STRASBURG — The Town Council approved its fiscal year 2020 budget at a Monday work session, and after lengthy discussions of three proffer amendments for the Summit Crossing housing development, members decided to revisit the matter at their regular meeting on Tuesday.
The $16,049,436 budget was unanimously approved, along with the schedule of fees and taxes proposed. Councilwoman Taralyn Nicholson was absent.
The council approved a 2 percent across-the-board increase in water rates, and a 7 percent increase in sewer rates to take effect July 1. The council did not raise the tax rate, which will remain at 16 cents per $100 assessed value for real estate tax, $1.11 for personal property tax, and 86 cents for machinery and tools.
Council also approved the appropriation of monies for the following funds:
- General fund, $9,680,133.
- Water fund, $2,765,147.
- Sewer fund, $3,267,656.
- Trash fund, $336,500.
Vice Mayor Scott Terndrup asked council members and visitors to pray for Mayor Rich Orndorff Jr., who was in a vehicle crash on May 17.
“I know everybody wants to know about the mayor,” Terndrup said. “He continues to recuperate, and is in serious condition.”
Council discussed three proffer amendments for the Summit Crossing housing project planned on about 80.89 acres north of town across the street from the Food Lion shopping center at the intersection of Old Valley Pike (U.S. 11) and Crystal Lane. Terndrup moved to hold off on a vote until council members could further discuss any concerns and ask questions before Tuesday's meeting.
No one spoke Tuesday during a public hearing on the proffers.
The three proffer amendments concern timing, street improvements, building permit limits and pedestrian access facilities for the following:
- Increasing the maximum number of building permits per year from 50 to 100.
- Changing a 5-foot-wide proposed walkway to a 10-foot-wide walking trail.
- Completing an access road through the development before the 10th residential unit is built during Phase 2. Based on previous discussions with the council, project manager David Frank of Pennoni Associates Inc. is recommending changing the wording of the proffer to apply to either Phase 2 or 3, whichever comes first.
The restriction on building permits mentioned in the proffers began for a specific reason, said Town Manager Wyatt Pearson.
It dates to 2004 when the development was approved by the Planning Commission. Three other developments in town were also under construction, he said, raising fears in the community of too much development happening too fast.
Those restrictions are specific to certain developments, Pearson said. The proffers on the Summit Crossing project would get around those restrictions so that the building of houses wouldn’t be halted for the rest of a given calendar year should builders reach the maximum 50 units.
The development, which is zoned in the front as commercial and in the rear as residential, was approved in 2004, Frank reiterated.
“That approval has never gone away,” he said. “The decisions made 15 years ago are still in effect.”
The proffers, he said, are a voluntary official commitment of previous verbal commitments by the development to the town, “to mitigate hardships.”
Councilwoman Kim Bishop expressed concerns with all three proffers.
Regarding the walking path, she said she fears the effect an asphalt path would have on the runoff of rainwater from the development into the town and erosion of the land and pathway.
Though conceding that might be a request to bring to the Virginia Department of Transportation, she said, “I have a real problem with that.”
Discussing the access road proffer, she’s concerned that a neighborhood with 100 townhouses and single-family units might have only one exit, and what effect it would have on Route 11, a road that often receives increased traffic from Interstate 81 in the case of backups from accidents or road repairs.
A resident of the Crystal Hill neighborhood behind Food Lion, she said, “We’ve got ourselves into a spot, and I don’t want a new subdivision to be in that same spot.”
She also expressed concern about Summit Crossing bringing more families to town before the public school system is ready to support them.
“I feel for the citizens of the town,” she said. “This is not a good way to go from today’s date.”
Councilmen John Massoud and Ken Cherrix also expressed concerns about the community — Cherrix is opposed to increasing the maximum number of building permits from 50 to 100, and Massoud said of town residents, “We want development, but we don’t.”
Plans for the town would potentially increase the town’s population by 22 percent in only a couple years’ time, he said, “increasing the angst.”
“I can’t support that under any circumstance,” he said.
Terndrup observed that council’s concerns have become “a different discussion than we had in the Planning Commission.”
“Now it sounds like we’re discussing the whole nature of the development.”
Planning and Zoning Administrator Lee Pambid agreed the development “has many moving parts to it,” but he advised, “We are only discussing the three proffer agreements. … This is more of the policy side if you will.”
Council members will see plans for the neighborhood at some time in the future, he said. The basic design has been laid out and a concept design approved a few months ago by the Planning Commission.
Bishop said she’s frustrated over the effect a project approved 15 years ago will have on Strasburg now, after the town has changed to a certain extent and might not be as conducive to the outcomes of the Summit Crossing development. She also questioned the role of the council in this process.
“In our town, we live here and we kind of know what works, and our hands are really tied by what we can and can’t do,” she said.
“Do we really have a say in any of this?” she asked. “I feel like this is pretty much done.”
Replying to her concerns, Pearson said that VDOT has taken strides in recent years to prevent projects from being started before they are warranted in a community, such as street lamps installed along roads but never turned on.
“Proffers are very stringent in their application and interpretation,” he said.
Approval of the proffers is not required for developers to break ground, Frank pointed out. The development has been approved, he said. What the proffers would do is give the town “triggers” that would expedite the construction process of various pieces — such as the access road to the development.
Because the town has no triggers to push the road construction faster, should they desire to, “This is something that will put a trigger in that will expedite the construction of the road,” Frank said.
“It’s moving forward,” he said of the project.
“At a very, very, very bizarre trade-off,” said Massoud, “which would basically in one year fundamentally alter what this town is.”
Suggesting the council continue the discussion next week, Terndrup referenced area residents’ interest over the years in having access to more local options, like a clothing store and another grocery store.
“That comes with rooftops and that comes with a sustainable growth,” he said. “... honestly, we need more population in order to sustain that type of self-sufficiency.”
The council will revisit the matter at 7 p.m. Tuesday, he said.
“This is not a done deal,” he added.
Attending the work session were Pearson, Terndrup, Bishop, Cherrix, Massoud, Pambid and council members Jocelyn Vena, Barbara Plitt and Emily Reynolds. Taralyn Nicholson and Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr. were absent.