STRASBURG — At a Monday work session, the Town Council updated the community on its transportation projects and held a short discussion that concerned the town’s Visitor Center.
Town staff were seeking the council’s consent to assign the Visitor Center’s 2017 Memorandum of Understanding from the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation to a new organization for the remaining term of the agreement.
The Visitor Center’s MOU is due to expire in December.
The town would like to sign the remaining term of the MOU with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, with the possibility of five one-year extensions of mutual consent by both parties, said Town Manager Wyatt Pearson.
He said the SVBF approached the town upon learning that Cedar Creek was withdrawing from the agreement. SVBF had shown some interest in the property previously and in having a presence in Strasburg, Pearson said.
The SVBF has also offered the town $350 more each month than Cedar Creek did to help cover the $2,000 cost of running the Visitor Center, which Michelle Bixler, the town’s economic development and marketing manager, said includes among other things the cost of utilities, staff, security alarms, trash collection and paper products.
The building that houses the Visitor Center in front also houses the Hupp’s Hill Museum in back, Bixler said.
If the SVBF agrees to continue the town’s MOU after December, the partnership would include insuring all museum artifacts on the property, which Bixler said are on loan to the museum from various owners.
Working with the SVBF through the fall would allow the town more time to consider the future of the Visitor Center, such as whether to remain where it is north of town at Hupp’s Hill or move somewhere else in town. Previous suggestions have included the Visitor Center partnering with the Strasburg Museum and moving operations downtown.
Pearson said the town would like to consider all available options before deciding on whether to move the Visitor Center or in any other way alter the way it operates.
The town’s lease of the building with Hupp’s Hill LLC for $0 also expires in December, a decision that Bixler said was intentional.
She said the town moved the lease’s expiration date from next June to this December for the sake of ease, so it would correspond with the end of the MOU agreement.
Hupp’s Hill LLC is a tax-exempt, nonprofit, wholly owned subsidiary of the Bernstein Family Foundation LLC, Bixler said.
Prior to the 2017 agreement, Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation leased the property and the Town of Strasburg partnered with it, Pearson explained. Now the town leases directly from Hupp’s Hill LLC.
“With an MOU in 2017, we took over that lead role, and now we have a Memorandum of Understanding with Cedar Creek,” he said.
Cedar Creek will be withdrawing from that MOU at the end of this month.
Bixler said the council doesn’t need to vote on the town’s MOU switching hands from the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, so although the next council meeting isn’t until Sept. 10, the MOU will remain in effect. Cedar Creek will cease partnership on Aug. 31, and the SVBF will begin its partnership on Sept. 1, she said.
Offering background on the matter, town resident and former council member Sarah Mauck pointed out at the work session that around 2003, the town entered into an agreement with the SVBF on the Visitor Center at Hupp’s Hill, on land owned by the Bernstein Family Foundation.
“The project was taken to Cedar Creek unbeknownst to us,” Mauck said, “and Shenandoah Valley Battlefield was the original partner to go into this with the Town of Strasburg.”
The council agreed to let staff move forward with plans to talk with the SVBF and further discuss the matter at a later work session.
Also at the meeting, resident Luke Fister spoke about his concerns of erosion at Cedar Valley and how it might affect water runoff into the town and wildlife on the property.
The land is now called Summit Crossing, Pearson explained on Wednesday. He said the land is under the county’s purview and that site plans will need to be submitted before the county can pursue a sediment control review.
The town’s Streetscape and Gateway Trail transportation projects are moving along as expected, Pearson said. The town will hold an Infrastructure Committee meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 to discuss the Streetscape project.
Tonight’s Architectural Review Board meeting has been canceled, and so has Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting.
Instead, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, there will be a meeting of the Public Safety Committee.
The next council work session will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 3, pushed to a Tuesday instead of the usual first Monday because of the Labor Day holiday.
All council members were present at the work session, along with Mayor Richard A. “Rich” Orndorff Jr. and Town Manager Wyatt Pearson.