Strasburg leaders ponder extending utility lines

Dozens of Strasburg properties still lack access to water and sewer but fixing the situation could cost millions of dollars.

Town Council members came away Monday with no concrete solution to the problem that some property owners say keeps them from selling their land to potential developers. Council’s Infrastructure Committee continued its discussion about the matter and saw a clearer picture of how far the problem likely extends.

Town officials have discussed the idea of asking property owners who want water and/or sewer service extended to their lots to pay in advance to cover some of the cost to perform the work.

Property owners Wayne Turner and Don Downey contend that the town has an obligation to provide access to water and sewer to lots in the corporate limits. Turner came to council almost two years ago with a request to extend utility lines to property he owns on South Virginia Street. The requests for service prompted town officials to look into the matter and see how far the problem reaches.

Maps provided to the committee show dozens of parcels that lack water and/or sewer service. Public Works Director Jay McKinley told council it would be difficult to calculate how much it would cost the town to extend water and sewer lines to all properties that lack the ability to connect to the services. McKinley only estimated the cost at “millions” to run lines to all properties.

Town officials say they worry that offering a solution to Turner would set a precedent and open Strasburg up to more requests and demands for service. The town has annexed properties into the corporate limits for decades but Strasburg did not immediately extend its water and sewer lines to those lots, if ever.

McKinley told the committee that he and Chris Way, geographic information systems coordinator for Shenandoah County, put together maps that show most of the properties in town that lack service lines. An exact number of lots not served by water and/or sewer was not available.

Councilman Rich Orndorff Jr. noted that many of the lots cannot be developed. In Turner’s case, Virginia Street is small and might require some improvements before the town could even extend the lines to the lot, Orndorff said. McKinley pointed out that the prevalence of rock in much of the soil throughout Strasburg would push up the cost to install new service lines.

“However, my problem personally is if it’s an in-town lot … it should be served by water and sewer service,” Orndorff said. “A lot of these people have not asked for service but it becomes an issue, again, financially, as to what we can bear.”

Existing lines might not work either. McKinley pointed out that a 2-inch line installed to serve one property but runs near others would not suffice for the adjacent lots. As such, the town would need to improve or install a larger line to serve the other properties not already connected to the utility.

In some cases, property owners might not have wanted to connect their lots to the town utility services. In other cases, properties connected to one utility but not the other. The maps show that properties not served by utilities are spread out around town with some in residential neighborhoods and others in undeveloped areas on the outskirts of Strasburg.

Council might add the matter of utility line extension to the town’s capital improvement plan. Once included, the town could prioritize the projects and they would compete with other initiatives for funds.

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