a moratorium on annexing the park also played a role.

The town would spend some of the revenue from the industrial users on improvements to the park and to further prepare remaining sites for development, Rex said.

Ferguson asked, "If I am an existing property owner, what are my benefits to being annexed into the town? What am I gonna get? Other than another tax bill, what am I gonna get from you?"

The town provides water and sewer to the park even now that the property remains outside of Strasburg. However, once the annexation goes through, the business would pay the lower, in-town rates for the utilities, Rex said. The town also would supply the park with police coverage and road maintenance.

While sidewalks do not exist in the park, Rex noted that the master plan could call for pedestrian access in that area. Rex added that a large residential development is planned adjacent to the park.

Town officials came to a consensus earlier this year that Strasburg should take in only part of the industrial park that includes five existing businesses and other empty parcels. They relayed that idea to county leaders at a meeting in February. A 15-year moratorium on annexation of the county by the town ended in June. Town and county officials have discussed the possible creation of a joint land-use plan to outline future development of the park. A joint resolution would set some ground rules for that development.

Town and county officials looked closer at the property over the past few months, discussing in more detail the future of the park.

Rex told the commissioners and supervisors that the Town Council has since voiced a desire to annex the entire park. Strasburg's Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray has recommended the town annex the park.

Rex explained that upon annexation the town would create a master plan for development not only of the industrial park but the "Golden Triangle." Rex noted that the park covers part of the triangle while the rest is planned for residential construction.

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

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