Strasburg council OKs housing development application

STRASBURG — The Town Council has voted to approve the final plat application for the Aikens-Claytor development at 1395 and 1437 John Marshall Highway.

The 5-2 vote during Tuesday’s council meeting came amid concern from several members that the lack of two entrances to the development for residents could cause congestion on the John Marshall Highway. But a majority of the members argued that the addition of 57 single-family houses and 58 townhouses made up for the concerns they had about the project.

During the meeting, Councilwoman Kim Bishop, who voted in favor of the development, said that the town needs more people to see business growth.

“Since I’ve been dealing with town politics for 14 years, the one thing I’ve always heard (is that) we can’t get another grocery store, we can’t get another anything until we have more rooftops,” Bishop said.

The plan, Bishop said, would bring those rooftops to the town.

In the plan, emergency vehicles could access the development through the main entrance at the John Marshall Highway entrance or a secondary access in the back of the development. Bill Aikens, one of the project’s developers and the vice president of H&W Construction, added that the developers might be able to add another entrance for emergency vehicles at one of the commercial sites within the development.

Residents would not be able to use any of those secondary entrances – they would be reserved for emergency vehicles to use in case traffic blocked them from coming through the main entrance.

Partly because residents in the development would only have one street to enter or exit from, council members Taralyn Nicholson and John Massoud voted against the project. Nicholson said during a work session last week that she would not vote in favor of the application unless it contained two entrances for residents.

“I want to see a second entrance just for the citizens themselves,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson and Massoud both said that they had concerns about the uncertainty of commercial development in the project. Aikens said during the meeting that the developers do not intend to develop the commercial lots until they have begun building houses.

“The rooftops are a catalyst for commercial development,” Aikens said.

But while several members expressed concerns about the lack of two entrances for residents, Mayor Rich Orndorff said that the developers did not include two entrances purely out of practical concerns.

“I, too, have heartburn about not having a second true entrance, and I’ve talked to Mr. Aikens about it,” Orndorff said. “But it’s the nature of the property; unfortunately, that doesn’t lend itself, and I just want to make sure that we all understand that’s not that they’re saying, ‘We won’t do it.’ They can’t.”

Some council members also referenced how long the project has been under development as part of the reason for their votes. Town Council approved a preliminary plat application for the development before the Great Recession in the late 2000s, but progress on the development stalled after the housing market crash.

“I’m just excited that, since 2006, something is actually happening to all of us,” Councilwoman Jocelyn Vena said.

Vena also said that she supported the development because it would bring houses into the town.