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Toms Brook plans for future growth

By Alex Bridges

Toms Brook may not grow by leaps and bounds anytime soon but at least the small town has a plan in place to help it expand.

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission recently announced the completion of the Growth and Annexation Plan for the town. Commission's Senior Planner and Project Manager M. Tyler Klein pointed out Friday the town has no immediate plans to grow or even develop within its boundaries.

Mayor Philip Fauber said growth wouldn't likely happen in the next year or so but could start up in about four or five years, depending on the economy and the market.

"Eventually we're going to be looking into annexation," Fauber said.

Fauber predicted the town's growth may first occur near Brook Village, where Toms Brook already provides some services such as trash pickup and street lights.

He noted that in Brook Village one side of the street lies in town while the other side does not. A section of Shenandoah County behind the Toms Brook School Apartments also may come into the town in the future. That land had been considered for development several years ago before the economy soured and the town rezoned the property for half-acre lots, Fauber recalled.

Annexation and any future growth would follow the county's goal of keeping development around its towns.

The town's next steps could include the creation of an annexation agreement with Shenandoah County similar to those in place between the county and other towns. Klein said the town has not yet had any discussions with the county about an annexation agreement.

"This was just a good planning exercise to show a commitment to joint planning between the town and the county," Klein said.

The town formed its first Planning Commission in 2007, Klein noted.

The commission in Front Royal started working with Toms Brook in 2012 and helped the town create a comprehensive plan. Town Council adopted the comprehensive in April this year. Leaders decided they wanted to explore growth possibilities for the town and embarked on the latest study.

The Renaissance Planning Group and Herd Planning & Design prepared the Growth and Annexation Plan in conjunction with the commission. A $10,000 mixed-use/mixed-income grant from the Virginia Housing Development Authority covered the cost of the work on the plan. Fauber said the grant greatly helped the town, which has a fiscal budget of $50,000-$60,000.

"This was a conceptual plan and it really wasn't to put anything hard and fast in place but to look at areas beyond the existing the boundaries of Toms Brook," Klein said. "It's just putting some ideas down on paper."

The town included a future-growth map in its Comprehensive Plan. The Growth and Annexation Plan helped the town refine that map and show what expansion would look like. The growth study looked at areas that lie adjacent to the corporate limits and whose residents identify themselves as town residents, Klein said.

The growth and annexation study outlines future land-use needs for development. The consultants looked at potential population growth for the town and determined that Toms Brook would need to expand by 32 to 50 acres by 2040, Klein noted.

The consultant also presented development scenarios in the growth plan that looked at conservative and more extensive population increases. Artistic renderings in the plan show some conceptual ideas of what Toms Brook could look like in the future if it expanded and experienced more development. The growth plan also addresses development and what kind would remain consistent with the town's appearance now.

The commission held two visioning sessions for the growth plan, one in August with the Town Council and Planning Commission and attended by many Toms Brook residents. The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission then held a joint meeting with Toms Brook officials on the growth study.

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

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