Downtown plan draws concern over food stand

A consultant helping Strasburg revitalize its downtown might need to rethink plans to improve the town’s large parking lot.

Representatives of the Strasburg Fire Department say the town should not take away its food stand or its storage building – both of which the agency uses.

Community Planning Partners held a public input session Tuesday as part of Strasburg’s efforts to obtain grant funding that could help revitalize downtown. The session was one of several held by the town since work began to seek grant funding. About a dozen people attended what will be the first of two required public hearings.

During the session Tuesday, Craig Wilson, president and chief executive officer for Community Planning Partners, highlighted parts of the Downtown Strasburg Economic Restructuring Plan. The town will submit the document as part of its application for approximately $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds.

The lengthy document contains renderings of how the town might use open space it owns behind the former Brill grocery building and the taxi stand, as well as the large parking lot off Washington Street. James Smither, an urban designer, came up with the renderings based on input given by the public at previous sessions held by the consultant.

The drawings of the lot show landscaping, lined spaces and a path leading visitors along the Town Run to King Street. It does not include the existing food stand and storage building.

Jeff Wharton and Carl Swafford, chief and president of the Strasburg Fire Department, respectively, said the agency needs both buildings. Wharton explained that the fire department uses the food stand during events and money collected from sales serves as the agency’s biggest fundraiser.

Town resident Ginger Aliotti noted that the food stand is popular among visitors who come to events.

“I can’t imagine an event in town, unless it’s very bad weather, that wouldn’t have people come up to the food stand,” Aliotti said.

Wharton pointed out that other civic groups also use the food stand throughout the year.

Strasburg’s Economic Development and Planning Manager Kimberly Murray told the speakers that their input would be helpful during the planning process.

“This is more conceptual to start the discussion and then have that conversation with you folks about your needs and whether we can do this or not, whether council wants to do this or not,” Murray said.

Wilson said earlier sketches include the ancillary buildings. Murray pointed out that she and other people working on the draft and the designs were not clear on how often the fire department or the community uses the food stand. If it’s used more often, Murray said, then the building would need to be incorporated into the plans.

The design of the parking lot drew skepticism from some audience members who said the arrangement of the spaces and landscaping elements would make even more difficult for tractor-trailers making deliveries to the Dollar General. Wharton said trucks already have a tough time and some have struck the storage building.

Town Council could take up the final draft of the Downtown Strasburg Economic Restructuring Plan as early as next month. However, as Wilson explained, council would not need to approve the plan until the town has to file its application for the grants. The town has until March 25 to file its application.

View the final draft at http://www.strasburgva.com/ED-and-Planning/ED-Projects/Final-Draft-Strasburg-Economic-Restructuring-Analy.aspx.

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