Study finds town needs to spend $5 million

STRASBURG – The town needs to spend millions of dollars to market a business park it annexed from Shenandoah County in 2014, consultants say.

Otherwise, Strasburg can expect to see little to no development in the Northern Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park, representatives from three consulting firms told Town Council and residents on Tuesday.

The town must invest $5 million in the park over 10 years to attract industrial and commercial developers. In return, the park would employ 2,400-2,800 workers and the town could expect to collect $620,000-$1 million in tax revenue from the users, the study shows.

At least one council member voiced skepticism over the return on the town’s potential investment. Councilman Donald Le Vine said spending the money on park improvements does not guarantee development, jobs and revenue. Consultants said the investment is not as risky because of the other development occurring in the region.

Camoin Associates, Pennoni Associates and Land Planning & Design Associates studied how the town could better market and develop the park. Senior Vice President Jim Damicis and Vice President R. Michael N’dolo, with Camoin, presented the final draft of the study. Julie Basic, with Land Planning & Associates, and Karl Schaeffer, with Pennoni, also provided information to council. The 200-page document will include comments made by council members and the public and will be made available at town hall and online, they said.

“You have opportunities in your region,” N’dolo said. “Development’s happening. It’s not happening here because the park’s not ready.”

The town also needs to take action now because it lags behind the region and the state in employment and economic growth, the consultants said. In fact, data provided in the study indicate that Strasburg’s employment fell over the past several years while the region and the state saw growth, even after the recession. If the town doesn’t invest in the park, it could see employment fall by 4 percent as the region grows 10 percent.

The study recommends that the town plan to realign Borden-Mowery Drive to follow the gas line rather than through multiple properties owned by different entities. The town also needs to extend Borden-Mowery Drive to Radio Station Road at an estimated cost of $1.56 million, the study shows.

The consultants also recommend the town extend Colley Block Road to Borden-Mowery Drive and Radio Station Road around to the north end of Americold, each at a cost of $520,000.

The town also must extend water and sewer lines east through the park at an estimated cost of $2.05 million, the study shows. Developers will not want to build in the park without utilities in place.

The consultants also recommended that the town revise its Unified Development Ordinance – the large document recently adopted by council that updated and combined Strasburg’s zoning and subdivision ordinances. Ndolo said the document is confusing and puts too many requirements on developers who might want to build in town.

Since the town annexed the park, the county no longer is responsible for covering the cost of the necessary improvements, including road and utility extensions, the latter of which Strasburg already had started years ago but did not finish.

As the consultants explained, the park lacks available sites for development, especially large parcels. The town could ask some of the property owners if they would combine their parcels to form larger sites that Strasburg then would market to potential developers.

The consultants recommend that Strasburg secure options or agreements between the Industrial Development Authority and neighboring property owners to create a contiguous, 40-acre site with increased marketability.

The consultants also recommend that the town propose a new annexation agreement with the county that would allow Strasburg to add land to the north of Interstate 81 in the future.

In marketing Strasburg, the study suggests the town hire a branding consultant to create logos, taglines and other materials. The town also should reach out to developers who specialize in business and professional space as well as medical offices.

The consultants plan to build a website to help the town market the business park.

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