Planning Commissioner Questions Double Tollgate Improvement Plans

As Clarke County’s planning staff reviews the potential for extending central water and sewer to commercially zoned properties near Double Tollgate, at least one county planning commissioner is expressing hesitation over spending taxpayer money to attract what he sees as low value businesses there.

Double Tollgate is located at the intersection of US 522 and US 340 in Clarke County, Virginia

“We’re talking about using $700K of federal money and a couple of hundred thousand of money from local taxpayers in order to support future development there” Clarke County Planning Commissioner Richard Thuss (Buckmarsh). “What I’d like to understand is just what the return on investment for the taxpayer is here. If it’s something like 50 years then I think that it’s a bad investment.”

A general estimate of the cost to provide water and sewer to Double Tollgate is $1.2M with approximately $500K coming from local funds.

Thuss’s comments were prompted in response to a review of Double Tollgate’s development infrastructure currently being performed by Clarke County’s planning department. The review and increased interest in Double Tollgate has been spurred, in part, by federal government job stimulus matching funds that could be available to extend water and sewer to the area.  The federal funding for infrastructure projects is currently available to communities like Clarke County through a competitive grant process that evaluates the number of new jobs that will be created by businesses that subsequently locate to newly created economic centers.

“The goal of the federal money that would finance the project is employment” Clarke County Planning Administrator Chuck Johnston told the planning commissioners on Friday. “The amount of money that we could receive is based on the amount of jobs that the property developers believe the development plan will create.”

Double Tollgate is an unincorporated community in Clarke County, Virginia and is located at the intersection Front Royal Pike (US Route 522) and  Lord Fairfax Highway (US ROute 340). Clarke County’s planning staff is currently reviewing the option of extending water and sewer conveyance lines from the Virginia Department of Correction Detention Center located near White Post, Virginia.

County planning staff told the planning commissioners that Detention Center officials are open to considering allowing use of the facility’s 33,000 gallon sewage treatment plant. Due to reductions in the number of inmates housed at the White Post Detention Center, the treatment plant there currently processes only 11,000 gallons of sewage per day.

“Sewer and water service is a necessary cost of developing this area” Johnston said. “The planning process that we are now involved in will identify the costs of doing this.”

Thuss told Johnston and the other planning commissioners that he wasn’t against increased development in the Double Tollgate area but he does have concerns about the economic wisdom of spending taxpayer money to attract, what Thuss says, is marginal commercial activity.

“What I see coming from this are businesses that don’t bring in much revenue and employ only low wage employees. I just can’t see spending our money to support this kind of development” Thuss said. “If you were to tell me that we are going to bring in high-tech businesses and modern office buildings that would be one thing. But we have so many restrictions in this county that prevent high-tech businesses that I believe the only thing that you will get there is low-value commercial use.”

“The conveyance line would be sized to serve the entire 70 acres of commercial property there” Johnston said. “The Board of Supervisors is not interested in creating a free ride for any of the property owners there.”

“My point is that by accepting the federal grant money we will be making a conscious choice as a county to develop that area” Thuss said. “I would like to make sure that the value generated from the development is more than the cost of developing it.”

Johnston said that the results of the Double Tollgate planning review will be delivered to the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on March 15 and the Supervisors will then make a decision on whether or not to proceed with a grant request.

In June, 2010 Clarke County Supervisors approved land use zoning changes for the Double Tollgate area to accommodate a 20 megawatt solar power facility being considered by Cornerstone Power Development of Chicago, Illinois. Cornerstone has floated plans to place its facility on Monty Gibson’s 145-acre farm just north of Route 340 and east of Route 522 near the existing Double Tollgate power substation. To date, Cornerstone has yet to offer formal plans for actual construction of the facility.

The deadline for Clarke County’s federal grant application is March 15th.

 

 

Comments

  1. ElinorDashwood says:

    The PERFECT place for a Kohl’s, maybe even a Martins. This spot is ideal for bringing in money from surrounding counties, not to mention that the people on that side of the county won’t be driving to Winchester to spend the their money. Added bonus….those people that are concerned about altering the quaintness of our county seat, Berryville, won’t be affected in the least.

    • My 2 Cents... says:

      It doesn’t matter how you spin it, Elinor, these old fogeys want nothing in their town or county. They wanna keep shoveling all their money to Winchester and Frederick County! They wanna keep their antique little town! For all the people that voted her post down, why dont you explain why you feel nothing would work at this location???????

      • Exactly. There are way too many thumbs down votes on her comment. What would it hurt to have some business out that way? Don’t worry, there is already yet another Wal-Mart going up just a short distance down from that intersection so it won’t be them. There is already about 12 acres for sale there I believe is zoned commercial on that corner. It looks to me like some commercial development in that area would only serve to help this county. Same with the area around 340 and 50 and 7 and 340. You would still be able to keep your little antique towns the same. I’m getting tired of talking about it.

        • Just Curious says:

          So anyone that talks about growth in Clarke County gets the thumbs down! You people are horrible.. It will happen eventually and when it does we cannot wait to see your faces! You will be the first in line to save some money on your cheaper prescriptions and groceries……. Bet you won’t care then, will you?

        • wow indeed says:

          I’m getting tired of hearing you talk about it.

          • Stonebroke says:

            Don’t read it then! You must be pretty interested in reading it–with how hard CDN has made it to navigate through the message forum!

          • My 2 Cents... says:

            Oh please! Maybe we, the under 40 crowd, get tired of all the old fogey’s saying they want Berryville to remain an antique…. Sorry it goes both ways!

  2. dontaskme says:

    If the deadline for the application is the 15th and the results of the study are being presented on the same day according to the article, then it seems like the answer will be no from the BOS. Undoubtedly they will need additional time to consider and by then it will be a moot point even if they did want to because the deadline for application will have passed.

  3. “…The conveyance line would be sized to serve the entire 70 acres of commercial property there” Johnston said. “The Board of Supervisors is not interested in creating a free ride for any of the property owners there.”…”

    That’s because nobody on the BOS owns any of that property.

  4. Mimi Stein says:

    A far better economic development use of federal infrastructure funds would be wiring the entire County for high speed internet. Water & sewer are great, but this is the 21st century. I would also note that before we start stimulating more greenfields development, we ought to make sure that our brownfields in Berryville get re-developed.

    • wow indeed says:

      “Water & sewer are great, but this is the 21st century”

      What? And what exactly is “pump and haul”? Not 21st century, that’s for sure. That is what they are doing at Waterloo.

  5. ElinorDashwood says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t part of our present problem that we don’t have the funds for just about anything?
    We can make some money from the hundreds of commuters that pass through our county on 340 heading north in the morning and south in the evening. Think of how often you stop to get something on your way home from work, it’s a convenience.
    I shop in Clarke whenever I can but all of us still need to go to Winchester for SO many things that we can’t get here, and before anyone takes that wrong, I’m not suggesting we turn ourselves into Winchester…and it isn’t laziness as some have implied on other posts, I want to spend my money where it helps my county.
    I’m curious about what stopped the development behind the Handimart in Waterloo. There are several pad/sites with the utilities already there but no further
    construction…does anyone know?
    There are only two ways to fill the coffers and that I am aware of and that is to allow SOME development in our town that will bring in revenue, or to raise taxes. Which is it going to be? If there are other viable alternatives, please enlighten me.

    • ElinorDashwood says:

      …and thank you to all who commented on the negative votes. A thumbs up speaks for itself but if I disagree with a comment I will indicate what part I disagree with and why, and it would help see other points of view if others could do the same.

      Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress.
      Mohandas Gandhi

      Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mohandas_gandhi_3.html#ixzz1G7Aknj68

    • My 2 Cents... says:

      Thats the whole problem. ALL OF THE OLD ANTIQUE COMMUNITY, feel as if its their duty to keep Clarke County and Berryville in the Dinosaur era…. They constantly complain about no new tax base and having shortfalls here and there. Yet when someone says new business, they all panic. They want to keep the current monoply in charge. The Vinson’s obviously want no competition to the Pharmacy part of things. The White’s who previously owned the Tastee Freez, wanted no competition so they bought the land up near Food Lion, so nobody from the outside could come in and put A DECENT product out there. That land is still sitting there…. See my point? You wonder why all these people from the BOS keep getting re-elected? Its because they are taking care of a few of their own, including themselves and then keeping everything else out!!!! Thats ok, come election time, things are going to change! People are sick of it. And to all those anti-growth haters, you know, the ones who vote your post down with negative votes, we will see you at the stores in Winchester, until we get something of our own….. But then again, you will probably continue to shop up north anyhow, seeing how you want nothing here, but Horse and Buggies!!!!!!!!!!!

      Good Day….

      • Bill Thomas says:

        What don’t you understand about the population of Clarke can’t support these large retail stores that you dream of?

        Let’s take the Double Tollgate example- the large grocery/retail/fast food stores are 5 miles away in winchester, front royal, and stephens city. Forget about high tech office space- there’s an abundance of vacant office space all over- not to mention 98% of tech workers have the ability to telecommute from home- which is the way of the future.

        The sad truth is Clarke should of commercially developed that area 20 years ago. They missed the boat and it’s not coming back- especially in this economy.

        You’ve got winchester, charlestown, stephens city, front royal, and loudoun surrounding you- where ever you are in the county you can get to these locations in 10 minutes especially when you consider the majority of residents commute out of the county for work. The large franchises are not coming to Clarke anytime soon. I know it’s a scary world out there but you may have to move if a double cheeseburger and fries are that important to you.

        • My 2 Cents says:

          Thats not it at all Bill. You are missing the boat. Trust me a cheeseburger isn’t what this is about. Its about people as yourself telling the rest of Clarke what we cannot have. A CVS or a Walgreens would do well either at Double Toll-Gate or at Rt.7 and 340. Saying that it wouldn’t make it, is just yourself saying that for your own personal reasons…. Wonder why that could be??? How many more farms do you really need to look at while driving through White Post or at Double Toll-Gate? If you have seen one, you have seen them all…. If something was constructed, my question is this Billy, would you support it, or continue to feed the counties of Loudoun, Frederick, Winchester and Charles Town????

          • Old Antique Fogey says:

            Is a CVS or Walgreens more beautiful than a farm? I don’t think so. They all look the same.

          • Stonebroke says:

            It looks better @ 8pm if I need a prescription filled for my child. How about that?

          • Old Antique Fogey says:

            Stonebroke you better search the pharmacy hours for the chain drug stores.

          • Stonebroke says:

            How much research do you need fogey…I guess your in bed by this time of the day?

            http://www.cvs.com/CVSApp/store/storefinderresults.jsp?_requestid=166979

          • Old Antique Fogey says:

            Not in bed yet, still milking my cows

          • Stonebroke says:

            Great to hear! Just think you could get done milking your cows and still have time to get a prescription filled at CVS! Don’t think you could get that done in good old downtown Berryville Pharmacy!

          • Bill Mays says:

            What doctor or emergency room in Clarke is giving you a prescription at 8pm?

          • My 2 Cents... says:

            Well we could go several places with this one Bill? Perhaps you have a sick kid and needed to go to Winchester to see the Doctor, and guess what, you get a prescription…… Rather than hanging around Winchester and spending our money there, how about we come home and drop it off at our CVS or Walgreen’s. Obviously, the Vinson’s Pharmacy would be closed. Why people, what are you sooo afraid of… Do you worry that your friends that have current business’s will be forced to step up there game? Please tell??? You all look like uneducated baffoon’s by acting this way!

          • Stonebroke says:

            [redacted] Bill….How about 5pm then! Is that better for you? Because you can’t get one filled in Berryville after 5pm. You get my drift…no need to hide your side of the fence!

        • StoneBroke says:

          The sad truth Bill is 20 years ago you still had the same Board of Supervisors voting “NO” to everything that is brought to the table. Or they have implemented so many Hula Hoops for people to jump through to get something built in this county—that people just say the hell with Clarke County, we don’t want to deal with those fools down there.

          • My 2 Cents says:

            NO= PETE DUNNING,

            Unless it financially benefits him or the people he protects!
            I hear McKay is the same though, those poor people in that district!!!!

        • Bubba D says:

          Those who live in Clarke would not be the only ones stopping to shop at any business built near any of the three major intersections in Clarke. Plenty of other people drive through those areas on their way East or West/North or South. Note, the businesses that are currently at the intersection of rts 340 and 50 (Sheetz, McDs, Hany Mart, Baskin Robins, Dunkin Donuts) are thriving and doing just fine. Saying that we don’t have the population for larger chain business is not accurate.

          • ElinorDashwood says:

            Exactly, Bubba. Why not try to bring in some of that money that passes through our county every day. Goodness knows, they should pay something considering the amount of wear and tear they put on our roads that we have to pay with our taxes to maintain.

        • dontaskme says:

          Quote – not to mention 98% of tech workers have the ability to telecommute from home- which is the way of the future.

          Only if you have a viable high speed connection, which people outside of the “towns” do not have. Satellite just does not cut it especially if there is any sort of cloud in the sky. cable is not even close to being everywhere in the county and Verizon will likely bring FIOS 20 years too late.

        • You all must really test the speed limits to get to Winchester or Charles Town in 10 minutes. I can do neither in less than 25, 30 to Winchester in traffic. Are you hoping to get more speeding tickets to help fill the county’s coffers?

  6. Mimi Stein says:

    I am really confused. While I can understand old-timers who might be envious of the changes in nieghboring counties and feel a bit left-behind, I really don’t understand newcomers who complain about distance-to-shopping and bemoan the lack of national chains with their 24/7 availability. If these things were so important to you, why did you move here instead of Stephens City or Winchester or Purcellville or Charles Town? If a fully-funded school system with state-of-the-art facilities was so important, why didn’t you choose Montgomery County? If you wanted indoor pools and plenty of playing fields, why didn’t you choose Fairfax County? When I chose to buy a house in Clarke County, I did my research — I wanted a rural lifestyle, a protected viewshed, a commitment to agriculture, a strong Comprehensive Plan, small government, and low taxes, and I recognized that to get that I would have to give up easy access to shopping,broadband/cable, and a Cadillac school system. Had I wanted something different, I would not have chosen to buy a house here. So, I would be really interested in knowing why others did — what was it about Clarke County that led you to choose to move here?

    • Fly on the wall says:

      Lady, we’re not talking about needing a “Cadillac” school system here in Clarke…a Chevy, or a Honda, even, would be nice.

      • sumrbrez says:

        She only said she was giving up a cadillac school system, not that she wanted or expected one.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Two reasons we moved here:
      1) The first house we purchased was affordable on my salary and only one hour form work. It was so affordable it allowed my wife to be a stay at home mom.
      2) I didn’t want to raise my kids in NO VA. I grew up in NO VA and I could see where it was heading.

      So now that I’m here I feel extremely fortunate Mimi. I guess you could say “Green acres is the place for me”. I’m just a bit tired of the “old timer/newcomer” thing. I have A LOT of friends that have lived here all their lives and they want the same for their kids as I want for mine; as every parent wants. Having a school that is just funded at the state average isn’t asking a lot and allowing a little business in to support the tax base could help. Home is what you make it and I don’t believe any of the people posting here wants to turn Clarke into Loudon, Fairfax or Winchester.
      But it’s just my opinion.

      • My 2 Cents... says:

        Probably the best post I’ve seen since the inception of this website! Way to go Mr. Parrott!

  7. My 2 Cents... says:

    Cadillac, that would be nice. Anything is better than the 1975 Pacer that is the town of Berryville or County of Clarke….. Maybe if we were building a barn in the middle of town things would be allowed…. I never understood the point behind renovating some old barn….Guess its just me.

    • It gives the rich snobs something to feel good about since they hide behind the conservation easements that deplete our tax money that take away from something truly beneficial to the community, namely a decent High School.

      • Aren’t you mixing issues/concerns here?

        Don’t you agree that extending utility service to an area of the County with uncertain returns on that infrastructure investment seems to come from the ready-shoot-aim school of process?

        Property owners who have designated their land to conservation easement may indeed reap state and federal tax benefits, but there isn’t a local tax benefit to doing so… they are already in land-use. so they have minimized their tax burden already as allowable by local statute. Conservation easements lower the value of the land in easement since it is no longer developable for residential purposes – don’t lower land values contribute on the positive side re: the composite index, and thus in the long run generate more funding for education?

        Look – I agree 100% that there are some miserly folks in this county who should pony up more for the common good (e.g. education funding), or in the case of some they should pursuade their constituents of the necessity of doing so. But to say that setting a property up in conservation easement = depleting tax money isn’t an accurate statement if you consider the alternative. Take that away, and the property owner’s only choice may be to develop the property which brings more “users” to the equation, thus increasing the need for additional resources.

        I’m a parent and our property is in land-use. Beyond our voluntary efforts on behalf of our schools, I would gladly invest some more in the form of a tax increase, provided we could assure that the revenue would be spent in that arena. The problem is that I don’t think that can be arranged via referendum, since that’s routinely specific to construction of facilities. That train has already left the station… we need leaders with the intestinal fortitude to not only take a stand in this regard, but to also invest the time in communicating the value of a good educational system to those members of the community that still believe that “all that comes out of Clarke County are farmers and hairdressers”.

        • dontaskme says:

          Quote – “I’m a parent and our property is in land-use. Beyond our voluntary efforts on behalf of our schools, I would gladly invest some more in the form of a tax increase”

          How about taking your land out of land use and having it taxed at the normal rate for real estate in Clarke County? That would increase the amount of taxes going to the County for such things as education and would be a voluntary act where you “invest some more in the form of a tax increase”.

          In fact, if the county really wanted to increase its revenue why not tighten up the land use tax regs to say only working farms that show x amount of revenue on schedule F of federal tax returns or increase the land requirments to say over 50 acres or so. (I am not a tax person or even good with numbers, just seems to me an easy way to increase revenue, if I am wrong and there are other explanations/rationales for land use as it is I am interested in knowing them)

          • I like your ideas, but that would mean the current BOS would be raising their own taxes, and they WON’T be doing that!

          • A.) Because the portion of the property that is in land-use is just that… land, not residential or commercial property. And it’s not generating any additional need for services – that’s what your residential property tax rates are established for… to pay for the services that your residence requires.

            B.) Per my comments above, paying additional money into the County’s general fund does not equate into that revenue being distributed to the schools.

            Instead of going in circles over residential zoning issues (and further hijacking this thread), I’d like to see your take on the original subject of the article – was the PC correct in questioning the benefit of funding infrastructureto the area in question. Why, or why not?

          • dontaskme says:

            How have I hijacked anything? I simply asked questions in response to direct assertions made by you. In addition, as I posted when the story first came out the timing of the application deadline and when the BOS would consider was the same day and therefore probably moot (which it turns out it is moot now anyway since they did not apply for the grant).

            as for A above: is the land you have in land use “farmed” or just becuase you have acreage and meets statutory and regulatory requirements it is in land use? To me there is a difference. If the land is not generating revenue/income then why does the county allow it to be in land use in the first case (a policy question I know, and asked out of curiosity and not to be inflammatory)?

            I understand not needing services for land that does not require county services and actually agree that to do so would be punitive on large landholders. My point was simply responding to your statement that you would voluntarily pay more in taxes and that one way would be to take your land out of land use. if you did then you would owe 3 years of back taxes at the proper rate minus the land use taxes already paid for those years plus going forward you would be taxed at the everyday person’s rate.

          • My comment re: hijacking the thread was a general one. The discussion here strayed quickly from the merits of the decision/discussion outlined in the article, and is now not-so-focused on anything from how many fast food joints the County should have to your opinions on tax rates.

            Either you didn’t read both of my comments thoroughly, or you’re choosing not to acknowledge what I said about paying more PROVIDED IT COULD BE DIRECTED TO SPECIFIC COUNTY EXPENDITURES (in this case, education).

            What makes you think that I’m not taxed at the “everyday person’s rate”? I am… I pay the same real estate tax on my dwelling and improvements that you and everyone else in the County does. To your other comment, I’m not aware of an abundance of properties that aren’t revenue generating (short or long term) that are flat out cheating the land use system. If you are, you should report them to the commissioner of the revenue.

            It appears from your tone that you’re wanting to take the discussion down the road of the haves vs. have nots, which has nothing to do with the article.

          • dontaskme says:

            If the use of everyday person rate implied that it was a have vs have not that was certainly not intended. perhaps normal or non-land use rate would have been better. However, if your land is in land use, then you are not paying the same rate as others by definition.

            My land is eligible for land use and I took it out (that was a personal decision on my part because I did not feel like certifying that I recieved income to the county and to the federal government in the scheudle F when all I would be doing was having someone cut it for hay). I do not understand why you seem to take such offense by me merely pointing out that if you took your land out of land use you would be increasing your taxes/contributing more (voluntarily) to county revenues.