Double Toll Gate Development Plan Causes Dinosaurs Little Fear of Extinction

Dinosaurs will continue to inhabit Clarke County’s Double Toll Gate area for a while longer.

Dinosaur Land’s owners said Tuesday that they have a proposal from Sheetz, Inc. to convert Clarke County’s most beloved tourist attraction into a pit-stop for commuter gas and goodies. Fortunately for the dinosaurs, the area’s lack of development infrastructure is preventing the project plan from going forward.

A megalosaurus and other prehistoric monsters lie in wait near the intersection of US 340 and US 522 in Double Toll Gate, Virginia - Photo courtesy Dinosaur Land, Inc.

“I have a lease in hand from Sheetz” Dinosaur Land President Barbara Seldon told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. “But I can’t sign the lease because there’s no sewer and water. What are we supposed to do? We have 18 acres there [at the corner of US Route 50 and US 522] that we can’t develop because we have no sewer and water – and this has been going on for 10 years!”

Seldon’s comments and frustration framed a subsequent debate between the Board of Supervisors about the wisdom of spending additional consulting funds to create a commercial vision for Double Toll Gate and how best to set property owner expectations of the county’s ability to extend water and sewer to the area.

On the surface, Tuesday’s Double Toll Gate discussion revolved around whether or not to issue a new request for consulting services to establish the acreage and boundaries for a redefined commercial zoning district at Double Toll Gate and to study the feasibility of extending sewer, water and storm water management services to the area. The consulting services solicitation would have followed two previous studies of the same area conducted in February and March of this year.

Although the debate began as a referendum on whether or not spending an additional $40K in consulting fees for another study made sense, a broader question about Clarke County’s support for new business growth quickly took the stage.

“The cost estimate for the water plant is roughly $2M and the pumping station would be another $2M” said planning administrator Chuck Johnston. “The sewage treatment plant could cost anywhere from $1.8M to $4.5M. So for the 50 acre area the cost of extending services could be as much as $160K per acre.”

Double Toll Gate’s current development area is only 50 acres.

Johnston said that an additional Double Toll Gate study would determine whether creating a larger development area would economically benefit the county given the underlying infrastructure costs.

“The intent of the study is to determine if a larger scale of development would be financially beneficial to the county – something on the scale of hundreds of acres rather than fifty” Johnston explained to the lawmakers. “If the study determines that it isn’t financially beneficial then we can revise the area’s master plan to say that financial development in the area doesn’t make sense right now.”

Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell) noted that it is important for the public to realize that the Board of Supervisors hard spent significant time working on a Double Toll Gate commercial solution but that a consultant wasn’t needed to determine that the cost of extending water and sewer to the area is beyond the county’s means.

“It has to be zoned in a way that will entice a big dog developer who is willing to pay for the water and sewer because Clarke County can’t afford to pay for it” Byrd said. “Why do we need to spend $40K more on studies to figure that out?”

However, David Weiss (Buckmarsh) rejected Byrd’s view.

“We still haven’t given any direction to staff on what we want done and there hasn’t been any rezoning there in ten years” said an exasperated Weiss. “Right now we have no basis for making decisions about a future plan for the area. Bringing in a consultant can help us define what the plan should be. We need to spend the $40K and figure out what we want to do based on the report.”

Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) agreed that the high cost of extending water and sewer to the current 50-acre Double Toll Gate commercial zone didn’t make economic sense and said that the county owed it to landowners to make its position clear through the county’s comprehensive plan.

“We need to either change the comprehensive plan – which says one thing – because the economic facts say something different” Staelin said. “My view is that we need to get the comprehensive plan and the Double Toll Gate plan in synch. One way to do that is through the study. The other option is to change the comprehensive plan [to allow development in the Double Toll gate area] but make it clear not to expect sewer and water there for a very long time.”

Staelin said that he believed the realistic timeframe for enough development in the area to support the cost of extending water and sewer is probably 20 years.

Supervisor Pete Dunning (White Post), whose district includes Dinosaur Land, argued that the county will be trying to figure out what to do at Double Toll Gate for years but in the meantime needed do something to accommodate Ms. Seldon’s Sheetz dilemma.

“Sheetz wants to build on the 18 acres there so why don’t we let them put a septic field in like we did for the Sheetz at 340 & 50?” Dunning asked administrator Johnston. “We’re already drowning in consultants that haven’t done a thing for us.”

“This is a different location and circumstances” Johnston replied. “but the  septic field you are referring to ultimately failed.”

Supervisor Weiss expressed concerns about Dunning’s willingness to encourage a vendor like Sheetz to locate at Double Toll Gate when public water and sewer is not in place.

“Encouraging pump and haul under the banner of economic development seems a little backward to me” Weiss said.

Supervisor Chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) joined Weiss in advocating in favor of the additional study saying that “sequential studies can be necessary in order to get to a point where we can act.”

“I agree that this is a big thing that we are trying to do here. But this is an area that we have identified as a place for economic development and this study will help us know what should be done there even if we don’t do it anytime soon. The $40K will help us better understand what we need to do there.”

“Clarke County has a reputation for not being open for business” Hobert told the other Supervisors. “We need to prepare for when business begins to come back and this study will help us to do that.”

Against Hobert and Weiss’s opposition, a motion by Supervisor Staelin to ask the Clarke County Planning Commission to review Double Toll Gate’s  zoning and economic boundaries, rather than spending funds for a consultant, passed with Supervisors Byrd, Staelin and Dunning in favor.

 

Comments

  1. livein22611 says:

    Maybe the folks at Dinosaur Land should just put the land into Conservation Easement!?!?!
    (Please realize that was a sarcastic remark!)
    While I do not think we will get a Kohl’s or other big chain there, having the right people study the area to update the “sent down from God himself” comprehensive plan is a good idea. Don’t leave it to the staff directly under your control. Delay, delay, delay.
    Okay, so who’s running for the BOS now???? I’m thinking this could be your year!

  2. LStanton says:

    Here’s my issue with all of this – a few of the supervisors are more than willing to spend thousands on consultants, but they won’t hire a full-time Economic Development Coordinator to do just what the consultants will do. Ridiculous. The current county staff will do precisely what these lords and lady fo the land tell them to do…which has gotten us preceisely here, with nothing substantive to show for it.

  3. Although I don’t agree with ANOTHER convenience store going up inn the county, has anyone of authority talked to Sheetz to see if they may be willing to cough up some funds for the water and sewage lines? Also, do we really need to waste MORE money on yet ANOTHER study? You already know the traffic that comes through there each day, and you know there is a Wal-Mart being constructed a short distance from there in Frederick County and surely more businesses will come around that Wal-Mart. I would think that would be a excellent location for Clarke to attract business development. Of course, my study probably doesn’t count because I didn’t charge a fee for it.

  4. Harrdware says:

    Do we really need another Sheetz, 4 miles away from the other one? Development is one thing, but yet another gas station? Sheetz should look at a spot next to the new Walmart going up down the road on 522, there are no gas stations in the immediate vicinity.

    Too bad the owners want out of Dinosaur Land – which is unique, and draws tourists from all over to our area. Just look at all the out of state license plates in their parking lot.

  5. A Super Wal-Mart at Route 7 & 340 in Berryville would be an eyesore but a cash-cow for our schools thanks to the tax revenue. I for one would prefer to not drive to Frederick County to shop. If Ranson is outpacing us then something is WRONG. As a consolation, how about building out a proper shopping complex around the Food Lion? Finally, as you gripe about the traffic on Route 7 think about all of the transient tax opportunity lost. We (Clarke) are our own worst enemy. The BOS needs a serious wake up call.

  6. Just a thought …

    If that corner does become another cash cow for Sheetz wouldn’t it be great if the county and the owners could forge an agreement to move the dinosaurs to the county park in Berryville.

  7. Stonebroke says:

    Or better yet, they could could move them downtown. The land of prehistoric age!

    • LStanton says:

      There seems to be plenty of land for them there by the Food Lion…

      Seriously, though…why have those parcels sat undeveloped all these years? Me and the missus have been here nigh on 15 years, and it seems a prime retail spot has gone undeveloped. I’ve heard scuttlebutt that there was some dust-up between the landowner and the town…but I’d like to know the real reason. Anyone got any insight?

  8. lakota9 says:

    This is coming from someone who is relatively “new” to the area. I personally moved out to Clarke County BECAUSE it was not developed, and BECAUSE there aren’t any end to end gas stations, strip malls, etc….I think that the BOS should figure out how to start attracting people and businesses to Berryville and Boyce. Getting people’s minds “reconfigured” that Clarke is “open for business” should begin with things that are already established, i.e., work from the inside out, not from outside in. Just a thought.

  9. Smellin roses says:

    The problem is that the infrastructure is not really there @ Waterloo (pump-n-haul is not the solution) nor at Double Tollgate. Berryville has the infrastructure, but the small-town poitics are hard to cut through. Boyce…where would you build? There’s no space there, nor really any substantive infrastructure (i.e. water & sewer) to handle it.

    The current leaders can’t agree on hiring a FT Economic Development Coordinator; they can’t agree on getting broadband Internet to its citizens; they can’t agree on development to take advantage of the thousands of commuter trips that travel thru the county. They seem keen on locking things into conservation easements, yet they get all worked up over an idea (like the Georgetown University retreat) that seeks to utilize the very bucolic setting the BoS strives earnestly to maintain. All the while, costs for services continue to go up without a dedicated revenue stream to help meet those obligations.

  10. Has anyone been to FL recently? How did you like all of the empty strip mall that were built and now stand empty because they can’t suport them? No one is shopping!! Wonder why? Has anyone driven on 50 and gone through Middleburg and noticed all of the for rent signs there? Same reason, people aren’t buying regrdless of the income bracket, the ones who can afford to shop are being conservative with their dollars.
    Did anyone read the article in the WSJ last week, to paraphase it, high end stores are seeing a small increase in sales, lower end stores are dipping lower. To even consider further development in Clarke County would be a nightmare, not to mention a eye sore when they stand empty! One has to be realistic, sure it would be great to have certain conviences here, but we can’t support them!! This is a GREAT county and people have worked hard to make it what it is, so enjoy it!!!

    • My 2 Cents says:

      Oh please Peely, driving through Middleburg is just like driving through Berryville. Saddleshops and Antique stores! Who would shop those places on a regular basis anyhow???? Have another glass of Dunning Champagne!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Stonebroke says:

      Peely, since you have spent the time to reply on here about the subject. Can you tell me exactly what it is that you are buying from downtown Berryville? Please list to me those things that you are buying? If you need a pair of shoes, where are you buying them? [redacted]

      • To answer you question about my shopping habits in Berryvill and Clarke County, I will list the shops and services I use on a regular bases.
        Nalls.. I buys vegetables and plants there, Mercer, I get my oil from them, the new leather shop, I have my shoes repaired there, Jane’s, I have breakfast and lunch there, love Zelda! The Farmers Market, there every Saturday. McKays, bought all of my tiles and flooring there for my own remodeling and I use them on projects for others. Use to take my clothes to the drycleaner, next door until they closed. The rug shop, many rugs both for me and others. The Chinese resturant is a regular..
        Get my reading glasses and eye check ups in Beryville as well and my dental work. I also get my car inspected right down the street. Lunch and dinner at the Battletown. I also do Food Lion and get my greeting cards at the pharmacy on Main Street.. I use the florist if I have a need for flowers that will last! Mr B’s is a favorite! I use all of the local trades people, Waterloo, Crums etc.
        I frequent Lockes Store in Millwood, where I buy all of my wine, very competive with Costco. Lets not leave out the Lone Oak for a burger!! Paints you can’t beat the Paint Store at Waterloo, very helpful!
        As you can see I use quite a few of the local business, I’m sure there are some I have left out.
        Its true I don’t buy shoes in Clarke County, but I don’t buy them in Winchester either!
        I love having all of the “local folk” as part of y community!

        • Smellin roses says:

          That’s all well and good. However, what you don’t seem to acknolwedge is that the Double Tollgate matter, as well as the long-untapped opportunities @ Rt. 7/340 and @ Rt. 340/50 are missing otu on having options for the commuters who travel those roads daily…thousands of cars twice a day, and – without options – they just motor on to another jurisdiction. That lack of forward thinking is the issue here.

        • Stonebroke says:

          Peely, I’m sorry that half of my post was deleted and you wasn’t allowed to read the rest of my statement. I’m glad you can afford to shop in Berryvile, however, I’m a bargain shopper. Not allowed that opportunity in Berryville.

  11. I really have to reply to My 2 Cents. It appears that you missed seeing the struggling merchants, its all smoke and mirrors !! You have honest people trying to make a living, regardless of what they are selling, and its not working!!! In your opinion what type of business would be sucessfully that everyday people would shop in, not box stores, mom and pop, where people need to make the money to pay their store rents? Its not easy, people go to Winchester, thinking they are saving money, but the merchants in Clarke aren’t being supported when they are selling the same type of goods.I make it a point to buy LOCALLY, because i strongly believe in it, I may pay a few dollars more, but to me its worth it to have that local service in Clarke county!!

    • Fly on the wall says:

      That’s just it…they, by and large are NOT selling the same things. The only “new” clothes available are at the dollar stores – not a high-demand look. Same for shoes. There are professional offices (lawyers, architects, engineers, contractors, etc.) but, again, not a high-demand area. The rug store…lovely people, but how often do folks buy Oriental rugs? Same for eyeglasses, etc., etc.

      When the Wendy’s commercial sadistically teases us with a “sports shop,” that’s sad.

  12. It is the economy! The 2 shopping strips off of I81 at RT.7 and Rt.11 are suffering except for the fast food places at lunch. I travel to industrial parks, commerce parks and business parks, in Northern VA., West VA., and Central PA. 50% of the buildings are EMPTY: the warehouse developments along I81 North to Greencastle, PA., are 50-75% EMPTY.
    Clarke County BOS need to rein in the expenses look within, prior to raising sewer and water bills, and property taxes, and needless expenditures such as a business consultant!
    Who would drive to Double Tollgate about 13 miles from Berryville and shop when Winchester is about 3 miles closer.
    I believe that Clarke Couty population is 13,000 which denotes rural. Thta population can not finance the support of expansion. The idea of “build it and they will come” is only in the movies.

  13. My 2 Cents says:

    Well Peely,

    I have no leather apparel. So that puts me out the door on getting my leather repaired! I am not in the market for a new Oriental Rug….. Darn….. No need for any used books…. Rats! No wear eye glasses! Shoot! My pharmacy in Winchester is WAYYYYY Cheaper and has better hours…. My florist is also in WInchester! Better selection at cheaper prices…… You newbies keep Mayberry the way it is and wonder why this county struggles financially! A strip mall at Food Lion would be perfect! I bet those doing all the complaining would be the first in line to find a bargain! You people are all hypocrites! Now, go put your saddles on your horses and go for a ride…….

  14. cheapshot says:

    i find it ironic and amusing that the photo for this story of the BOS’s latest ditherings and hand-wringing over the effects of their 15-year+ procrastinations, is a dinosaur! How appropriate! The dinosaurs WE have elected have spent a decade plus micro-managing the width of every driveway, the size of every lot, encouraging conservation easements, regulating parties and public gatherings, etc, in the name of preservation. Preservation is good, but taken too far, it results in a mausoleum, or a wax museum; pretty to look at, but lacking vitality. Meanwhile the world, and the counties around us, were inconveniently changing; when the economy boomed, those counties hung out the “open for business” sign. The 522 corridor to Front Royal, the I-81 corridor thru the Valley, the transformation of charles town race course, and the whole Dulles office/business complex growth were enabled by rezoning and extension of water & sewer services that led to business expansion, jobs, increased tax revenue, and later, new schools and services to the residents, Are these changes all pretty? no, but it’s a cost-benefit analysis, not just a cost-aethetics analysis. While we frittered away the good years arguing about flag pole heights and trying to uber-regulate our one vineyard and potential retreat centers, we have slowly become the poor sister of the area. In that time we got a couple of convenience stores and an “industrial” park with no big tax contributors-small-ball at its best, when we needed a home run.

    The idea that continually saying “no” is the least expensive way to go is a myth-the only way to balance the budget under that rubric is to cut services, and increase fees, which we have, and how! Because of our small size, the economies of scale will always work against us, so we have to long-range plan BETTER to make up for it. now, when times are tough, we’re in a heck of a fix: we have no infrastructure or zoning in place to expand our commercial base, as correctly pointed out above; 2 of our 3 “base” industries, American Woodmark and Smalley Packaging, have closed, and the other, a printer of books in the age of the kindle, is looking a bit dinosaur-like. The apple industry has shrunk to a shadow of its former self. Two-thirds of the county land is in land use, and will not participate in any future tax rate hikes without some change in the way we collect those taxes, which we have shown no interest in doing. Our county residential assessments average probably 20% over market, requiring a jump in tax rate when the values are reassessed in a couple of years. Our county computer system is also a dinosaur and needs replacing, to the tune of $1-2M; we are one of a handful of counties in the state that doesnt have its own landfill, so when our neighbor/garbage landlord decides to double or triple the fees for dumping,we have to take it with a smile, and prepare for similar future annual increases over the years; we have no county high-speed internet, which while we werent looking, became a neccessity; our schools are underfunded to the tune of almost $2000/year per student. Add to the list of teachers departing for ‘greener” pastures, always a nagging problem, the recent flight of principals and administrators-you cant run a system that has this kind of annual turnover. We have reached the end of the line of reasoning that we have operated under during the Dunning era-there are no more services left to cut.

    as Captain Dunning prepares to leave the bridge of the pretty but outmoded ship, its an appropriate time to ask-What is the cure for these systemic ailments? The long-term cures are all expensive and will require many changes, but the short-term cure, come November, is to replace the current board with a pragmatic, problem-solving BOS that tackles the problems, not delay and sweep them under the rug in the interest of keeping the tax rate abnormally low. Mr. Hobert is the key guy-I say keep him, and give him a chance by providing him a Board committed to tackling our problems. To do that, weve got to replace 2-3 of the other 4. Randy Sprouse has stepped up in the White Post district-we need capable folks in the other districts to step up as candidates to have a chance. It’s now or 4 more years of dinosaurs running the county!

    • My 2 Cents says:

      wow! best post ever written on this board! yet the old-timers will bash you and say the same ole same ole! vote them all out!

  15. GOPjunky says:

    webmaster? what exactly can i say on here that you wont delete? I wont say anything i’ll just agree with the ones that are right like:

    cheapshot
    bubbad

  16. Save the dinos! Love it. 🙂

  17. Tugs Dad says:

    Development at rt7 and 340 makes the most sense to me. More Traffic coming through and close enough to infrastructure (unlike Double Toll Gate). But what makes sense seems to elude the BOD. Do I want development in CC? NO, I moved here 10 years ago to get away from the NoVA rat race but something needs to be done to bring in revenue. I don’t mind driving to Winchester to shop, I don’t mind not having high speed internet, I don’t mind having to go to a pharmacy in Winchester. What I do mind is the BOD wasting more and more of my hard earned tax dollars for study after study on things that are obviously not feasible. We need to purge ourselves of those on the BOD that don’t seem to have any common sense and get some folks in that do. Some say development at 7 & 340 would be an eye sore. It doesn’t have to be an eye sore if we design it to be astatically pleasing and fitting for the area in which it is built. I’m personally against development in CC however I recognize the need for some that’s well thought out and designed to respect the beauty of our county.

    • My 2 Cents says:

      I guess thistle and grown up brush is what some call beauty! Personally, I think the for sale sign that has been sitting at the Bank of Clarke near Food Lion is gorgeous! Wonder why that hasn’t been purchased yet by someone? Oh thats right, because nothing will ever be allowed to be built there, unless its a museum.

  18. Stonebroke says:

    Still waiting for the sit-down (family style) Tastee Freeze. I can’t wait till that is built! Can CDN check into this situation and find out when they are suppose to break ground on this project? It seems to moving along rather slowly!

    CDN Editor: What is the source of your information?

    • I believe the poster is referring to place where Lawrence White was once going to place a new Tastee Freeze, back when he was still on the BOS.

  19. Stonebroke says:

    Correct! Years ago when development started at the Food Lion. This parcel of land was bought by Mr. White. He had a nice sign built, stating that this would be the site for the new sit down-family style Tastee Freeze. After all these years the people of Berryville are still waiting for the ground breaking for this fabulous establishment. Do you think Mr. White (who was on the BOS at the time) got a little nervous that another (better) fast food joint might come to town. Funny how things like this work in Berryville. CDN, see if you can track down Mr. White for a statement on when we might be able to expect the new establishment! Good Day!

  20. dontaskme says:

    QUOTE – “Clarke County has a reputation for not being open for business” Hobert told the other Supervisors. “We need to prepare for when business begins to come back and this study will help us to do that.”

    When business comes back they will still just drive through Clarke, as no business in their right mind woulc consider locating here because Clarke is not open to business. here’s an idea, raise the land use tax rate a little. I wonder how much a couple cents increase in that rate (which probably covers 75% of the land in the county) would raise in revenue for the County.

    • Clarke can be open for business, but it won’t be smoke-stack stuff or big shopping malls.

      An industrial park exists. Who’s in charge of development and what’s the occupancy?

      What about the solar power generation site that was under development near Double Tollgate?

      You all should quit wasting your time fretting about Walmarts or Big-T Burgers. The winning formula in Clarke is to support the Master Plan but thread the needle to transfer some the tax burden from from the residential to the light industrial sector.

      Smart growth.

      • Smellin roses says:

        The industrial park is, per news reports a year or so ago, fully built out. It fell to Mr. Ash, the County Admin, and Mr. Johnston, the planning director. In fact, it was this 100% occupancy that was cited as a reason to NOT hire a full-time economic development director, by a few of the supervisors.

  21. My 2 Cents says:

    How is the industrial park smart for me Bob? What does it offer my family? I guess we will just keep dreaming of Targets and Wal-Marts! LOL

  22. My 2 Cents asks: “How is the industrial park smart for me Bob? What does it offer my family?”

    Some relief.

    ANY increase in the industrial tax base benefits the residential taxpayers of Clarke.

    What the BOS should be doing at Double TollGate is developing another industrial park.