Church seeks tax break for campground

WOODSTOCK – A request to make a Shenandoah County campground tax-exempt drew more concern about noise and traffic from the site.

The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing Tuesday on a request by Shenandoah Meadows Inc. to exempt its camp at 443 Meadow View Lane, Fort Valley, from real estate tax. Shenandoah Meadows, a nonprofit organization, operates the camp for the Brethren Church, a group of about 20 churches.

Michael Finks, camp property manager, spoke to the board about the organization’s use of the site and the need for the tax exemption. Finks said the camp has not made a profit in the past seven years.

“We’re there to try to promote Christian education and our hope is to be able to continue to do that,” Finks said.

The 40-acre property includes 10 buildings used by the camp, and maintaining the camp costs money, Finks said. They aim to use advertising and reach out to the community to attract more users, he added.

Patricia Botts, of Oak Tree Road, lives near the campground and voiced concerns about the hours of operation and which groups would use the facility. The use can affect the rest of the residents near the camp and neighbors deserve protection, Botts said.

Another nearby resident, Raymond Waldron, said he hears the camp’s loudspeaker system from his home. He voiced concerns about noise from the camp and increased traffic the facility might generate as use grows.

The Board of Supervisors plans to consider the camp’s request at its next meeting in April.

The property is valued at $704,500 as of Jan. 1. The board has not yet set a rate this year. The annual tax revenue from the property was $3,654 in 2015 based on the rate of 57 cents per $100 of the assessed value.

Virginia law allows the board to classify such property as tax-exempt by adopting an ordinance based on questions in the state code section. Applicants fill out a questionnaire when they make a request for the exemption. Net earnings do not benefit any individual, the applicants state. Nor does the organization receive local, state or federal grants. Donations and contributions from churches and individuals contribute to the services provided, the applicants state. The organization does not engage in political activity. The campground offers summer camping, spiritual retreats, weekend recreation and serves as a venue for weddings and other events.

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

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