Supervisors Continue to Ponder Park

Clarke County’s Board of Supervisors heard new details about a 187-acre regional park proposed for what is currently the site Virginia National Golf course which stretches along the Shenandoah River in the northeast corner of the County. Proponents of the park see it as an environmentally appropriate land use for the area that will offer improved river access to the public and reduce harmful pesticide and fertilizer use from the existing golf course. Opponents have expressed concern over the $65K per year price tag associated with managing the park, control measures for preventing inappropriate activities at the park, litter and protection of private property.

Clarke County environmental planner Alison Teetor provided the Supervisors with answers to a range of topics and concerns at a recent informational session. Teetor told the Supervisors that contrary to information provided by Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority executive Paul Gilbert earlier this month, the organization offering to purchase the property, the Civil War Trust, will not provide the $65K to fund Clarke County’s NVRPA dues for the first year.

Teetor also said that rather than eliminating forty property dwelling unit rights as originally estimated, the park will likely remove only about fifteen dwelling unit rights.

Teetor addressed a range of park-specific concerns raised by both the Supervisors as well as members of the community including the status of the Parker manor house, park supervisory personnel as well as road and easement access.

Teetor said that a November, 2007 conditional approval letter for the manor house approved the building as a restaurant for the golf course with seating capacity of 74 persons, meeting facility for 140 persons and special events for up to 350 guests. However, Teetor confirmed that the manor house special use permit is tied to the golf course but said that the golf course went bankrupt before the manor house was transferred to the golf course owners.

County Zoning Administrator Jesse Russell then confirmed that because the manor house is not included in the NVRPA proposal, anyone subsequently interested in the manor house will be required to seek a new special use permit. Teetor also said that executive director Gilbert has publicly stated that the NVRPA will follow all County event ordinance requirements and any other requirements the County would impose and that Virginia state code regulates the development of any public facility whether it is a park, police station, or government building.

Teetor provided the Supervisors with a draft Deed of Easement for the property from the purchasing entity, the Civil War Trust.

Security concerns have been raised by residents in the nearby Shenandoah Retreat community which shares a border with the proposed park, along with fire prevention and suppression, hours of operation and the specific days and months of operation for the park.

Teetor told the Supervisors that NVRPA’s Gilbert stated that park personnel would call the fire department if a fire occurred and would have no extraordinary firefighting capabilities other than to manage maintenance activities so as not to create a fire hazard and would be willing to work with Shenandoah Retreat residents to designate safe area for brush fires and or maintenance burns.

Gilbert also stated, according to Teetor, that the Park Authority routinely develops good working relationship with area law enforcement so that local authorities are aware of the hours of operation and activities occurring at the park site.

Teetor said that eventually the NVRPA may provide a residence for onsite 24/7 staffing but that no firm commitment is currently in place.

Teetor stated that road maintenance and ownership, including the road used to access the current golf course from Virginia Route 7, still needs to be resolved.

Currently several road easements serve the golf course – Parker Lane which is designated as VDOT road, F709, a frontage road and Alder Lane. Teetor said that various easements recorded in County deed books outline the current maintenance responsibilities of roads leading to the golf course. A meeting scheduled for later this week will bring Shenandoah Retreat Corporation representatives together with NVRPA representatives to discuss the issues.

Several Supervisors have asked for information regarding what the purchasing agency, the Civil War Trust, may elect to do if Clarke County decides not to join the NVRPA.

Teetor said that at this time the Civil War Trust has no “Plan “B” and is concerned that no entity other than Clarke County has the financial resources and infrastructure necessary to support this type of a regional park. Civil War Trust officials, Teetor said, believe that NVRPA is uniquely qualified to manage a Civil War battlefield park and are pleased that NVRPA is willing to expand their jurisdictional boundaries to include Clarke County.

NVRPA currently has six local jurisdictions; the City of Alexandria, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, Arlington County, Fairfax County and Loudoun County. If Clarke County elects to become a member of the NVRPA the County will gain to voting rights regarding NVRPA decisions.

During the meeting the Supervisors discussed how the County might address covering the $65K annual fee required for membership in the NVRPA. Meetings with various County boards and committees in the coming weeks will explore whether partial funding can be raised from other operational budgets, including the easement committee, however, Teetor said that although additional funding could be raised through private donation small grants from historic preservation groups, ongoing funding from such sources is unlikely be ongoing and that the County should be prepared to shoulder the burden of funding entirely.

“It is important to remember that the property is being purchased, protected, and turned into a beautiful historic and recreational park for the public and the citizens of Clarke County for a very nominal fee” Teetor told the Supervisors. ”Considering the expense of $5 per year per citizen that’s a bargain.”

Teetor recommended that the Supervisors hold at least two public Information meetings prior to the Board’s February work session. The first informational meeting will be held at the Blue Ridge Fire Hall in the Shenandoah Retreat on Thursday, January 26th at 7:00pm. The second informational meeting has yet to be scheduled.

The public is invited to attend both meetings.

Comments

  1. Failing everything else, maybe someone will put it in an easement. Seems to be the thing to do in Clarke

    • really?... says:

      Yes! Let’s put in an easement….I for one would like to keep some open land around here instead of more houses that no one can afford and that also ruin farm land.

  2. BlueridgePro says:

    It costs millions to build a quality golf course like Virginia National. Why throw away that investment? Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority already runs two other courses. Why not add this as a 3rd? Get some return on the money invested. The space still stays open and green.

    • NVRPA probably knows that the golf course is not a sustainable business – something that 3 owners have also discovered unfortunately.

  3. “explore whether partial funding can be raised from other operational budgets”
    So other services will suffer as a result? Other services we are having trouble covering the cost of already?

  4. “additional funding could be raised through private donation small grants from historic preservation groups, ongoing funding from such sources is unlikely be ongoing and that the County should be prepared to shoulder the burden of funding entirely.” True, these sources even if offered in the beginning often dry up over time. The county budget is already burdened, why put another burden in the mix? It’s like a family that is having trouble paying for household expenses deciding to purchase a vacation home or an RV. It’s irresponsible! Taking care of necessities comes first. Clark county doesn’t have the disposable income to waste on this kind of thing. Passing on the burden to the already burdened citizens of Clarke County is WRONG. To take money out of other areas of the budget is WRONG.

  5. “Teetor also said that rather than eliminating forty property dwelling unit rights as originally estimated, the park will likely remove only about fifteen dwelling unit rights.” How many of these property dwelling right are in the flood plane? Who in their right mind will build in a flood plain anyway? I don’t think protecting this land is something that should be a concern. To me it’s an unfounded worry and a poor excuse to make a park on this property.

  6. “use for the area that will offer improved river access to the public” The county has river access just above Water Mellon park which is in poor condition. If the county was concerned with river access for the public I would think this area would be in better repair and cleaned up from time to time, OR at least place a trash can in the area. Last year a county sheriff’s deputy told myself and a friend we had to leave the area if we wasn’t fishing, loading or unloading a boat. Sitting along the river in a lawn chair is a big NO NO… Just sitting and enjoying a cool breeze off the river and taking in the peacefulness of the Shenandoah river is frowned upon.

  7. “the organization offering to purchase the property, the Civil War Trust, will not provide the $65K to fund Clarke County’s NVRPA dues for the first year.” SO, they would own the land, not pay taxes on it and expect the county to foot the bill for upkeep? All the while I, another land owner in the county must pay taxes on my property and spend money to maintain it? A resident that is struggling to already to make ends meet in a tough economy paying more for household expenses, higher taxes and fuel costs? The county and its supervisors obviously think CC residents have very deep pockets. Take note of the article titled “Supervisors Approve Active Living Center Contract” Dated December 12, 2011.
    “The project is being funded in partnership with the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA) which will cover approximately $500K of the cost while Clarke County taxpayers pitch in the remaining $1M.”
    “The cost of the kitchen and expanded parking area total approximately $102K.”
    “School and County employee salaries that have not increased in four years.”
    Clark County is going the way of the federal government. SPEND SPEND SPEND… Can we afford it? Well no, we just plan to tax our residents…. Is the county going to give its employees raises? Well no, we haven’t done so in 4 years because of budget issues. The county’s household income is struggling just like many of the people that live here. Would it be responsible for me to buy a piece of vacation property, a new RV or a boat when I have financial problems where I am already struggling to pay my necessities? NO! BUT THIS is exactly what Clarke County is doing, they are pissing away money, your money.

  8. River Watcher says:

    PLEASE everyone just show up at this meeting.

    Blue Ridge Fire Hall in the Shenandoah Retreat on Thursday, January 26th at 7:00pm.

  9. Let’s hope for a good turn out. See you all there!

  10. Clarke Co Anne says:

    The question to “ponder” is… Do tax paying Clarke County residents want to exclusively pay for a park that will be open for anyone and everyone at anytime with no mention of control except that the… NVRPA routinely develops good working relationship with area law enforcement so that local authorities are aware of the hours of operation and activities occurring at the park site. Seriously? It is not appropriate to expect the Sheriffs Dept to be the “Parks”enforcement. I have a good relationship with the area law enforcement but would not expect them to pick up the costs and time on a responsibility of my business or project.

    Cost? Total of $90,000 annually. $65,000 to join NVRPA and almost $25,000 that is paid by the current golf course but then lost as the entity would be not for profit. .
    Can they be released from a contract with NVRPA if Clarke finally resolves to the fact they can’t afford it? Maybe, but at what cost? By then the Park will be such a cheap hot spot there would be no way to stop the influx of people. And if Clarke backs out what happens to the property then?

    In the CDN article dated Jan 19, 2012:
    In total, conservation easements in Clarke County now protect approximately 52 miles of streams and rivers, 8,800 acres of prime farmland, 6,700 acres of forests, 11,900 acres along Scenic Byways, 14,900 acres in the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail, 850 acres of Civil War battlefields, and 10,500 acres in historic districts.
    Commendable. Many of these were given by people that could afford it or purchased thru grants.

    Clarke Co has a budget and without dedicated funding it would be a burden.

    Lots of questions to be answered. Hope the meeting is informational.

  11. If this park is such a money maker as stated by those in favor why pay NVRPA to manage it ? Why won’t the county manage and operate it ? I think I know why, these so called phantom tourists dollars I read about but no one will say how much really exist other than in a pipe dream.The vast majority of golfers at Virginia National are from neighboring counties.While not tourists dollars in the true sense of the word they are dollars that would not normally be spent in the county.
    As far as a polluter of the river the numerous head of cattle that stand in the river every day is a much greater polluter than the golf course, the turf of a golf course filter pollutants.
    Once again citizens of Clarke you are asked to pay for someone’s folly.How long can the citizens foot the bills?

  12. Has anyone asked the all important question of what the buy out clause is with the NVRPA ?

  13. Just a reminder that this meeting is tonight. Thx

  14. It’s crazy to give up the tax revenue and jobs that the golf course provides. In this economy, how will the county make up for the lost tax revenue (property, course revenues, food.beverage)? Not to mention the added expense of teh annual dues to the NVRPA.

    Also, I heard at the meeting that the course provides 50 jobs for local residents. Got another business coming to Clark that adds 50 jobs?

    Someone will buy the course and keep it running. It’s a good neighbor and green space.