The Clarke County Planning Commission has established a new sub-committee to look at the possibility of development at the intersection at Double Tollgate and the extension of planned development of Waterloo at the intersections of Route 50 and US 340.
The study comes at the request of the Board of Supervisors who are looking for both short and long-term commercial development of Double Tollgate said Planning Commission chairman George Ohrstrom in a memo distributed to the other commissioners at their Friday regular meeting.
“Currently, the Comprehensive Plan designates the Double Tollgate Area as a growth area served by public water and sewer services” Ohrstrom said. “The 2002 Double Tollgate Area Plan recommended 50 acres for commercial zoning to be served by public water and sewer. After a study commissioned by the Board of Supervisors, a majority of the Board concluded the infrastructure costs of public water and sewer were so great that the current land use policy in the Comprehensive Plan for the Double Tollgate Area was not realistic, warranting consideration of a change of the Comprehensive Plan.”
Orhstrom hopes to see the Planning Commission determine realistic land use policies in light of the current general economic conditions in the market and locally in Clarke County. The study will also look at policies and regulations for individual sewage treatment systems that could promote commercial development in the Double Tollgate area.
Ohrstrom added a cautionary note as well.
“The committee should examine the issues while also remaining extremely mindful of minimizing any risk to our ground and surface water quality” Ohrstrom said.
Ohrstrom said that many residents believe that Clarke County needs to do more in terms of long range planning than just looking at commercial development at the intersection.
“For us to identify the appropriate steps that need to be taken will probably require a fiscal assessment of the costs and benefits of development of the area” Ohrstrom said. “I think that the County actually has a Request for Proposals out right now seeking a bid for these services. We are seeking the services of a firm or firms with skills in public fiscal analysis, economic development, and utility rates, fees, and demand forecasting to assist the County in determining the land use strategy that would best enhance County tax revenues at a principal arterial highway intersection and adjacent areas. It’s my understanding that we, the Planning Commission, have access to planning funds to pay for this.”
Ohrstrom nominated Planning Commission vice chairman Anne Caldwell (Millwood) to head the committee with support from Commissioners Clay Brumback, Robina Rich-Bouffault (White Post), Tom McFillan (Berryville) and Richard Thuss (Buckmarsh).
“I consider the establishment of this new sub-committee to be an excellent idea and really look forward to working with the other committee members to hammer out a viable commercial development recommendation for the Board of Supervisors” said Planning Commissioner Robina Bouffault. “The committee will be looking at Double-Tollgate, Waterloo, and hopefully in partnership with the Town’s development authority (BADA), to explore and assess realistic ways to attract new development using not only existing facilities, but analyzing what improvements need to be made to increase the county’s attractiveness to businesses, and how to achieve those improvements.”
Ohrstrom asked the new sub-committee to examine the feasibility of all alternatives for commercial/industrial development around Double Tollgate, possibly in partnership with the Commonwealth and the County at the prison site. One key consideration will include possible options for sharing sewage treatment system costs in the Double Tollgate area with nearby Frederick or Warren County. Ohrstrom also said that Clarke County may need to take steps to partner with the Town of Berryville to promote increased commercial/industrial development at places where water/sewer infrastructure already exists.
“There are also allocation questions concerning the Berryville sewage treatment plant that need to be understood” Ohrstrom said.
Sub-committee member Bouffault endorsed Ohrstrom’s assessment;
“Water and sewer are of course an integral component to be studied, and I believe it is also very important to study ways to enhance our communications, spotty at best, because without a good communications network, both for wireless phones and high-speed internet, attracting new business will be a much greater challenge.”
“There are many in the community who are interested in sensible economic development to help relieve our only real form of revenue: personal property and real-estate taxes” Ohrstrom said to sub-committee members. “This is an opportunity for us and I ask for your commitment to address these important issues.”