Strasburg approves community development grant

The town of Strasburg will officially apply for a Community Development Block Grant from the state of Virginia later this month.

Town council approved the motion with a unanimous 6-0 vote at Tuesday’s meeting.

Part of the plan application the town will submitting on March 25 includes a $300,000 loan for façade improvements.

Kimberly Murray, economic development and planning manager, said the money from this grant would be used for businesses to “improve the outsides of the … building,” with up to $15,000 available per property.

Such improvements, Murray said, could include “painting, re-appointing brick or signs or … whatever they need to do.”

Murray also explained that towns would need to match the $15,000 with “money they put into the business” over a five-year period.

According to the plan, the town would be able to assist properties in this work at a cost of $15,000 per property.

Council Rich Orndorff voiced concerns regarding the Façade Improvement Program portion of the grant.

“I’m very much in favor of the program. Anything that can improve the facades of our buildings … I’m very much in favor of,” Orndorff said.

Orndorff said his major concern is with the administrative portion of the program.

“I still have some concerns, because somebody is going to have to administer and keep track of [revolving businesses],” Orndorff said.

Essentially, Orndorff said he was concerned about the potential for revolving businesses and whether or not that would add to the loan period.

During the meeting, Murray noted that it is possible for rotating businesses to add time, but also that the state has expressed that it is flexible with the loans.

Orndorff said, “I think [Murray] answered my questions satisfactorily enough that I was ready to go ahead and vote.”

With the vote passing, Murray said the town will be submitting its application March 25. She added that it could be a few months before the town receives official word from the state.

“We’re in a good position to receive the funds, but again, it’s competitive so there’s other communities also competing for these funds,” Murray said.

In addition, the town will officially be applying for a $260,000 matching grant from the $700,000 available from the state for “public improvements.”

At the same time, Murray also said the town is still exploring options as to how to match the grant. “It can be raised over more than one fiscal year … it can also be donated funds.”

According to Murray, the council did have to decide on a plan to match the grant for the application deadline. “[The council] just wanted to make a commitment that they would do it.”

The improvements would include landscaping work and infrastructure improvements near the Washington St. parking lot, as well as a pedestrian connection between King St. and Washington St.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also unanimously approved a proposal from New York economic firm Camion Associates Inc. to perform a study and create a strategic plan for the Golden Triangle Business Park.

“This is laying all of the ground work and pulling all of those pieces together,” Murray said.

Basically, Murray explained, the study will work toward “figuring out the infrastructure to build out the park” as well the future economic and workforce outlooks for the town.

Murray added that the study will also look at marketing and gathering data “so that we can market that to site selectors, the folks that will be pulling people in.”

It will cost the town $143,423 for Camion to conduct the study. Murray estimated that the study could be completed in a year or “a little longer.”

Councilman Scott Terndrup raised concerns regarding the potential impact the West Virginia Corridor H development might have on the plan.

Murray noted, “Because we have Cedar Creek [Battlefield], it can’t come in anywhere there.”

“They just want to be sure that the consultant gives it some thought,” Murray said. “There’s a lot of variables we don’t know right now.”

The consultant from Camion will also help the town look at financing options for the town.

“There’s so many creative public, private partnership opportunities that the consultant is going to be able to pull all of those together,” Murray said.

In financing development of the site, Murray said the options will give communities chances to raise the money without raising taxes. “We don’t want to look to that first, we want to look to that last.”

According to Murray, the first step for Camion will be to work with the town Steering Committee in early April “and start some interviews with our local stakeholders.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com