Strasburg Town Council moves toward changes to arts, tourism program

STRASBURG — Strasburg Town Council members expressed a willingness Tuesday to continue with a program that provides incentives for arts and tourism businesses, reinforcing a June Town Council decision.

But after some new members expressed concerns about the fairness of the program, the members also spoke of reducing the number of years before Town Council reviews the program again.

Back in June, the Town Council agreed to continue a program that reduces the water rates of arts and tourism businesses downtown. But changes to the program would require businesses to invest at least $25,000 over a five-year period in order to receive the benefit.

In addition, eligible businesses would receive a 35 percent reduction in their water rates. Under the current program, eligible businesses receive a 50 percent reduction in their water rates for the first 10,000 gallons they use and a 35 percent reduction to their rates afterward.

But the June Town Council vote did not rewrite the town code, where the incentive program is written.

Town Manager Wyatt Pearson said that in order to have the town follow state code, the Town Council needs to hold another vote to approve the language for the Town Code changes.

“Previously, we had just talked conceptually about the program as a whole,” Pearson said.

The Town Council discussed a draft of those potential Town Code revisions during its work session on Monday. Ken Cherrix, a member of Town Council, expressed concern that the program was unfair because it only applies to arts and tourism businesses.

“You’re exempting a business from coming downtown…because they don’t fit into this little bubble for a discount,” Cherrix said.

In order to address concerns about the program, the Town Council members agreed to have town staff review the program two years from now. Previously, the Town Council moved to begin the review process in 4 1/2 years.

The Town Council will vote on whether or not to approve the changes during the next council meeting, Pearson said.