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Council to hear from public on annexation

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg's annexation of more than 300 acres from a Shenandoah County industrial park is less than two months away.

Residents have a chance Tuesday night to speak to Town Council about the proposed annexation as well as on a land-use plan for future development of the acquired land in the North Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park. Town Council plans to hold the two public hearings beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Following the public hearings Town Council needs to adopt an ordinance for the annexation, a draft of which staff has made available. Town Manager Judson Rex said he expects council to consider the ordinance at its Dec. 10 meeting.

Once council adopts the ordinance, annexation takes effect at midnight Dec. 31, Rex said.

Town leaders and staff tout the industrial park land as a boon for Strasburg in terms of attracting businesses and industries, job creation and more revenue through taxes and utilities. The county would still benefit from development in the park area by way of taxes.

While additional business and industry would bring revenue, Rex pointed out that Strasburg staff have not used the annexation area in their projections for the next couple of years.

The annexation has been coming for years. An agreement between Strasburg and the county put a moratorium on annexation by the town for 15 years. The moratorium ended in June and opened the door for the town to pursue the annexation of part or all of the land in the designated area.

The town plans to annex 23 parcels totaling 305.97 acres in the park, which is located in an area of the county commonly referred to as the "golden triangle." That section of the county lies to the south of Interstate 81 and borders U.S. 11 and Va. 55.

Strasburg and Shenandoah County officials have been working together on the forthcoming annexation. Town Council and staff also made a presentation to the Board of Supervisors regarding the annexation at which time leaders sought to add only a portion of the area available to Strasburg under the agreement. At the recommendation of Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray, Town Council has since decided to annex the entire amount available.

The eligible annexation area will remain primarily industrial use with a limited amount of space along Va. 55 open for commercial activity.

Town and county staff continue to work together on the long-term goals and to outline the plan for future development in the annexed area. The Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission worked with local staff to create a draft of the Joint Land-Use Plan for the park.

As illustrated in the land-use plan, much of the 305.97 acres is held under private ownership. The Shenandoah County Industrial Development Authority owns more than 50 acres of the property. Other property users include Americold, Mercury Paper, First Bank, Carper's Woodworking and Holtzman Oil.

Properties in the annexation area receive municipal water and sewer services but pay the out-of-town rates. Users would pay the lower, in-town rates once annexation takes effect but Rex said this would not equate to a significant drop in utility revenue. Entities such as Mercury Paper and other industries in the area don't use much water and sewer, Rex said.

Even after the annexation takes effect, planning for the park continues. After council approves the Joint Land-Use Plan, staff and leaders will work on a more-detailed, master development plan for the industrial park and the "golden triangle."

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

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