Supervisors Accept “Go Slow” Plan for Double Tollgate

The Clarke County Supervisors heard from several Planning Commission members today over a recent land use study intended to identify business development solutions for Clarke County’s Double Tollgate area. Although several Supervisors expressed satisfaction with the study results, one Supervisor and one Planning Commissioner expressed frustration over the study’s recommendation to defer the area’s long-term development potential as part of a larger effort to revamp Clarke County’s comprehensive plan next year. The Supervisors’s acceptance of the plan as it has been submitted means that Double Tollgate’s future won’t be addressed until late 2013 at the earliest.

Double Tollgate is located in the southwestern portion of Clarke County, Virginia

“I think that it’s pretty obvious that there won’t be any short-term development at Double Tollgate given the information that we’ve been presented with,” Supervisor Bev McKay (White Post) said in response to Planning Commission recommendation. McKay and the other Supervisors were told that development recommendations at Double Toll would best addressed best as part of a larger effort to overhaul the County’s comprehensive plan beginning later this fall.

“I’m not saying that we want to preclude development there either,” McKay said. “I’m not opposed to development at Double Tollgate, I just want it to be a positive cash flow for the County.”

The report states that there is no cost-effective source of public water at Double Tollgate and individual wells would be required to support any commercial development. The report also warns that long term demand for commercial development in the area will be difficult to predict making any return on investment of public funds spent on water and sewer infrastructure equally unpredictable.

Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell) praised the three Planning Commissioners present at Monday’s meeting – Anne Caldwell (Millwood), Robina Bouffault (White Post) and Richard Thuss (Buckmarsh) – for their efforts in developing the report.

“I think that you did come up with a solution,” Byrd said. “You told us that we can’t afford it right now.”

But although the 50+ page report is filed with maps, charts and analysis, both Supervisor David Weiss (Buckmarsh) and Commissioner Thuss expressed frustration over the document’s lack of actionable recommendations. Thuss, who voted against forwarding the plan to the Supervisors, said that he felt that the Planning  Commission had failed to come up with a Double Tollgate solution as the Supervisors had requested.

“There was an answer to Double Tollgate,” Thuss said. “It might have been an expensive answer and not acceptable to the community. But there was an answer.”

Thuss said that a combination of onsite private packaged sewage treatment plants complemented by unused wastewater discharge capacity in Boyce could be used to solve the lack of water/sewer infrastructure needed to attract new businesses.

“Frederick County has many pump and haul systems,” Thuss said. “The community may not like that answer but it is an answer and we owed you [the Supervisor] an answer rather than push the problem into the comprehensive plan review.”

Supervisor David Weiss echoed Thuss’s sentiments.

“We never seem to get anything other than opinions when it comes to Double Tollgate,” Weiss said. “No one has brought us numbers so that we can make a decision.”

But Planning Commissioner Robina Bouffault challenged Weiss’s contention that the Double Tollgate report lacked hard data.

“I disagree, the report has a lot of data,” Bouffault said. “The problem is that Double Tollgate is going to require a substantial investment upfront – best case $500K but maybe as much as $1.5M – in infrastructure costs. That would mean that we would have to raise taxes with no immediate hope for recovering the money in the next five years. The business demand to cover these kinds of costs just isn’t there because businesses are also looking at nearby areas where the public water and sewer is already in place.”

“Why come here when a business can already get public water and sewer three miles down the road in Frederick County?” Bouffault asked.

“You will never get development in that area if you leave it like it is,” Thuss responded. “If you don’t put in an upfront investment you’ll never get development.”

Supervisor David Weiss did little to conceal his frustration that the Double Tollgate fell short of his expectations.

“Richard [Thuss] is right. We need to do something at Double Tollgate or take it off our agenda,” Weiss said. “This committee didn’t do the task that the Board of Supervisors asked it to do.”

However, Planning Commission vice chairman Anne Caldwell offered a different perspective.

“We believed that it was best to readdress Double Tollgate as an implementation component of the comprehensive plan when it comes up,” Caldwell said. “The committee felt that the County might be better served combining the two issues into a single project then engage a consultant to provide specific advice.”

Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) noted that other areas near Double Tollgate – for instance Warren County where commercial zoning currently permits hotels and restaurants and where public water and sewer already exist – are not seeing growth either.

“I just don’t see a lot going on in that general area,” Staelin said. “My personal opinion is that we have viewed that intersection as a place for gas stations and restaurants that require lots of water and sewage capacity. Maybe we should set up an area for that kind of business growth along Route 522.”

“That’s what we talked about looking at and now the Planning Commission has come back without a solution,” responded Supervisor Weiss. “How do we get off the dime on this? If we don’t want to spend the money to do that then let’s just put our hands up in the air and say ‘This is what we’ve got.’ We can’t keep promoting business growth in our literature by saying that we have something to sell when we don’t. If we don’t have a plan for growth now when the economy does turn around we’ll be five years behind.”

“The Planning Commission should be given a pat on the back,” replied Supervisor Byrd. “They went as far as they could go.”

Clarke County Planning Director Brandon Stidham told the Supervisors that he plans to have a revised Clarke County Comprehensive Plan ready for public review by the spring of 2013.

Comments

  1. Chuck E. Cheese says:

    Why is all the concentration on the Double Tollgate corridor? Why isn’t the Rt. 7/340 corridor ever mentioned for any type of potential growth? Can someone please answer that question?

  2. Orville Boggs says:

    “Why is all the concentration on the Double Tollgate corridor?” Because it makes the least sense.
    Why isn’t the Rt. 7/340 corridor ever mentioned for any type of potential growth? Because it makes the most sense.

    It’s the way Clarke County operates, god forbid the BOS come up with ANY sensible ideas. Rt.7/340 would have better access to water and sewage, traffic volume is high and not close to any other real retail. People commuting from NoVa to the Valley, be it to Clarke county, West Virginia or Winchester would most assuredly stop at these stores. I travel Rt. 7 every day from Sterling. Stopping in Perciville is out of the question as getting off 7 and into town is a nightmare. Traffic routinely backs up down Rt. 7 sometimes for a mile or more with an exit that must stop at a signal light at the bottom of the hill where a left turn is required to go into town. People traveling through are not likely to stop in Perciville to shop at the stores there. Developing 340 just north of Rt.7 would be a perfect place, as getting off the exit cars would turn Right and could merge onto 340. It would attract people coming home to Clarke County, people traveling north to West Virginia AND people going into Winchester. If it’s easy to access in and back on Rt. 7 or down 340 it will be convenient and people LOVE convenience.

    The kicker is the BOS and their supporters don’t want any development close to town, and for no good reason. They want to push development away from the town. They would rather raise our taxes to run water and sewage all the way out to Double Toll Gate where there is already places to stop and shop in the area like Front Royal just off 66, The new Wal-Mart just down the road in Fred. County. $500k to $1.5m to run water and sewage to Double Toll gate is a joke, try millions!!!! It’s a LONG way to run infrastructure to that location it would be a HUGE and a very expensive undertaking, and for what? To put retail in an area where there is already retail nearby? Its loony to even consider the idea and expect home owners. It would take more than a decade to break even on that endeavor even if the County ever breaks even on it.

  3. Realistic Joe says:

    Check out all owners of property on Clarke Co Maps On Line at 7/340 (by-pass area). Most likely that will answer the question also.

  4. I agree with Mr. Weiss…this county is already FAR behind its neighbors to the west and south in developing the area around Double Tollgate. Mr. Staelin, you once again prove yourself to be tone deaf to reality. You “don’t see a lot of development” in Warren County? Really??!? Have you not been down 522 towards I66? The place is hopping.

    No…consistently, the BoS has placed personal turf-protection ahead of thoughtful planning for the betterment of all of its constituents….yet they keep getting elected. THAT is the sad paradox that plays out here every year. The dithering, the hand-wringing, the kicking things down the road, the endless studies…accomplishes nothing but warrants “a pat on the back” by Mrs. Byrd? Seriously?

  5. “If we don’t have a plan for growth now when the economy does turn around we’ll be five years behind.”

    5 years Mr Weiss? Try 10-15. Had the BOS been on the ball, they could have developed the area long ago and possibly attracted the WalMart that went into Frederick up the road, or some of the other busineeses down the way on 522 south that now reside outside Front Royal and can be seen by all except Mr Staelin.

    As it is, they should just leave it alone for now, since the county doesn’t seem to even have to funds to keep cops on the road.

    Get back to it when times are good again and there are some spare bucks in the coffers

  6. Chuck E. Cheese says:

    I know that there is representation on this forum from the Planning Commision and the BOS. Can we get a reply?

    • From a post made by a former town council member, this forum is deemed unworthy when it comes to coucil response.

      You must attend one of the meetings that are conveniantly scheduled for working folks, that seem to run from 1 pm to 1:15 pm, every third Tuesday in which there is a full harvest moon

      Only then may you ask a question of the oracles

  7. clarke conservative says:

    Double Toll Gate has 18,000 vehicles a day pass location. 95%+ are cars.

    Rt 7 has +/- 25,000 vehicles a day. 85% cars, 15% trucks.

    Source: http://www.virginiadot.org/info/resources/2009/AADT_021_Clarke_2009.pdf

    Double Toll Gate has direct competition from both Frederick County and Warren County with established big box retailers. No competition on Rt 7 until Winchester. Rt 522 has high truck traffic (not retail customers), Rt 7 is almost exclusively commuters going from DC / N Va to Winchester.

    This is not rocket science. Stop wasting money on worthless studies at Double Toll Gate and look at improving sales tax revenues by establishing retail in Clarke County at, or near, the 340 / Rt 7 interchange.

    • RT. 7 is beautiful open farm space in Clarke and should remain that way. I would urge all property owners to put their land into conservation easement. Sales/tax revenues, the way you are looking at them = traffic lights and congestion. If you want that, move to Loudoun or Frederick. This is Clarke County baby!

      • ElinorDashwood says:

        The federal tax benefits now available to individual easement donors are impressive:

        •a federal income tax deduction for the value of the easement

        •the right to subtract the value of the easement from a decendent’s estate in calculating federal gift or estate taxes

        •the right to exclude 40 percent of the remainder value of land subject to the easement in calculating federal estate taxes

        Clarke IS very beautiful as it is. But it is not always altruistic reasons that motivate a land owner to put property in conservation easement, as you can see above, there are many monetary reasons as well. Whatever the motivation for an individual, I’m glad for the open spaces here…I just wanted to put the facts out there.

        • Another View says:

          The government–ANY government–should not be subsidizing private property, be it for development or open spaces. The free market and property owners should be the ones deciding the best use of real property.

          But I find it very amusing that those on this blog who clamor against tax cuts for the “rich” support these tax credit/deduction programs for . . . the “rich”! After all, who do you think owns these properties?

          • ElinorDashwood says:

            My words above do not support tax cuts for the rich. I stated that I think Clarke is beautiful and that I’m glad for the open spaces…I also stated that money is very often the motivating factor for choosing to put property in conservation easement. Saying that landowners in Clarke are wealthy is stating the obvious, we all know what land goes for here. Speaking (or writing) facts calmly and rationally makes more sense than to beat people over the head with opinion. You and I are quite different, AV. I assume everyone is intelligent, therefore able to weigh information and draw their own conclusions…you assume everyone is stupid if their point of view differs from yours.

          • Another View says:

            No. I know some people are “stupid” because they prove it. Every day. It has nothing to do with agreement or disagreement.

            And your words do support the tax breaks for the “rich”. Because you like open spaces. But I guarantee if those tax breaks were for oil exploration, you would be marching in protest. Because you oppose that; because you are an extreme Leftist.

            And that is okay. Just do not pretend to be something you are not.

          • Got-A-Dollar says:

            Clarke County is a county of the rich, run by the rich who pay the big land owners via conservation easements not to develop property they weren’t going to develop anyway.

          • My 2 Cents says:

            Classic Republican Mantra! Rich take care of the Rich!

            Good morning AV! We are all sitting in class awaiting our History lesson and Political Science info for the day………..

      • My 2 Cents says:

        Yes, its Clarke County! The home of no business or tax base! The home of cow-patties as far as the eye can see! The home of NO Pharmacy! The home of 2 Dollar Stores and 2 7-11’s!

  8. clarke conservative says:

    Correction; Rt 7 is 95% cars, Double Toll is 85% cars.

  9. Quit Moaning! says:

    If you all want growth so badly, why don’t you put your homes up for sale and move to Loudoun or Frederick counties. Quit moaning about quiet Clarke county. Once you open the doors for development you can never get back what you had to begin with. Some of us like quaint and quiet. If you want to raise money start charging gross receipt taxes on businesses registered in Clarke county since they currently only pay annually for a business license and that’s it.

  10. From Realtor.com re: Lord Fairfax and John Mosby Highway, 5 listings from 8 acres to less than 1 acre. “Owner/Developer will consider seller financing, subdividing, build to suit, land lease, or sale in entirety. Approx 8 acres prime commercial highway zoned land at signalized intersection of Rts 17/50 and 340. (SE Corner) Major convenience/Gas Store completed as anchor. Avg 12,000 vehicles east/west daily and 9000 north/south. VDOT approved access . Public sewer service, Public water supply.
    For sale since November 2010.

    • Chuck E. Cheese says:

      Could you please reveal the price tag on this land! That will most likely tell the tale as to why the land has been sitting for 2 years.

    • 8 acres $4,181,760. 1.74 acre $833,750. 1.34 acre $700,500. 1.02 acre $531,900 and .80 acre $418,200.

      • And one must ask, how motivated are these landowners to sell? Since putting the land up for sale, have they tried dropping the price they are asking to stimulate more interest from potential buyers? Could it be that larger businesses have given up on Clarke county? And has anybody asked the horses how they feel about all this? They didn’t like the hot air balloons at Long Branch, they may not like commercial development either.

  11. Kevin Lambert says:

    Why is it that everytime someone brings up growth they get bashed? I have pretty much lived in Berryville my entire life (35yrs) and for the most part, proud to call this HOME. Is it too much to ask for something here that would deter me to drive 10 miles for everything? Why is that such a sore subject for some of you. I realize that some of you people are new here and relocated here for the laid back demeanor and lifestyle, however there are some people that have been here forever and would love to have something that would save us a trip to Winchester or Charles Town. Walgreens, CVS, or anything name brand would be like Christmas to some of us, OLDTIMERS! LOL

  12. Got-A-Dollar says:

    Looks like the Planning Commission gets it while the Board of Supervisors continues to beat the dead horse.
    Maybe we have it backwards, let the Planning Commission appoint the Board of Supervisors.
    How about turning old camp 7 into a mall?

  13. Chuck E. Cheese says:

    Robina for BOS!